2022 was hell of a year. What have we learned?
Updated: Jan 18
Another year behind us. And what a crazy roller coaster has it been for salespeople. Despite being able to change it, we can only reflect on what we've learned and put our best foot forward for 2023. In this yearly recap, we've synthesized our learnings for B2B sellers and shared 3 key priorities salespeople should focus on for the year to come.
Closing the year
After a record-breaking 2021, where we felt like sky was the only limit, 2022 had a different plan for us. Seemingly unstoppable inflation, economic downturn, and mass layoffs are some of just to name a few highlights. This has led to incredible uncertainty in the marketplace, shifting how businesses and individuals are consuming.
As a result, companies have had to quickly adapt, short of which they risked significant financial hardship. The focus is now on profitability, rather than growth at all cost, which is ultimately a positive outcome. But some functions have had it harder than others. Revenue teams have faced the most hardship. They've had to cut costs while still delivering on their quota objectives. As a result, productivity is top of mind for everyone.
We already know that over 55% of B2B sellers missed their quota in 2021-2022. And now, we're asking them to do more with less.
Time is the most important resource
Every high-performing salespeople share a similar quality: the ability to manage and ruthlessly prioritize their time. Uhubs wrote a very interesting whitepaper on how time management and product knowledge are the main competencies that drive A-players to achieve excellence.
Most account executives will waste more than half of their day on non-revenue generative activities. Think about it... at least 20 hours per week spent on things that don't contribute to quota attainment. We all know where the waste is:
Updating data repetitively across your systems
Running after a colleague to get approval
Searching for an old document or presentation in the chaotic Google Drive
Summarizing meeting notes across emails and Slack
Trying to figure out which deal needs more love
Preparing a summary of activities for your weekly deal review
The best sellers know how to minimize the time spent on low-value work and mindfully prioritize which opportunities they focus on the daily - this way they maximize deal progress while staying in line with the mandated sales process.
It's fair to say that time management is always important. During difficult times though, when deals are being "put on ice" left and right, managing your time thoughtfully will be a key marker of productivity. Time is indeed the most precious resource 🤩
Tools... tools everywhere
This past year has once again been full of cool new technologies. There is no shortage of new startups looking to improve how go-to-market teams operate. No wonder why GTM tech is one of the busiest categories in software.
Until today, more than 80% of B2B sellers have to navigate 15+ tools in the day-to-day, just to get their job done. Many RevOps and sales management have historically building their stack incrementally: adding new tools as needs arise. As a result, new tool are just added on top of the stack and we often lacks a cohesive understanding of how technology and process fit together. This bandaid approach leads to what I like to call a 'Franken-stack'. A ill-functioning tech stack, made of tens of point solutions, with half-bake / no integrations. The 'Franken-stack' works... but it's far from optimal.
Sellers are stuck in the middle of it all and they are tired. Tired of attending another onboarding for a new tool. Tired of having to fill another report for management. Sellers are ultimately paying the price, being impacted by the decreased productivity and loss in performance.
The good news is that the mindset is shifting. More RevOps teams are realizing the diminishing returns of having too much tech. They are taking the necessary measures to put sellers at the center of the process.
Collaboration is the magic ingredient
Selling has become more complicated in 2022, especially to enterprises.
The number of touchpoints/conversations needed to close a deal has increased
The number of stakeholders involved in decision-making has increased
The number of different internal roles that need to contribute to the sales cycle has increased.
A lot of the added complexity falls on the account executive to navigate.
Whereas account executives have historically been 'lone wolves', working by themselves and doing anything they can to close a deal, they now have to quarterback a cross-functional effort.
have to work along:
Marketing to build targeted collateral and structure ABM campaigns
Sales engineering to understand their needs and conduct a successful demo
Product to understand how the current roadmap intersects with the prospects' needs
IT to ensure our solution is compliant with prospect's needs
Professional services to plan for the implementation
Customer success to ensure proper handoff for implementation
Everyone is in sales. Closing enterprise deals is a team effort where everyone - from marketing, product, and even finance - has to chip in.
