2017 Chief Sales Executive Forum Overview: Transformation Insights and TakeawaysBy: Mike Meisenheimer Chief Sales Executive Events, Revenue Growth Strategy, Sales Growth, Sales Leadership, Sales Transformation
After three spectacular days of high-powered insights, transformation stories and practical takeaways, Alexander Group’s 2017 Chief Sales Executive Forum truly delivered on the event’s theme—The Go-To-Customer Mandate. Forum speakers like Cate Gutowski (VP, Commercial Digital Thread at GE Digital), Joe Robinson (SVP, Health Systems Solutions at Philips N.A.) and Jim Walsh (SVP, Global Enterprise Sales at Cicso) reiterated not only why organizations need to align their resources to meet buyers’ changing needs, but also shared critical guidance on how to transform their sales models to reach new customers and achieve revenue growth.
250+ sales and revenue executives and thought leaders convened in Dana Point, CA this November. Whether through roundtables, executive briefings, keynotes, networking or candid sharing, attendees received numerous valuable takeaways. One common theme centered around the importance of execution, particularly for those changes that may seem simple on the surface.
The Go-To-Customer Mandate
As organizations continue their go-to-customer journeys, a synergistic relationship between sales and marketing is vital. In fact, Mabel Casey (VP of Global Marketing & Sales Support at Haworth) and Sal Patalano (CRO at Lenovo Software) suggested both sales and marketing need to come together into one cohesive unit. For marketing, according to Albert Lao (VP, Americas & Global Channel at Verizon Enterprise Solution), it’s not about traditional marketing; it’s about how marketing can help sales drive business, i.e., better aligning marketing’s efforts with sales’ goals. Bring success stories and expertise to customers in new ways. Customers are smarter and more demanding, and companies often have to do more with less. Time to innovate! Whether with new products, more targeted messaging, new platforms for storytelling, different storytellers, discarding what’s not working or shifting roles, find ways to assimilate sales and marketing objectives to avoid obsolete, off-target messaging.
Joe Robinson provided the opening night keynote address and began with the fundamental shift in definition that underscored the entire theme—go-to-customer: don’t “go-to-market” because “markets don’t buy anything, customers do.”
Compelling Discussions and Practical Takeaways
Great questions from session attendees inspired drilled-down answers from speakers. When asked about how to execute such a transformation, sales leaders emphasized keeping an agile and fluid approach while transforming to a customer-centric organization. Listen to the customer and how they want to buy your product: move with the customer. For example, when asked how to find out the customer’s preferred method of communication, Jon Dartt (VP of Sales for Delta Faucet) responded that the preferred method is whatever the customer chooses (e.g., email, text, LinkedIn).
Many companies have found innovative success by utilizing account segmentation. Multiple speakers suggested re-distributing sales teams and resources based on account size, saving more expensive heavy-hitting sellers for the key customers interested in relationship-building or reengaging high-level sellers only when new opportunities arise. For other accounts, retraining other roles as specialists, brand advocates, inside sales and customer success managers–to name a few–nourishes existing accounts or customers in different stages of the sale (pre-sale/post-sale/future-sale).
Speakers such as Bart Fanelli (VP of Global Field Success at Splunk) and Sophia Kim (SVP of Sales Enablement & Operations at Change Healthcare), noted the two-fold importance of choosing the right people to execute a transformation and directing resources to training them. Companies should train, empower and transform the sales force. Susan Uthayakumar (Country President, Canada at Schneider Electric) remarked that training their sellers had significant positive impact on their company’s recent transformation.
At several sessions, such as “Building Next Generation Talent Equipped for the Modern Customer,” and “Harnessing the Digital Sales Phenomenon,” speakers and facilitators discussed building this new talent by redefining key roles such as the first line sales manager (FLSM), the chief revenue officer (CRO) and inside sales. Further, as sales models shift, so must team competencies and skill sets. (Jeff Cristee, VP WW Sales Training at Cisco; Kunal Mehta, VP WW Sales Strategy, Operations & Enablement at Infoblox; Sheela Zemlin, Former GM & Global VP, SaaS Business at TIBCO; Mitzi Rettinger, Digital Sales Leader at Millipore Sigma; and Tim Killenberg, SVP, Sales & Marketing at N3).
The Importance of Execution
How does an organization successfully execute any of these innovative strategies? According to most Forum speakers, the critical requirement for a successful transformation is buy-in from the top. Without C-suite support, “it takes guerilla warfare to succeed,” offered John Jordan (director of Digital Revenue Dev. at McClatchy). This buy-in pertains not only to the C-suite but to other roles as well. Peter McNamara (Americas West Sales at Veritas), for example, recommended instilling the idea with FLSMs that they “own” their business. This skin-in-the-game mentality should resonate throughout the FLSM teams and encourage cooperative solution selling.
Overall, the highly engaging speakers at this year’s Forum offered varied insights and examples of the go-to-customer theme, perfect for many of the attendees whose organizations are in different stages of transformation. A propensity for innovation, agility and empowerment across organizations will be key to fulfilling customers’ wants and building future growth.
Watch for future posts, where we’ll explore some of these valuable insights in depth.
Ready to continue the story at next year’s CSE Annual Forum events?