Top Priorities for CEOs in 2021

In 2021, companies and employees rely more on leadership than ever before, especially from the CEO. The relationship is reciprocal, though, and CEOs are reliant on their teams to execute.

A new year is on the horizon, and market-leading CEOs are forward-thinking, regardless of the circumstances in 2020.  The top challenges in 2020 for CEOs included collecting and actioning the right data, managing Board and stakeholder expectations, and the rapid acceleration and necessity of digital evolution.  The SBI CEO Client Advisory Board meetings in both July and November validated hypotheses related to such challenges from SBI’s research institute and provided an environment for high-growth-focused CEOs, in the top 10% of their peer group during this recession, to gather and share compelling insights.  For anyone wanting to play mind-reader into what Accelerator CEOs are doing to face challenges and outpace the competition, this advisory board meeting proved to be the right place.

The SBI CEO Advisory Board defined the top three priorities on the mind of high growth CEOs going into the new year:

1. Data to Drive Execution

SBI learned from 2020 research on CEO performance that CEOs are making decisions with incomplete data.  Meanwhile, waiting for completion or accuracy, they tend to fall behind. A trend exists where CEOs receive too much data and data that is backward-looking, inaccurate, or politically motivated.  Like everything else, there’s a balance, and while collecting data is valuable, it’s a wasted effort without action.

Best-in-class CEOs are using data to do the following:

  • Being Predictive and Prescriptive as opposed to Descriptive and Diagnostic.  There’s a reason why quotes with “never look back” exist.  In the current market conditions, those who want to forge ahead use data to determine what will happen next and what should be done about it.  The predictive and prescriptive data becomes the cornerstone for their go-to-market strategy.
  • Deploying Revenue Operations versus Sales Operations. CEOs are deploying Revenue Operations across the entire commercial supply chain for a more holistic approach than a siloed Sales Ops approach and aligning the team cross-functionally to drive decisions.
  • Metrics that Matter. Accelerators are focused and driving execution based on 8-10 commercial metrics that matter to their business.  For guidance and a list of metrics to consider referring to SBI's research report. Market-leading CEOs are narrowing in on interlocking metrics horizontally and vertically drilling in on leading, lagging, and behavioral indicators

2. Executing a Back to the Base Strategy

While it isn’t breaking news that new logos are down in most industries, even before the pandemic, the question on revenue growth leaders' minds is how to compensate for it.  One solution?  Going back to the base.  Cross-selling and upselling to existing customers are high growth levers.  Identifying buying centers within existing accounts, surgical account planning, and assigning the right coverage in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success at critical points of the buyer's journey are key to activating a back-to-base strategy that leads to profitability.  In regards to these activities, CEOs have to answer questions regarding asset deployment and commercial spend.  For asset deployment, do not use a one size fits all approach as each account has a different buying journey requiring one type of role at each point.  Reimagine the cost of sale and look at the total commercial spend towards acquisition, development, and retention.

3. Digital Evolution

Across the board for any executive, not just CEOs, chaos and confusion exist in defining digital and how to improve digital strategy.  SBI research indicates 70-95% of digital transformations fail, and for that reason, it is recommended to approach digital as an evolution.  For CEOs to maximize their return on digital investments, the focus should be on three levers:

  • Customer Experience to drive more revenue
  • Gaining more efficiency to improve operating leverage by role
  • A better employee experience

To help CEOs understand where they are, what they should be doing, and why, SBI has developed the SBI Growth Index.  Spend a few moments with the assessment to gain clarity on how you rank your digital strategy.

Most if not all will agree the terms “unprecedented” and “the new normal” are now overused and tired.  The norm is no longer new, and what was once known is not returning to the same state.  Market leaders quickly overcame the awe of what’s new, are accepting what is, and are looking forward to adapting to new ideas and behaviors that will efficiently drive growth.  High-growth CEOs in 2020 were actively using the right metrics and data to place bets, guide decisions, and deploy commercial dollars and resources.  Don’t get left behind going into Q121.

Want to hear more?  For a deep dive and the full list of insights, listen to the recording here.

Each quarter, SBI evaluates, selects, and invites market-leading CEOs meeting the criteria of an Accelerator by SBI’s research institute.  Less than a dozen CEOs in public and private companies in software, tech-enabled services, and with market caps up to $7B gather to discuss challenges and opportunities among peers.  In 2020, the advisory board uncovered insights to drive enterprise value in 2021 and subsequent years.

Operating principles of the SBI Advisory Board program include:

  • Fostering peer-to-peer relationships among some of the world’s leading companies
  • Shape the future of B2B go-to-market strategy
  • Uncover methods to grow revenue faster than the industry and competitors

To learn more about the Client Advisory Board program, click here.