Collaboration is now critical to the success of revenue teams. Standard communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams aren't cutting it as they don't naturally fit into sellers' workflows. To help account executives adapt, we need more structure, transparency, and adapted enablement.
The year to come
Like in many parts of life, change is the only constant. It's also true for sellers. The only way to keep performing at the highest level is to consistently adapt: adapt how we prioritize our pipeline, adapt our messaging to most resonate with prospects, adapt to new technology in order to gain an advantage.
Here are 3 priorities we believe all salespeople and RevOps teams should be thinking about in 2023.
Consolidation of workflows
For 2023, we need to take a hard look at our processes. Rather than taking a technology-centric approach (identifying the technology to implement and then building a process around it), taking a seller-centric approach needs to be a priority.
Start by putting yourself in your seller's shoes and map your ideal process:
Understand key characteristics of a deal (stakeholders, cycle, ICP, decision criteria, etc.)
Map the various stages of a deal
Define what are the exit criteria for each stage of your sales cycle
Identify the supporting information needed to move a deal forward
Map your current stack to the process and evaluate current adoption
Once that exercise is done, you'll be able to more easily identify the tools your sellers truly need to be more efficient and effective. As a result, you'll realize that many of your existing tools might not be used by your sellers and that some tools are duplicative.
Evolution by simplification will be an important principle of 2023 as sales leaders think about their stack. Reducing the number of tools sellers have to navigate between will boost their productivity - helping them to focus their time on selling rather than executing low-value admin work.
Information is king
As we mentioned, B2B deals are becoming increasingly complicated. Unfortunately, there is no one recipe to close a deal. The best account executives are able to navigate the complexities of a sales cycle by leveraging available information to decide who to engage, when to engage, and how to engage stakeholders.
There is no shortage of information; whether we're talking about internal information (i.e., CRM, notes, playbooks) or external data points (i.e., social media activity, company reports), there is an ever-increasingly amount of data. It is account executives' responsibility to identify relevant sources, distill information down to what is most important, and turn that information into action.
On the flip side, it is also becoming easier to get overwhelmed and lost. We recently wrote an interesting article on the toggle tax and the impact it has on account executives. Research doesn't often talk about this - navigating information can be extremely time consuming. Spending hours reviewing 10-K reports or Google News alerts isn't the best use of their time
In 2023, sales organizations will have to give sellers the best chance to succeed. How?
By bringing the information to sellers, rather than expecting sellers to go find it
By consolidating information from various sources and mapping it to opportunities / accounts
By providing actionable insights & recommendations to help sellers make the right decisions
By structuring internal information along the sales process
The more sales team can leverage technology to do the heavy lifting when it comes to information gathering, synthesis, and analysis, the more positive impact they will see on their performance.
AI to the service of sellers
The rate of innovation of artificial intelligence (AI) is impressive. So far, in the sales world, it's mostly being used to support management use cases - with impressive forecasting and performance management capabilities already developed. However, AI is yet to be adopted by sellers in their day-to-day busy work. The potential is mind-blowing.
2023 is the year where AI will be used in support of individual contributors. It will be leveraged to help sellers better prioritize their time and make faster and more informed decisions on their pipeline. It will have a direct impact on improving sellers capacity and sales metrics (e.g., velocity, win rate, etc.)
Some use cases we will see being vastly adopted:
Identify missing stakeholders to involve in a deal
Auto-generate email templates for sellers throughout the sales cycle
Synthesize social media / news on a prospective account / lead
Provide contextual enablement (i.e., battle card, playbook, script)
Identify similar deals and winning trends across the pipeline
Recommend which contacts to involve in each sales stages
However powerful AI can be, it is important that the use cases are structured around decision aid rather than decision automation. We have to remember that B2B sales is extremely nuanced and it is seller's responsibility to make the best decision based on the available information.
At Pod, we are extremely for what the future holds. Despite all the challenges that we've faced, and the many more we will face in the future, we believe that account executives will continue to play a pivotal role in companies of all sizes - driving sustainable growth.
We're committed to empowering sellers to do their best work 💪