Valuable Insights from SBI’s Executive Growth Forums

28 Mar 24

A quick look at the insights and key takeaways from three recent SBI Executive Growth Forums for CEOs, CROs, and Presidents/CCOs.

Every quarter, SBI hosts a series of Executive Growth Forums where leading executives (CEOs, CROs, Presidents, CCOs, COOs, and more) are invited to a dynamic roundtable discussion to share ideas and perspectives on the future of B2B go-to-market (GTM) strategy. In these forums, we also share insights gathered from SBI’s quarterly CEO surveys, which are valuable to help executives stay ahead of developing market trends.

While participation in the forums is by invitation, we make it a point to periodically provide our readers with a curated summary of the conversations that take place at these growth forums. To keep you updated with insights from Q1 2024, this blog covers content from three recent Executive Growth Forums for CEOs, CROs, and Presidents/CCOs.

Get tactical to take advantage of rebounding demand

Based on SBI’s surveys, CEOs have been seeing a return to accelerating demand this quarter at levels not seen since the middle of 2022. Some business leaders are optimistic yet remain understandably cautious after the sudden drop in demand in 2023. Fluctuations in demand throughout the year remain a possibility in the minds of leaders who are more focused on operations.

To build an advantage in such conditions, business leaders agree that there needs to be more focus on execution this year. CEOs will want to monitor execution among their leadership teams, who will also want to emphasize agility in commercial operations. This ensures greater success in converting demand to bookings while looking for opportunities to improve sales efficiency and maintain margins.

Revise the approach to keep up with new buying dynamics

Changes in buyer groups in recent years have led to a gradual decrease in deal velocity. There are three noticeable trends here:

  • In the last three years, uncertainty in the market has conditioned buyers to be more risk-averse, leading to more conservative buying behavior.
  • An increasing number of stakeholders, including the CEO, are getting involved in deals, leading to more levels of approval that could stall deal closing.
  • Engaging with large teams of uncoordinated supplier reps and an increasing volume of content messages is overwhelming and confusing to buyer groups.

As such, many Sales teams find their old playbooks ill-equipped to help them deal with the changed buying groups, which are now higher in seniority and more unpredictable. Some of the suggestions proposed at the President/COO Growth Forum include pushing teams to align their forecasts with the extended cycle times, spending more time upstream qualifying and structuring deals, and training teams to multi-thread at every stage of the sales cycle.

To connect with buyers more effectively moving forward, all leaders must refresh their understanding of the buyer and their buying process today. How has the buying process changed? What triggers might cause it to change again? How does it line up with your sales process?

Improving the buying process may also require you to take another look at your entire go-to-market system and ensure that every customer touchpoint contributes to creating a seamless customer experience. Are the people who interact directly with customers well-aligned? What about your content and other channels—have you been sending customers too much content and overwhelming them with information? Role expansion is key to efficient growth, but it can become an obstacle if buyers lose confidence in your team.

Address factors that impact commercial productivity

More data from our latest CEO survey revealed that most CEOs view talent as critical to their success. Still, there was a significant gap in the percentage of leaders who believed that their present talent was well-aligned to their organization’s needs. CEOs were concerned about whether they had the right skills and the right people in the right roles across their go-to-market organization or if they even have the right organizational design to capture opportunities in the market. Many also questioned if their go-to-market team was spending their time effectively.

With many business leaders turning their attention to talent in recent years, SBI conducted research to identify competencies and approaches employed by top-performing sellers who were continuing to succeed in the changing market environment.

Through this research, we identified four types of seller approaches and found that the most popular approach—which encourages buyer urgency—was leading to longer deal cycles. Instead, sellers who were adept in putting things in the customer’s context and easing the buying journey by anticipating the next steps of the process on the buyer’s side were well positioned to achieve shorter deal cycles and slightly larger deal sizes.

The good thing about prioritizing talent initiatives is that it does not take long to show the effects. Start by identifying high-impact actions that will take hold quickly, like skill building, improving time allocation, and providing tools for better sales coaching. Be clear about the baseline expectations for your existing talent, sales managers, and new candidates. Additionally, frontline sales managers are critical to driving seller productivity, so be sure to invest in them early to ensure they are coaching teams properly on adopting the most effective sales approach.

One last factor that could aid commercial productivity is the untapped potential of Generative AI in Sales. SBI surveys found that most CEOs foresee generative AI enabling them to reduce headcount across the commercial team while driving productivity. Still, most have yet to begin wide-scale deployment.

While the prospect of leveraging AI to significantly boost commercial productivity is exciting, its adoption will be slow and bumpy. To make good use of the technology in the short term, focus on use cases that enable your team to solve real problems at scale, such as accelerating seller onboarding and helping sellers be better prepared for customer interactions.

Access the full insights from the Executive Growth Forums by reading the summary.

Download now:

  1. CRO Growth Forum Summary
  2. CEO Growth Forum Summary
  3. President/CCO Growth Forum Summary


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