May 23, 2023

Doing more with less, how the tech sector can optimize its salesforce for success

Dana Therrien

VP, CRO Practice

The tech sector has experienced an immense amount of change.  

After years of tech real estate expansion, a global pandemic upended the in-office experience, making remote or hybrid work the new norm. A booming economy gave way to inflation and rising interest rates, threatening traditional tech revenue streams. The volume of buzzy tech IPOs fell significantly amid market volatility and wary investors. And the growth-at-all-costs mentality that defined the industry for the past decade, flipped to a focus on efficiency and financial discipline.

Add privacy concerns, the ethics of AI, and a complex and ever-changing regulatory environment to the mix – and it’s no wonder tech leaders are struggling to keep up.

For revenue and sales leaders in tech, this landscape has created a unique set of headaches. Opportunities are harder to come by. Budgets are tighter and deals take longer to close. And although sales teams are leaner than they have been in recent years, the emphasis on profitable growth is louder than ever before.

In this environment, a strong go-to-market strategy, an optimized and engaged salesforce, and a healthy pipeline are critical to success. So why do so many sales and revenue leaders in tech still rely on static Excel spreadsheets, historical data, and point solutions to inform their plans and align their sales strategy with execution? 

The following are actions tech industry leaders can take today to help set their sales teams up for success in this increasingly volatile environment.  

Say so long to spreadsheets

There are tons of data available to sales and revenue leaders today, but to get the most out of that data, the right tools need to be in place.

For an industry leading the charge in the development of things like generative AI and natural language processing – you’d be surprised how many tech companies still store their data in hundreds of disconnected spreadsheets, saved across countless desktops and laptops, with little to no room for version control.

The margin for error is incredibly high. And, because these spreadsheets require manual updates, the data they contain is often deemed outdated the moment any type of change occurs.

Of course, with rapid change now the new way of the world, tech companies need a more agile, reliable, and connected way to manage their sales data. That’s why, as a first step, sales and revenue leaders must say ‘so long’ to spreadsheets, and hello to digital tools for sales planning and management.  

AWS has done just that, implementing Anaplan for sales planning, hosted on its own AWS Cloud. With a single source of truth for sales data, linking go-to-market strategy with sales execution, AWS’ senior management can set sales goals, then automatically cascade those goals down to the right groups, each of which has leeway in setting up specific hierarchies, territories, and quotas based on business needs. Anaplan provides AWS’ sales team – consisting of thousands of sellers across multiple groups – with central data governance and control while enabling business unit flexibility and agility to make key decisions close to the customer.

Tap into the power of predictive data

Once the right tool is in place, sales and revenue leaders in the tech sector also need to address the data they are using to inform their plans, strategies, and pipelines.

Traditionally go-to-market strategies have been developed using a mix of historical company data, primarily based on past purchases, and best-guess estimates. But as we’ve seen in recent years, what happened even six months ago can no longer be counted on as a reliable indicator of what’s to come. 

Instead, the tech sector needs to tap into real-time data and insights from external signals – which is where predictive analytics and emerging technologies like AI and ML come into play.

Predictive intelligence capabilities – like Anaplan’s embedded AI and ML functionality, for instance – enable sales and revenue leaders to enrich their internal, first-party data – what they already know – with external, third-party data – what they don’t know. Thousands of data points and buying signals from millions of global businesses are combined to provide decision-makers with the insights they need to analyze, score, and segment accounts based on buyer intent and profile fit. With this data in hand, sales leaders can target and prioritize accounts with a higher propensity to want to buy from them, filling their pipeline with winnable business and strong new market opportunities.

Using predictive insights to improve sales planning and execution is something CDW has done with great success. The leading technology solutions provider leverages Anaplan’s predictive capabilities to better anticipate a customer’s future technology needs, which enables CDW sellers to serve existing customers better. The solution also helps identify net-new opportunities in organizations that have not yet purchased from CDW. To date, deals identified with predictive analytics have resulted in faster sales, improved revenue, and greater business growth for CDW.

Predictive capabilities are also critical in helping tech organizations hire and retain strong sellers. Once accounts are scored and segmented based on their propensity to buy, sales and revenue leaders can build quotas and territories that are motivational, fair, and equitable – and then adapt those territories and quotas throughout the year as the market landscape shifts.

With a deeper level of confidence in their data, sales leaders can pinpoint where to prioritize and focus their sales investments and resources to maximize the results of their go-to-market strategy. This salesforce optimization will not only drive stronger deal cycles but will help tech companies reduce excess costs, which is critical when it comes to meeting profitable growth targets.

Rise above the competition

Increasingly high levels of competition, market turbulence, and shifting buying behaviors are likely here to stay. And while the recent tech earnings cycle saw better-than-expected results, as The Wall Street Journal points out, “the current moment still bears little resemblance to the lofty days of the pandemic that drove tech adoption to new heights.”

That’s why a strong sales plan based on real-time data, and a healthy pipeline based on predictive signals and insights, are so critical to success. With the right data, and the right tools, sales and revenue leaders in the tech sector can set their sellers up to close more deals, capture more market share, and ultimately drive more growth opportunities forward, regardless of the environment.

Want to learn more about Anaplan’s sales planning capabilities? Check out The Forrester Wave™ for Sales Performance Management Platforms, Q1 2023 to see why Anaplan was recognized as a Leader.