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Gartner's 2019 Current and Emerging Technologies in Sales is making the rounds on LinkedIn.

I’ll be honest, I spent quite some time trying to grok what it was saying. I’m more of a numbers person than a visual learner, so I made a bit of a remix. I thought I’d share it here to get the community’s feedback.

First, I spreadsheet'd their data out by adoption, current ROI, and future importance. I used distance to center to measure Deployment Level  (1-9 scale) and followed their size and color key for Current ROI and Future Importance (1-3 scale).
  

The Tech Stack Adoption Lifecycle

Next, I overlaid Gartner’s Deployment Level with the familiar Technology Adoption Lifecycle (aka Chasm chart). Where the farther right, the more highly adopted a technology is. Two things jumped at out at me right away.

  1. Account-Based Marketing more highly adopted than CRM? Customer Success Management on par with CRM? I’m no Analyst but this feels like Sales Leaders skating to where the buzz is versus where their tech stacks actually are. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  2. It appears that less sexy, more nuts-and-bolts tech are under adopted. eSignature, CPQ, and Dialing Automation are three examples. These tools are massive productivity boosts for most reps. They may not make the company millions, but try to take them away and you’ll have a mutiny on your hands.

 
 

Tech by Adoption & ROI

Gartner also shared Current ROI as “measured by the perceived return on investment of the technology across organizations.” I was very interested in this bit, so I converted their data into a 2x2 matrix. With High Adoption at top and High ROI at right.

The clear winners here are Strategic Account Management, Sales Performance Management, and Testing + Certification. I could not agree more. These tools are all about getting reps up, productive, and working smartly as fast as possible.

I was surprised to see such a pessimistic view of Sales Acceleration technology. Their use and value in the Sales Development space is widely accepted. Perhaps the vendors in the space need to do more to educate the Sales Leader market about their key AE use cases.
 

Tech by Current ROI & Future Importance

Finally, Gartner shared Future Importance as “measured by the surmised importance of the technology to the organization in two years’ time.” This is a fantastic question and the results are fascinating.

First to the winners.

Our old friends Strategic Account Management, Sales Performance Management, Testing + Certification, and CRM are rated as High ROI and Greater Future Importance. It’s interesting to see, in this “the death of…” era, that Sales Leaders aren't predicting a massive revolution at the core of the sales tech stack. The falling future importance of Mobile Sales Productivity makes sense if you believe the trend to phone, email, web, social will continue. Gamification and RFP Generation come off rather rough in this analysis—low adoption, low ROI, and declining future importance.

The final piece I want to highlight are Context-Based Content Recommendations and Video Tech for Skill Building. These two categories are tagged as having solid ROI and greater future importance.

So that’s my read on the Gartner data. What jumps out at you?
 

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Today, we launch our Account Executive research focused on B2B closing teams.

This is our seventh round of research since 2007. We asked a group of VCs, CROs, and Sales VPs to weigh in on the key questions for building and leading teams today. They came back with items like:

  • Pipeline source: What's the mix between inbound, outbound SDR, and self-sourced pipeline? How do high-growth companies differ from the pack?
  • Compensation: What's the going rate for OTE (by experience, location, and quota)? Outside the mega-hubs, where are companies building teams?
  • Quotas: What are average quotas (by company stage, by ACV, etc.)? What % attain the number?
  • Technology: What makes up the sales stack? Which tools actually move the needle on performance?
     

This year’s survey is more streamlined than prior and will take roughly 5 minutes to complete. If you lead an AE group, please participate

All answers will be aggregated anonymously. We’ll be sharing the results with you and the rest of the community in the coming months. I appreciate that so many of you take the time to share. We couldn’t do it without you.


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Account-based revenue is a concept as old as outbound sales. The names have varied—whale hunting, selling to big companies, target account sales, and so on—but the desire has always been the same:

Get strategic on big accounts.
Win the opportunities that matter.
And once we’ve landed, grow the account.

2016 was the year that strategic outbound and account-based approaches stepped out from behind the inbound shadow. Over the last 3+ years, the thinking, the tools, and the tactics have continued to evolve.

Account-Based Interest over time

I thought I’d share what I’ve seen change over that time both in our client work and in our experience as a consulting firm selling to named accounts. It just so happens that my friends over at Engagio recently published a revised second edition of their ABM ebook. I’ve included snippets below to emphasis my points.

Shift #1: The language of ABR has grown up

In the early days, ABM was talked about as a strategic approach to deepening engagement in key accounts. Soft language, soft metrics, and soft ROI.

Over the last three years, the thinking has hardened.

Engagement is a step on the path to revenue, not the promised land itself. I like this definition of ABR: a coordinated go-to-market strategy to land and expand target account.

