Sales Engagement Summit 2023: The Key Highlights
Despite the cold weather and disruptive train strikes on the 6th of December, around 500 industry professionals walked through the doors of The Brewery for our annual Sales and Marketing Engagement Summits. It is well known that sales and marketing specialists do not always speak the same language. For this reason, to highlight the importance of alignment and having shared values, we held our two summits in conjunction. Both events converged at the start of the day, splitting into two different halls for most sessions, and then coming together once more at the end.
EXPLORING HOT TOPICS WITH INDUSTRY LEADERS
Representatives from world-renowned organisations including American Express, Aon, Corporate Visions, EY, FT Specialist, Gamma, Gong, LinkedIn, Marcura, Richardson Sales Performance, Sage, Spotify, Sage, Thomas International, VMWare, and Wipro took the stage and shared their stories.
More specifically, they revealed what they are doing to address the challenges and opportunities of 2023 and prepare for 2024. Our speakers touched on several topics from sales enablement to artificial intelligence and SalesTech.
As the Editor of Engage Sales, I had opportunity to hear from the majority of our speakers, many of whom addressed today’s productivity issues, AI adoption, and agility.
WHY ARE YOU LOSING DEALS?
One of the most highly rated sessions from our Sales Engagement Summit was led by Catherine Alexander, VP Training Services at Corporate Visions. Titled ‘Find and Fix Seller Blind Spots’, Catherine’s presentation explained why the data supplied by your sales reps is often unreliable.
To kick off her presentation, Catherine shared the most common reasons sales reps give when asked why they lost a deal. These were: “The product/service was too expensive”, “The contact stopped responding”, and “They wanted something else”. In other words, it was not their fault.
The reality, of course, is quite different.
Catherine revealed that the reason sellers give for losing a deal and the reason buyers give is actually different up to a whopping 70% of the time! What is more, the most common missteps in the sales experience according to buyer feedback are a lack of clear solution alignment, a lack of timely response or interest in fulfilling requests, and failure to present competitive difference.
Closing her presentation, Catherine offered a few tips to help you find and fix your seller blind spots. First, ask your buyers why they chose your product or why they went another way. Then, use this data.
“Data is great, but data is best when you do something with it,” Catherine stressed.
To make the most of your buyer feedback, provide customised coaching to your sales reps and then continuously monitor, measure, and modify your approach.
EMBRACING AN AGILE APPROACH TO SELLING
“The buying climate has changed. But how many of us have changed the way we sell in that environment?”
This question was posed by Steven Vantongelen, Executive Vice President and EVP of Sales EMEA at Richardson Sales Performance. Presenting the findings of recent research, Steven discussed the dynamic changes happening in the world of sales and why switching to an agile approach can make you stand out.
Supporting Catherine’s points from earlier in the day, Steven shared that sales reps are still focused on pushing their services and products instead of offering solutions. Put differently, they are not presenting a clear solution alignment. In addition to this, reps spend 58% of their time doing non-sales-related tasks. This means that they are not being as productive as they can be and as such, are losing deals.
To tackle this, Steven suggested that teams adopt an agile approach to selling. Expanding on the three components of agility, he stressed the importance of the 5 opportunity vitals (pain, power, vision, value, consensus), selling sprints, and critical skills (presence, relating, questioning, listening, positioning, and checking).
USING AI TO BOOST SALES
Shantanu Shekhar, Senior Director of GTM Operations at Gong, addressed the hottest topic of the year, sharing how leading companies can leverage AI to drive revenue impact. Moreover, he touched on the productivity issues many speakers also explored, revealing some stark findings.
According to Gong’s research, only 28% of sales reps expect to meet/exceed their quota this year. 73% spend too much time on process adherence and 66% say they’re drowning in tools.
This is where AI comes in.
When adopted correctly, AI tools can help sellers summarise calls quickly and accurately, craft emails, create tailored follow-ups, and reduce time spent on forecasting. While adopting AI can certainly help you boost sales, there are three things you need to consider as Shantanu highlighted the importance of size, reminding the audience that “AI is only as good as the data it has”. Next, he shared that organisations must consider the security (privacy and compliance) of their AI tool and ensure its domain expertise (accuracy and knowing what’s relevant).
The day concluded with a panel discussion on the alignment of sales and marketing teams. The panellists were Gillian Fitzgerald, Director of Brand and Integrated Go to Market EMEIA at EY; Kate Cash, Head of Sales and Buyer Enablement-Direct at Gamma; and David Keene, Chief Marketing Officer at Wipro (Europe).
When asked what they see as essential for the alignment of teams, Gillian pointed to "shared values and shared metrics" and Kate underlined the importance of respect. Lastly, David shared: “As a marketing leader, the one thing you can do to get closer to sales is get into their meetings. Learn their dialogue, take the diversity of creative approach into the sales dialogue.”
Summarising the session, our event chair Martin Hill Wilson said: “Invest the time and energy in finding a common interest.”