Telcos prioritize B2B sales planning for 5G rollout


Brendan Maxwell

Senior Director, Telco Solutions

woman working in office

Telcos look forward to offering profitable new services in the 5G rollout. But expanding their B2B market presence will require intelligent sales planning.

For communications service providers (CSPs) worldwide, the 5G transformation is an exciting opportunity to drive revenue growth through the introduction of new and enhanced services for consumers and businesses. The next-gen 5G network enables several high-speed, low-latency, massive-scale use cases such as autonomous driving, fixed wireless access, AR/VR applications, smart buildings, and smart cities.

These services represent a significant opportunity for CSPs to capture new revenue streams, grow wallet share, and drive innovation and transformation across industries. A recent market study estimates the global 5G services market to grow from $46.6 billion in 2021 to $664.7 billion by 2028, indicating a CAGR of 46.2%.

Although B2B business accounts for about one-third of a CSP’s total revenue today, it is estimated that it will outpace B2C revenue by the end of the decade with the help of 5G. For example, the CFO of AT&T shared on a conference call that even though AT&T’s 5G network will cover around 200 million consumers, B2B customers would drive profits for the company.

This represents a major shift for CSPs. Historically, telecom companies have invested less in their B2B or enterprise segments than their B2C operations (in terms of applications for sales and marketing functions such as planning, analytics, and AI/ML capabilities), reflecting their lower expectations.

In fact, a McKinsey article points out that this strategy leaves money on the table. The article goes on to highlight how telco B2B sales and marketing operations can better leverage their sales operations, including sales planning and sales performance management, to significantly reduce operating costs and capture new 5G revenue streams. Sales planning—comprising customer segmentation and scoring, territory planning, sales coverage, and quota planning—is the bridge between go-to-market strategy and sales execution. Connecting these processes and making them dynamic and intelligent is key to commercial success for CSPs.

Intelligent sales planning with external data and AI

Sales planning is a highly complex process in telecom B2B sales organizations. For example, leading global operator Vodafone uses about 750,000 variables to create sales plans, over a three-month planning cycle. Once sales plans are rolled out, it is a challenge to optimize and course-correct them based on market dynamics and sales pipeline data. This process is critical to managing sales performance, especially in the next normal characterized by uncertainty and rapid change.

Telecom sales organizations need new capabilities to support continuous planning, enabled by blending internal data, such as CRM data, with external and third-party data, such as buyer intent data, and leveraging predictive insights to optimize sales plans. Insights gained from third-party buyer intent data allow companies to adjust their sales and marketing plans and target prospective buyers with more precision and personalization. Companies that leverage third-party data and AI/ML in sales planning and forecasting can improve sales performance by focusing resources on accounts and opportunities with the highest propensity to buy.

Additionally, sales planning and performance management need to transform from periodic processes to always-on, actionable insights for sales leaders and their teams. Furthermore, sales and finance teams need to be able to collaborate much more rapidly and seamlessly to stay aligned around forecasts, plans, and sales compensation programs.

Improving incentive compensation management

Similar to sales planning, incentive compensation programs can benefit greatly from predictive and real-time capabilities.

Sales planning and incentive compensation are tightly interlinked processes; however, technology and data silos prevent most CSPs from connecting these processes and leveraging insights to improve sales performance. Compensation teams spend a lot of time and effort in data aggregation and manual processes such as crediting and dispute management, leaving a lot less time for analysis and agile decision-making. As a result, incentive compensation programs do not deliver commercial success and revenue growth in key areas of the business.

Incentive compensation complexity remains a sore spot for CSPs, and these programs do not drive the desired behavior nor deliver value in strategic areas. For example, telco sales reps capture most of their commission from renewing current services with existing customers, so they aren’t as focused on driving growth for next-gen solutions and new customer segments.

Common gaps and trouble spots in telco sales compensation programs include:

  • Target planning and allocation: Territory, quota, and compensation processes are owned by different teams and data sharing and collaboration between these teams tends to be difficult and inefficient.
  • Manual processes: Multiple systems, data siloes, and manual touchpoints in data aggregation and validation result in commission errors, overpayments, and sales reps not trusting the system.
  • Sales crediting: Complex crediting rules, lack of well-defined role eligibility criteria, too much qualitative wiggle room, and manual processes result in delays, errors, and overpayment scenarios.
  • Spiffs and MBOs: Distributed budgets often result in too many spiffs (small, spot bonuses) and MBOs (bonuses for meeting a goal in a management by objective framework), which are not planned with the same rigor as core compensation plans to determine whether they produce desired outcomes.

These and other factors result in missed opportunities to incentivize and reward sales behaviors that are key to achieving strategic goals for telcos.

For example, when Canadian telecom operator TELUS introduced a new customer service model to foster greater collaboration and team performance, its legacy incentive compensation system was unable to support the new business model and handle a scale of more than 35 million transactions a month. The company needed a complete overhaul of its incentive compensation program to align with its customer service strategy and goals. After implementing the new solution in Anaplan, TELUS was able to significantly reduce manual processes and errors, deliver timely insights for sales and finance leaders, and foster a far more collaborative sales culture.

Improving incentive compensation management can unlock significant value for CSPs. Incentive tune-ups can deliver a 2-3% revenue uplift from increased seller productivity, and 20-40% reduction in operations and support costs. When combined with intelligent sales planning and forecasting capabilities, telco B2B sales organizations can achieve parity with B2C commercial capabilities in operations and analytics.

Anaplan + Accenture partnership

Anaplan and Accenture have partnered to bring to market robust industry solutions to help CSPs orchestrate business performance in sales, finance, and network operations. These solutions bring together Accenture’s deep knowledge of the telco industry and CSPs’ business with Anaplan’s planning capabilities to unlock significant hidden value for CSPs in these areas.

With strategic thinking, process transformation, and analytics, the Sales Performance Management offering arms Telecom sales and finance leaders with the right planning and compensation insights to drive:

  • 8-10% increase in top-line revenue
  • 5-8% increase in average margin per seller
  • 5-15% improvement on commission spend ROI

With the launch of 5G services, CSPs need to transform their go-to-market planning capabilities and lead with data-driven market insights to reduce customer acquisition costs, capture greater customer wallet share, and enable better decision-making for sales leaders. Intelligent sales planning capabilities can be a game-changer for Telco B2B sales organizations, as business needs are constantly changing in today’s dynamic environment.

Learn more about the Accenture telco solutions, powered by Anaplan, in the "Orchestrating financial performance with Connected Planning for Telcos" solution brief.