For many growth-stage companies the perennial question is how do we move upmarket? ABR is part of the answer as:

  • Big company + right title + inbound = fat chance.
    The problem with whale hunting is they stubbornly refuse to harpoon themselves. In all likelihood, the person you most need to speak with to launch your sales process is the person least likely to download your white paper, attend your webinar, or chat with your bot.
     
  • The unit economics of named accounts selling are actually better.
    In modern selling, almost all buying decisions are made by committee. Focusing on circles of influence (let’s get as may of them as possible talking about and engaging with us) costs more than prospecting single thread accounts. But the returns in initial ACV more than makeup for higher CAC ratios.

 
Shift #2: It takes (at least) two to tango

Winning account-based revenue requires move than Marketing selecting target accounts, building programs, emailing account plans off to the SDRs and AEs, and expecting everyone to dutifully run their pre-choregraphed routes.  

Even the smartest, prettiest plays are dead on arrival without co-creation and buy-in from sales. Less do your job and more let’s make it happen is required. I like this line from Inverta’s Kathy Macchi:

“Often times, Marketing will take an ‘if we build it, they will come’ approach to gaining consensus, but without exclusive, enthusiastic, and cooperative buy-in, marketing shouldn’t move forward.”


 
  • AEs need to green-light account selection.
    Marketing can and should score territories according to potential, fit, and interest. But AEs need to be in on account selection—hopefully they have insights that go beyond demographics and digital footprints. Bottom line, if Marketing is wrong on account selection, they get bad ROI. If the AE is wrong, they miss their number and get fired. Sales needs to believe in the list from the get-go.
     
  • Don’t bury the engagement data.
    Too often the period from launch to pipeline is a black hole for the sales side of the house. The entire account team—ABR-Marketers, SDRs, AEs, and designated Exec sponsors—need to see that progress is being made. Counts of quality conversations, display interactions, new contacts added, time on site, etc. – all that needs to be summarized and packaged for AE eyes.

The most dangerous time for any account-based program is silent period between launch and first results. Don’t let the result of absence lead to an absence of results. Silence is your enemy.

Shift #3: 31 flavors and vanilla ain’t one

No one will admit to going outbound with vanilla messaging. Ask any sales leader who’s read The Challenger Sale and they’ll assert their team absolutely takes a Teach and Tailor approach. The reality is that messaging considered "tailored" at the mid-market is generic as heck at the named account level.

  • ABR-insights have to be much, much better.
    Personalized email and branded socks aren’t going to get it done. There’s too much time, effort, and energy involved to finally connect with a named account and fall flat with the offer of a canned demo. What works for the masses doesn’t work here.
     
  • Less documentation, more collaboration.
    Marketing can and should roll out the initial account play(s). But it doesn’t end there. SDRs, AEs, and the entire account team need a way to collaborate and spitball. Something as simple as a Google Doc per account can serve as a repository and launching pad for translating insight into action. I love this scaling insight idea of a team for creating “value hypothesis” in real-time.

 
  Shift #4: Expectations, meet realities          

Just three short years ago, it seemed like the dawning of a new era. Any scrappy company could take down an elephant with a little bit of Marketing guile, some Sales grit, and a generous helping of account-based technology.

And then…we descended from the peak of inflated expectations to the trough of disillusionment.

  • It turns out, the robots aren’t coming for all our jobs (yet).
    A fair bit of the hype around scaled drip, display, and direct mail has turned out to be a lot of hooey. From the pilots I’ve seen, the data is clear: humans drive meetings. Now, tech-supported humans drive even more meetings. But MarTech alone—no matter how targeted the copy—doesn’t put meetings on calendars.
     
  • Some ABR-worthy accounts are more worthy than others.
    Much like in wealth, the top 1% and the top .1% don’t have much in common. This is true both in terms of opportunity for your company and tactics required to get their attention. Tiering selected accounts is critical. The math has to balance cost and potential before we get to launch.

    The Account Entitlements concept is exactly right. Entitlements answer the question, “How much time, money, and resources does this account warrant?”


 

Well, that's what I've have learned in a nutshell. 

I'm interested in your learnings too. Please share in the comments below. We need to help each other figure this stuff out. Now, if you want 180 pages of solid, actionable advice on ABR, download the updated ABM Guide from Engagio. It's crazy good and I know you'll love it.

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Here at The Bridge Group, we’ve been doing rep and manager comp research since 2007. (You can get the latest SDR report here and AE report here.) Although we’ve been asked about CRO/SVP of Sales compensation a lot, it’s one area we’ve never delved into.

Until now.

Before we launched the project, we reached out to a half dozen senior sales leaders in our network to ask them what they’d like to learn from anonymous peer research. Their responses centered around:

  • Responsibilities (by size of company)
  • OTE & equity package
  • The relationship between revenue contribution and earnings

In short, what’s within the CRO span of control, what quota are they signed up for,
and how much are they paid to deliver it.

