Alexander Group (AGI) recently interviewed select tech and healthcare revenue leaders to gain insight into 2021 investment choices as between marketing, sales and service.
As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, we attempted to assess its impact on these investment decisions.
We took the added step of examining a broader set of relevant companies in each industry, using AGI benchmark data, to test the insights gleaned from interviews. Were they common across a broader set of companies? Were these practices associated with stronger outcomes?
Interviews surfaced three broad trends:
- Marketing investment is flat or down and shifting toward highly targeted, micro-segments and a closer relationship with Sales.
- Outside sales headcount is flattening. Limited investment is fueling a shift from outside to inside sales or inside/outside hybrids.
- Post-sale Service investment, particularly in headcount targeted at Customer Success, appears to be growing.
Underneath each broad trend, interview comments and benchmark analysis unearthed additional important insights.
Marketing Is Moving Closer to the Customer and Sales
Marketing is becoming less about broadcast and more about “narrow cast” engagement with tightly defined segments or even customers targets. This is moving Marketing into deeper partnership with Sales, enabled by:
- Virtual events that attract many times more participants compared with past onsite efforts and which collect participant behavior and comments more rigorously.
- Websites that enhance the customer experience from the outset by featuring deeper self-help capabilities, demos with access to experts and “chat” resources that act as a virtual “concierge.” This is resulting in new jobs/roles such as the Digital Marketing Manager and Social Media Specialist which are deployed specifically to harness the power of digital.
- Development of more and better web based leads, facilitated by chat and enhanced by access to virtual experts, which have both momentum and connection to a business issue BEFORE they are passed to a seller.
- Identification of customers and segments that have been POSITIVELY IMPACTED by the COVID-19 crisis (think ventilators or warehouse automation) and creation of campaigns and messages to attract opportunities from these segments, sometimes with products/services that have been tuned specifically to meet the needs of these segments.
Sales Motions Are Leveraging Virtual Technology to a Much Greater Extent
Digital technology is enabling inside sales to successfully execute enterprise, large and SMB account sales motions during the COVID-19 crisis. Indications are that, while onsite selling will return to large and enterprise accounts, inside resources will remain imbedded in these motions and will supplant outside resources in large portions of the mid-size and SMB markets:
- In the tech sector, per AGI benchmarks, top performing companies were 1.75X more likely to invest in virtual resources to conduct pre-sale support activities in all segments.
- Also in the tech sector, top performing companies are 2.2X more likely to invest in digital resources to execute the sales motion.
- In both the tech and healthcare sectors top performing companies invested significantly more (in some cases, over 60% more!) in virtual resources to offload administrative chores from sellers to free up their time.
- These top performing companies also invested twice as much in digital tools to maximize the effectiveness of their virtual resources
Customer Service Is Becoming a Strategic Pillar
What happens after the sale is being integrated into a value proposition that spans the whole customer experience. This translates into change in several areas:
- “Success” resources are overlaying classic service resources to engage with customers post-sale with the objective of getting products/services adopted and ultimately valued.
- Such resources are often integrated underneath the umbrella of the “revenue leader” to ensure continuity of both purpose and contact.
- In select cases, these resources share or even take full responsibility for sales-related metrics such as retention or add-on sales.
- Post-sale resources are utilizing digital dashboards to monitor product/service usage telemetry and engage/intervene as needed to ensure the best possible outcomes.
- In the tech sector, top performing companies invest 2.5X more than their peers in success resources and, as a result, enjoy growth at current accounts that is twice the average rate.
Sales Operations Is Growing In Both Importance and Size
Top performing companies that we studied invest 1.5 to 2.0X more in sales operations resources than their peers. Behind this investment is a goal to integrate ALL customer-touching resources into a seamless, high value customer experience.
Customer First Attitudes Are Coming to Define Revenue Culture
COVID-19 brought out the best in both leaders and the field. A “help first” mandate became the rallying cry, powered by headquarters and driven by the field. In a perverse way COVID-19 seems to have reminded entire companies why they are in business: TO SERVE THE CUSTOMER.
Where there is limited money to spend, top performing companies continue to target revenue growth investments in four areas:
- Focused marketing that is closer to the customer and sales which harnesses the power of digital
- Highly efficient and effective sales resources that are either virtual or that leverage virtual technology
- Customer Success resources that are focused on customer results after the sale
- Sales operations to make it all hang together
Want to learn more about the findings and the implications for your organization? Contact us for a research briefing or to discuss your situation.