Alexander Group's 2017 Operations Forum

Highlights

More than 70 sales operations leaders – from manufacturing, medical device and other industries convened in Chicago for the 2017 CSE Operations Forum.

Keynotes, panel discussions and interactive briefings focused on new ideas for the role of sales and commercial operations in delivering value to today’s increasingly demanding customers.

Here are some highlights from the event.

June 13 Highlights

Opening Keynote: A New Definition of Sales Excellence
Patrick Hogan, Ph.D., Vice President, Commercial Excellence, Honeywell

Patrick Hogan kicked off the Alexander Group’s 2017 Operations Forum with Honeywell’s dynamic transformation journey from a product-driven sales company to an end-to-end connected customer-experience company. Three key areas are essential for today’s companies to propel sales excellence: demographics, consumerization and digitization. By working through these areas, Honeywell has garnered new customers, created a holistic user experience and realized the power of the “Connected” though digital. In understanding the entire digital customer journey, Honeywell made it easier for the right customers to do business with them. The company improved their sales talent and focused sales leaders on coaching the sales process. Organic growth accelerated, net promoter scores improved and sales attrition decreased.

Patrick finished with a fascinating question to the audience about the future of sales: “If machines are now buying from other machines, how do we sell and market to a machine?”

Keynote Panel Discussion: A New Definition of Sales Excellence
Patrick Hogan, Ph.D., Vice President, Commercial Excellence, Honeywell
Elaine Chapa, Vice President, Sales Operations & Customer Experience, USG Corp.
Steve MacKay, Senior Vice President, Aesculap

After Patrick’s keynote on Honeywell’s winning transformation, two more sales excellence leaders from the building materials and medical device industries joined him for a panel discussion. Elaine Chapa from USG Corp. and Steve MacKay from Aesculap each shared their industry’s changing sales excellence landscapes and the current challenges they face. When asked how the customer is changing, the panelists agreed the influencer groups that sellers must call on are expanding and becoming increasingly product-savvy. The hiring process for sellers must improve to match these new requirements of the evolving customer. One emerging trend that should support such efforts is the increase in sales operations roles as executive leaders in the C-suite. Amid the drive to achieve the new sales excellence, the panelists reminded sellers to balance this drive by keeping the sellers’ trust, knowing how much to tackle at once and ensuring they appropriately structure their sales teams for success.

June 14 Highlights

Keynote: Unlock Potential – Delivery More Value
Pete Brunetti, Vice President, Commercial Operations, Acelity

Pete Brunetti’s keynote address crystallized his recent experience transforming a short-handed sales operations company into a more professional commercial operation. Pete noted that while the operations and commercial sides of a company may look different, they parallel each other in terms of the drivers of improved performance. To mitigate the symptoms of a systemic commercial failure, Pete reestablished the critical ops functionality through a commercial operations forum. The forum included every commercial division in the company and shifted the focus from activities to metrics, tactics and strategies. Key to this successful transformation was changing the mindset of each function from individual to the overall corporate strategy. Professionalizing commercial operations has led to increased internal consistency and relationships, improved sales leadership and a definitive P&L impact.

 

Keynote: Accelerate the Customer Experience
Juli Clark, Senior Vice President, Global Renewals & Customer Retention, Veritas

Juli Clark’s keynote speech discussed the Customer Experience. Social media is paramount in the customer experience where a poor customer experience can cannibalize brand value. She highlighted several trends shaping customer relationships, particularly in a technology-based organization:

  • Shift from on-premise to subscription-based revenue models
  • 70 percent of business will be digital by 2020
  • 50 percent of the market will be cloud- and solutions-based by 2020
  • Shift towards consumption-based pricing

These trends, according to Juli, along with the increasing impact of social media, have dictated a shift to an integrated sales motion. While sellers are responsible for persuading the customer to purchase; marketing, customer success and customer support functions are critical for providing a seamless process to support a positive customer experience. To ensure that sellers successfully execute the new customer engagement model, the sales organization needs to provide adequate support tools, including training, playbooks and a sales compensation program that aligns to the specific job functions.

Juli pointed out that an organization’s installed base of current customers is that organization’s most important annuity. A well-established customer process is critical in ensuring that current customers adopt your solutions and succeed.

Keynote Lunch Panel: Accelerate the Customer Experience
Pete Brunetti, Vice President, Commercial Operations, Acelity
Juli Clark, Senior Vice President, Global Renewals & Customer Retention, Veritas

Following Juli Clark’s keynote on Accelerating the Customer Experience, Pete Brunetti from Acelity joined Juli for a panel discussion. Both leaders shared their thoughts on which actions are critical in moving the revenue needle. Primarily, organizations need to align the sales organization and sales process to provide the customer with a positive buying experience. Additionally, Pete asserted the need for the ease of doing business both internally and with customers. In order to provide a seamless process, both Clark and Brunetti agreed on the importance of well-defined job roles with clear responsibilities to ensure smooth handoffs between the sales teams and support teams. When asked about seller reactions to new expectations and metrics during a sales transformation, both leaders estimated that roughly 60 percent of legacy employees are capable of making the transition, while the remainder need to be given another role in the organization or managed out. Having strong leaders and visionaries in management roles is a key to success as a company realigns its sales organization to provide a superior customer experience.

Manufacturing Summit

In conjunction with the CSE Operations Forum, AGI hosted a Manufacturing Summit, where leaders from the manufacturing industry came together to discuss the common opportunities and challenges facing their sales organizations. With low single-digit revenue growth rates expected in 2017, leaders stressed the importance of first identifying where organic growth will come from, then determining how to effectively capture it. Results from AGI’s Sales Pulse Survey indicate that 75 percent of the average seller’s time is spent on the sale of legacy products and services to their existing customer base. That leaves only 25 percent of sales time to be spent on penetrating existing accounts and acquiring new customers. This presents a significant challenge for driving growth in a constantly evolving and competitive manufacturing landscape.

While Summit participants cited the need for a balanced approach to customer retention, penetration and acquisition, the majority recognized the sale of additional products to existing customers as the most accessible form of organic growth.  Summit participants also agreed that success in today’s market requires sales specialization, as customers’ technical needs are simply too detailed for their legacy, generalist sales force.

 

Ready to join the discussion? Contact an events team member now.

Consider attending our Sales Operations Forum on June 4-5 at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago or the CSE Annual Forum on November 7-9 in Naples, FL at the Ritz-Carlton.

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