A summary of Alexander Group’s Virtual Roundtable discussion for ALDA Members
Recently marketing and sales leaders from ALDA member companies joined Alexander Group (AGI) to discuss key priorities as life sciences and analytical instruments companies begin to execute 2020 growth plans. AGI also shared how these plans are pivoting in light of the current COVID-19 environment.
The conversation centered around four key priorities:
Recession-Proof the Commercial Organization
To compete effectively and avoid disruption associated with forced commercial organization downsizing, leaders will reduce headcount in underperforming or non-core geographies, customer segments and product lines. They will shift resources to inside and digital sales teams and lean more heavily on channel partners. Account management teams will see an increase in the breadth of products and services they are asked to represent.
AGI highlighted a recent client example of an industry leader who baselined commercial productivity across their global sales teams in an effort to understand the opportunity and inform more effective resource deployment. This leader was able to improve productivity while controlling costs as a result.
Align Resources to Fastest-Growing Opportunities
Leaders will critically evaluate end-markets and deploy specialized resources to aggressively capture share in high-growth segments and application trends. Products that are highly technical or sold into hyper-growth markets will be assigned to specialized marketing and sales teams. Additionally, companies will defend unique and high-margin offerings with dedicated resources.
Deciding where to place bets requires a strong understanding of market dynamics–size, customer value drivers and competitive positioning. AGI shared a case example where an industry leader undertook a comprehensive market assessment prior to the investment in specialized sales resources. As a result, they were able to capture significant share in year one and become the market leader in year two for that target market.
Institute Customer Success Principles
Leaders will more effectively manage their instrument-installed base and change the nature of how they engage with existing consumable customers. They will port practices from the high tech industry. Account managers will become more workflow solution-oriented with their messaging and engagement. Application resources will become the lynchpin in differentiating the customer experience. Field service organizations will be less reactive and will leverage IoT and predictive analytics to solve problems before they slow science down for customers.
AGI shared a case example of an industry leader reimagining their pre- and post-sales application specialist team as a “Customer Success” team. This team was retooled to engage earlier in the sales process to help customers understand how the solution advances their science. Post-sales, the company offered the team’s services–method development, validations, training and more–as a paid professional services offering. As a result, customer experience scores increased and customer churn reduced.
Evolving Sales Operations to Revenue Operations
As commercial organizations evolve, so do their support functions. Sales operations activities often start in the shadows–finance, HR and others enabling the commercial team. As companies mature, they bring these functions together to deliver focus and expertise, and expand capabilities to support the entire commercial organization (sales, tactical marketing and service). For example, digital transformations often stall because business cases made in silos aren’t compelling enough. Leaders will evaluate their support infrastructure and reimagine these teams as a unified “Revenue Operations” organization delivering scale and connectivity.
AGI shared a case study of how an industry leader pulled together their global and business unit distributed marketing, sales and service operations teams under a single structure to gain scale and connectivity benefits. The new structure put the company on a path to better align systems, processes and teams, resulting in improved commercial productivity and cost structure.
The AGI team summarized observations from recent research, virtual roundtables and client discussions regarding how marketing and sales leaders are actively responding to COVID-19, including actions they are taking to support commercial teams, customers and the long-term health of the business.
Action 1 – Stabilize the Team
Marketing and sales leaders are first helping their team members navigate the immediate personal impact to productivity. They are then aiding in the transition to remote work–IT setup and digital skill development. They are coaching their teams on new tactics to progress their campaign or territory goals in an environment where delivering near-term results will be challenging. Tactics include content creation, account-based marketing, long-term relationship development, account plans, CRM hygiene and more.
Action 2 – Mobilize the New Operating Model
The current environment requires a new way of operating. Organizations are canceling in-person meetings and events or are moving them to virtual formats. Customers are not focused on business as usual as they deal with their own transitions to remote work. Managers are writing a new playbook and directing teams to segments less impacted.
Marketing teams are tuning messages to reflect contemporary needs. Sales teams are demonstrating patience with in-flight deals and getting creative with pricing and terms. Both are prioritizing customers and segments with the greatest need or opportunity (e.g., testing). They are leaning on digital engagement channels–social, email, video conference, text chat. In some cases, sellers with extra capacity are pitching in on marketing efforts to produce accelerated enablement tools for sales.
Action 3 – Evangelize Customer Success
Many customers are seeing their science slow with lab access restrictions. When normalcy returns, scientists will be eager to get back on track. Commercial leaders are rallying their teams around a Customer Success mantra: “What can we proactively do to help our customers in this time of need?”
Ideas include directing sales teams to deliver white-glove service and provide access to internal assets (e.g., databases and application notes). Companies that demonstrate responsiveness, flexibility and creativity will be best positioned to fast-track their return to growth.
Action 4 – Strategize for the Return to Growth
As the team stabilizes and the new operating model mobilizes, companies are developing 2H 2020 action plans. They are evaluating which markets and geographies are likely to represent the greatest near-term opportunity and preparing to redirect the team. They are assessing the pipeline and ring-fencing deals that will be critical to delivering results in the months post slow-down. They are contemplating adjustments to goals and sales compensation plans to ensure teams are focused and motivated to return to growth. They are getting communication and action plans queued to ensure the business comes out of the slowdown as rapidly as possible.