Hitting your sales number has never been easy—and today it’s harder than ever. That’s why many companies have created commercial operations teams, to catalyze their go-to-market (GTM) strategies with new talent and technologies.
Some of these teams have adopted sales plays—targeted, step-by-step programs designed to increase pipeline and revenue from a specific sales objective by promoting more consistent execution. But, even when companies use sales plays, they often deploy them in an ad hoc manner—targeting one big opportunity, for example, while otherwise taking a business-as-usual approach. They also struggle to realize a satisfactory ROI on the technologies they've invested in to support sales success.
There is a better way: Our research shows that when companies adopt Sales Play System℠ they are nearly three times more likely to outperform the market in revenue growth and market share gain. Sales Play System catalyzes your sales technology investments through an integrated framework that enables you to create an inventory of effective plays, call the right one at the right time, measure results, provide coaching, and take a data-driven approach to continuous improvement. With Sales Play System, sales plays are no longer one-offs; instead, they become the essential building blocks of a world-class go-to-market system.
How to get the most from sales technologies
Technology is central to the fundamental goal of Sales Play System: industrializing the sales function by breaking it down to its component parts, and optimizing those parts so that they are repeatable, scalable, and of consistently high quality. The right combination of sales technologies enables you to automate processes and key elements of the work, provide a consistent flow of high-quality data, and channel repetitive tasks to machines, so that team members can focus on high-value activities.
Our research finds that leading companies set themselves apart in two ways. First, they buy more: On average they invest in more than 11 sales technologies compared to laggards, which invest in fewer than eight. Second, they get more from it. Leaders are four times as likely to see a sales productivity lift from their technology investments compared to laggards. That gap seems certain to grow, as leaders are more than three times as likely to have increased their sales tech spending over the past two years.
How do leaders manage to extract so much more value from the sales technologies they buy? We’ve found:
- They are one and a half times more likely to fully deploy the technologies they buy. They ensure that they get it into the hands of their employees and provide the necessary enablement.
- They are nearly twice as likely to fully integrate the technologies they buy with their existing IT infrastructure.
- They spend more and take essential steps to get the most from their customer relationship management system.
The critical role of CRM
The CRM is the true backbone of any go-to-market organization. Leaders approach it as a true process-people-technology endeavor: They integrate their CRM with all relevant business processes, provide the necessary training, and make sure their teams embrace the CRM as the foundational technology of the sales function.
Two priorities are core to this effort: high-fidelity data and user adoption. Leading companies realize that having great data in their CRM is foundational to getting value from it, and they also invest in change programs linked to results, so that sales teams see the value of the CRM system. In some situations, that may require extensive customization to meet an organization’s specific needs, but as a general rule high-quality data and enthusiastic adoption are the two most important factors in getting the most from your CRM.
Companies that succeed quickly find they can’t live without it. The CRM system becomes the single source of truth for sales forecasts and the primary instrumentation for sales ops and sales managers. They rely on it to see what’s coming beyond the quarterly close, unstick the funnel, make surgical interventions based on leading indicators, and ensure that the pipeline is robust.
CRM is, therefore, foundational—and ubiquitous. But companies that outperform augment their CRM with, on average, 10 or more additional, specialized sales technologies. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the five technologies on which leading companies most outspend laggards map closely to the five components of Sales Play System (see Figure 1).
Sales tech: What separates leaders from laggards?
Sales enablement is where sales plays live in an organization. The leading enablement platforms function as a curated library of the most effective plays and can be thought of as a social network for peer sharing, allowing sales teams to up-vote and comment on the best plays and tap into the collective experience of the whole salesforce.
Market opportunity sizing is critical for dynamically targeting and deploying your resources. These tools reveal the white space in the market at a granular, actionable, account level—an essential input for your GTM planning, deployment, and execution. It informs which plays to call at which accounts.
Account planning focuses on selecting the best sales play to put in motion against a specific account. It’s where corporate strategy gets configured at the account level. At some companies this remains a highly manual process, but it doesn’t have to be.
Sales training technology helps sales managers be the best coach they can be. AI-based conversational intelligence tools provide a cutting-edge way for managers to get coaching tips and insights in real time and focus on the most critical points in the sales play. These tools also provide a repeatable and scalable set of standards that lead to more consistent coaching among different managers.
Sales engagement software captures what your best reps do, and then translates it into repeatable processes that all your reps can follow. Tools in this space enable high-performing revenue operations teams to program the “next best action” to wring incremental effectiveness and efficiency out of the sales motion.
No time to waste
Our research shows that winning companies clearly differentiate themselves on how they build and run Sales Play System and how they harness technology to unlock its full potential. They don’t simply invest in and integrate a wide range of software tools; they also invest in the talent needed to extract the full value from their sales tech stack. For example, their commercial operations talent displays a digital fluency that is 40% greater than that of laggards, ensuring that they know how to run every component of the system and achieve maximum ROI.
This mastery of a technology-fueled Sales Play System gives current GTM leaders a significant performance advantage over laggards. But the state of the art is constantly evolving, and today’s differentiators will soon become tomorrow’s table stakes. Investing now in a systematic people, process, and technology approach to sales will help your company join the leaders and, once there, ensure that you stay out front.