So that’s what we set out to do.

A big learning along the way is that a “CRO” isn’t a CRO isn’t a CRO. Lots of definitions and expectations are attached to that one little acronym. We shared an early preview of our findings with CRO, board member, and growth company advisor Peter Weyman. He offered a brilliant suggestion:

Rather than report on a fictional “median CRO,” what if you look for clustered characteristics to identify and drill into distinct profiles?

We ended up identifying three different CRO personas: Emerging, Commercial, and Enterprise. Each with varying responsibilities, contribution targets, and earning potentials.

 

The response to the survey was fantastic. We collected data from 145+ senior sales leaders and were able to package up more than 200 data points.

As a small preview, one item that stood out to me was the variation in what makes up quota between the above profiles:

 

The report should be of interest to any current (and aspiring) CROs. I hope you’ll take a look and share your impressions. To read the full report, download the CRO Compensation Research Report.

Thanks as always for supporting, and participating in, Bridge Group research.
 

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We’ve just entered a very special time of year. Namely the three weeks (from Nov 1st to Thanksgiving) where it's acceptable to talk quotas for the upcoming year. 

Broach the topic any earlier, and it’s like touring colleges with a newborn. Any later, and it's a distraction from finishing the year strong. But right now, is just right.

Chorus.ai CEO Roy Raanani posted a whiteboard video on the topic recently. He compared two groups with equal average quota attainment and equal group performance. I've dubbed them:

  • Team Summit with a single peak distributed around 80% of quota
  • Team Camel with two humps at 60% and 100%

 

Roy argues Team Summit is preferable. For one, "whenever there is variability [like in Team Camel] it usually means we don't fully understand the process." He continues that reps in the left hump are likely stressed out—as they see how they're underperforming their peers—and ultimately, may face PIP or involuntary termination. I recommend you take a look at the video and comments. It's a great discussion.

As someone who's built a tool for visualizing group performance, I love this topic and wanted to share a few thoughts of my own.

Seek the right-side lean

I’ve charted out Roy’s two scenarios and added in performance data assuming the group hits its annual goal.

As you can see, for Team Camel to achieve the same performance level as Team Summit, the right hump needs to be much taller. If the majority of reps are going to hit quota, and ~65% should, then by definition we need more reps on the right side of 100% line.

If your group has two equal sized “humps” you have a problem. It could be inequitable territories, variability in process, uneven coaching, or inconsistent hiring criteria. It’s hard to hit a group number when half the team is missing quota and you’re facing the dual headwinds of low morale and high attrition.

Camels become summits, over time

This second thing I want to share is just how much performance changes between point-in-time snapshots and where teams ultimately end the year. From our data, we’ve detected a general trend from Camels (after 1 or 2 quarters) and towards Summits (after a full 12 months).

A hot hand in Q1 doesn’t automatically mean those reps will have a monster FY. Similarly, a rough front nine doesn’t mean a doomed 140+ round.

Said another way, camels become summits over time. This holds true even for teams with monthly quotas. While April and October may have the same number of working days, you can’t assume they’ll show similar results. Reps are making quota, not widgets. I understand leaders want “predictable” revenue, but the reality is messier than that.

  Hiring reps, not robots

My third comment is that I’m not convinced a wider distribution of performance is necessarily a bad thing. It’s tempting to assume we’re Ph.D. Revenue Engineers and that we can squash all the variability in hiring, onboarding, territories, inbound flow, motivation, and so on.

I dug into our data, examined a few dozen groups, and bucketed them as follows:

  • Tight Teams with a narrow distribution around quota
    versus
  • Rocky Teams with a wider, more mountainous, distributions
     

You know what? Rocky Teams outperformed.

One specific area where I think the pendulum has swung too far in controlling variability is hiring profile. 

Over-engineering here comes with its own costs. If we work too hard to control the downsides, we invariably limit the upsides. A candidate profile and hiring process that efficiently green-lights Steady Eddys, would likely weed out the occasional Standout Sid or Rockstar Rachel.

 
I’m not sure where I heard it, but someone recently wrote about “hiring types, not stereotypes.” That seems right on to me. Would love your perspective, too.

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Fall is upon us.

The days after getting shorter. Football (both proper and American) is back on the TV. And we at The Bridge Group are kicking off a new research project.

This time we're targeting the most senior Sales Leaders.

We focusing on CRO/(S)VP compensation, accelerators, and equity grants as well quota, makeup, and span of control. So if you're a CRO, SVP, or VP of Sales, we'd love your participation. We worked hard to make this survey easy and short (roughly 4 minutes ).

All answers will be aggregated anonymously. We’ll be sharing the results in the coming months. I appreciate you taking the time. We couldn't do this research without your help. TAKE THE SURVEY>>
 

 

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