2023 Sales Pulse Survey Findings

Highlights of the annual Sales Pulse Survey findings

The economic outlook for 2023 has been filled with uncertainty. However, across industries including financial services, manufacturing, healthcare and technology, companies are continuing to make key investments in marketing sales and service to weather the next round of economic challenges.

The annual Sales Pulse Survey gathers valuable cross-industry leadership insights on 2022 actuals and 2023 plans. Three prominent themes emerged from the survey of 200 C-Suite executives:

  • Despite market uncertainty, companies are targeting ambitious growth goals in 2023
  • Companies are investing in Marketing, Sales and Service to achieve those growth expectations
  • These investments will be highly targeted at specific growth levers, including Revenue Operations and Customer Success

The survey insights will be explored in more detail as part of Alexander Group’s 2023 Leadership Series. This year’s theme, Enduring Leadership: A Proven Playbook for Challenging Times, explores how Enduring Leaders tune their revenue engines and organizations to deliver optimal—not just sustained—performance.

Hello and welcome. My name is Gary Tubridy, principal at the Alexander Group, and I am editor of the Sales Pulse Survey this year. In the next few minutes, I’ll supply you with a little background information on the survey itself and an executive summary of the findings for this edition. The ensuing slides will offer more detail around each of those key findings.

Alexander Group has run this survey annually for over 20 years. We open for data input in October of each year, as we did in 2022, and accumulated information and data until January 2023. We publish the data in February, every year for the past 20 years, and we target Fortune 1000 class companies across multiple industries that all have one thing in common. The sales force plays an important role in achieving growth goals. 200 companies participated this year, and the individuals who filled out the Pulse survey data are generally in charge of either the revenue function or the revenue operations function. As in past years, we aimed to understand their growth objectives for the upcoming year, as well as strategies and investments designed to achieve those objectives.

Despite a more challenging economy in 2023 that includes continued inflation and interest rate hikes and some fears of recession, participants across all industries anticipate strong revenue growth in 2023. We examine the data that was returned to us and broke it into two groups October/November versus December/January to test whether later returns were different, perhaps more conservative, due to the more insight that participants might have in the 2023 economy. Those later returns were only marginally more conservative, but still forecast robust growth through 2023. Consistent with those revenue growth ambitions, it’s not surprising that participants also anticipate expense budget increases in the sales function for next year at 8% for the median, and they forecast growth in each of the revenue functions: marketing, sales and service. Let’s dig into that a bit.

In marketing, participants appear to be upping their investment levels in digital channels, trying to reach target segments and customers via social media to begin a dialogue and shape attitudes prior to any sales activity. This shift from mass marketing to micro marketing or even markets of one continues over time.

There are indications that select companies are considering headcount cuts in 2023 in light of the anticipated economic slowdown. On the whole, however, most participants anticipate investing in headcount growth in the sales function, particularly in revenue operations to improve productivity. Key account managers to take care of the best customers and inside sales to improve coverage of mid-market and new accounts. We asked participants to provide insight into the use of virtual selling technology in 2023, perhaps as a means to boost productivity.

It looks like such technology will be applied primarily to inside sales positions. The vast majority of field sales positions, including key accounts, generalists and specialist positions, will be expected to fulfill their responsibilities in the field, on-site with customers.

Investment in the service function will be targeted at transforming what was a break-fixed function into a customer success advocacy. This will be accomplished by investment in new and additional resources using digital technology and account management skill to target interventions after the sale to help customers use products and services that they purchased to achieve business results. Such success functions will give real meaning to the term customers for life.

All this investment is leading to a premium on building cultures that are growth-oriented and that emphasize growth by putting customers first. Consistent with past Pulse survey findings, top sales organizations emphasize meeting customer needs over pushing product.

And building on culture, we learned that two-thirds of participants, a significant increase from last year, have established DEI goals for 2023 and are making real investments to achieve them. Participants are consciously building cultures that prize talent, and they recognize that engaged and energized people are the real engine for growth.

Thanks for listening. I hope you get value from these comments. Read on for more depth into each of these findings.

Download the findings summary to learn more

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