8 Things We Learned At Accelerate18 About Tech, Marketing and Sales

The Accelerate business growth summit hosted by XANT was a wrap last week, bringing three full days of learning, networking and playing to an end. Over 400 attendees gathered at the Snowbird ski resort in Utah to listen to over 35 speakers from global companies tell their stories on how they used technology to grow revenue.

During the summit, XANT released the next generation of AI technology to help sales leaders get actionable insights on their performance as compared to industry and cross-industry data.

The Accelerate speaker sessions were kicked off by XANT CEO and founder, Dave Elkington. We’ve summarized below some of the takeaways from some of the marquee speakers at the Accelerate summit.

And in case you missed this event, you will be able to watch the speaker sessions online during our next virtual summit, the Sales Leadership Summit in April.

why sales reps are not hitting quota and how they can

Capacity Does Not Equal Scalability

Sales teams are hit with higher and higher expectations from stakeholders every quarter. In this climate, sales leaders are under pressure to try and solve the problem of scaling growth. They often try to do this by hiring more sales reps, trying to increase the capacity of their sales teams. However, capacity is not the answer to scalable growth, said Dave Elkington, CEO of XANT, kicking off the summit.

“Capacity is not the problem. The problem is you don’t have enough leads and qualified opportunities to engage with,” said Dave Elkington, CEO of XANT, during his speaker session.

Increasing the size of your sales team increases operational costs for sales. In turn, this leads to increases in quota and high turnover among sales professionals. The average tenure of a sales leader is 18-24 months, because they can’t escape the vicious cycle of increasing capacity to increase sales revenue, showed Dave Elkington.

To remove themselves from this cycle, sales leaders need to employ smart sales technology which allows them to sift through low quality leads faster– without increasing headcount.

“Building pipeline is like mining. You have to sift through the dirt before you find the gold. Using technology is like moving dirt with a truck versus a teaspoon,” added Dave.

New Technology Is Nothing Without Change Management

Sales organizations need to adapt to the way buyers prefer to be reached and purchase, showed Vernon Irvin, president of CenturyLink. Customers today depend on the Internet to get informed before a purchase. This is why companies must build the marketing engine needed for customers to learn about them and their products. However, just implementing new technologies is not enough– change management needs to follow.

“It takes a lot of data, a lot of work, but you have to figure out how to do things differently. You must first put a technology foundation in place. Then focus on changing the way your organization behaves,” said Vernon, during his speaker session at Accelerate.

Vernon shared the way CenturyLink underwent a digital sales and marketing transformation, introducing Artificial Intelligence in its technology stack to better serve the digitally savvy audience.

“Change is hard. You need to try fast and fail fast,” said Vernon, during the Accelerate summit.

essential b2b marketing trends 2018

Content Marketing Is Here to Stay

A large part of the buyer’s journey takes place online today. This aspect of marketing isn’t about to change anytime soon. Companies can help educate and inform their audience is by offering high-quality content, readily available in the formats they are ready and willing to consume.

“The modern B2B buyer is changing—today’s buyers are doing more research on their own, and they want to hear how the product they’re going to buy is going to deliver for their business. (…) 62% of B2B buyers say they can develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content,” said Cliff Condon, chief research and product officer at Forrester Research, speaking at the Accelerate growth summit.

And even though online buyers are harder to reach than before, they remain loyal and they are looking for partners to help drive their business forward, shows Cliff.

“Sales digital transformation is no longer optional, it’s a necessity. Modern B2B buyers want to work with modern B2B sellers,” added Cliff.

Cliff Condon also listed six traits of the successful B2B seller of today:

  • Engages in networked selling
  • Embraces multiple social channels (including twitter)
  • Shares new ideas
  • Leverages digital tools
  • Prefers collaboration
  • Turns data into insights

Insight Selling Is The New Black

Sales professionals need to learn how to work by offering real insights to their customers, that they can draw upon and use in their daily work. Insight selling was put forward by Matt Dixon, head of Salesforce effectiveness solutions at Korn Ferry Hay Group and co-author of “The Challenger Sale.”

“Don’t ask me what keeps me up at night…Tell me what should be keeping me up at night,” said Matt, during Accelerate.

There are two ways to develop an insight based sales message, shows Matt:

  • Finding salespeople who are capable of engaging customers with insights
  • Building insights that are worth customer time and attention

An insight-based sales message must provoke customer thinking, be credible, emotionally and rationally, show the ROPE [return on pain eliminated], and be mass customizable, added Matt Dixon.

And while challengers need to be able to hold their ground, they need to do so in an empathetic way.

Part of developing an insight based sales message is understanding what makes you unique and what differentiates you from competitors, explained Matt.

do you really need artificial intelligence to sell

Sales Reps Need to Trust the Data

Gone are the days when sales professionals rely on their gut instinct to show them who would be a good target for a sales pitch. Sales reps today need to rely on modern lead scoring and prioritization systems. These machines can point to the leads with the highest chance of closing a sale– and are more accurate than sales rep intuition.

“You’ll notice that many of today’s Fortune 500 companies are now focused on data and technology. Now more than ever, companies need to have a clear data strategy. (…) Data is the new oil,” said Yousuf Khan, CEO of PureStorage.

Trusting the data is a requirement in today’s competitive sales environment, showed Yousuf Khan, during his Accelerate speaker session.

“Don’t be a hater. Trust the data,” said Yousuf Khan.

building rapport with customers - podcast

Provide Value and Build Relationships

Sales reps need to provide value to their buyers, otherwise, they risk their messages being ignored, showed Hayden Stafford, VP of Business Applications for Microsoft. Data shows that 77% of buyers don’t believe their sales reps provide value. Furthermore, only 8% of buyers believe their sales reps are truly knowledgeable about their specific business, added Hayden, quoting Microsoft research.

Not finding all the key players and decision-makers, not being perceived as adding value and not being able to manage multiple relationships in the modern sales cycle are often quoted as the main challenges for sales reps today.

To overcome these challenges, reps need to start relying more on data, he added. Organizations need to make sure data from different silos is brought together to benefit sales reps and ultimately, their customers, showed Hayden.

“As you unify your data sets, you can rise above the noise with more than insights, but with real actions. (…) Proactive, predictive and personalized relationships: that’s what we at Microsoft are trying to do, and that’s what the era of relational selling is about,” said Hayden.

The Definition of a Great Leader Has Changed

Leaders are no longer figures on Mount Olympus who need to be feared. At least not to millennial employees, shows Dr. Frank Bond, PhD, from the University of London. The definition of a leader has changed based on millennials’ expectations, he adds.

“We need to know what matters to our employees, and if we think we know, we’re probably lying to ourselves a bit. We need to communicate with them to find out,” said Dr. Frank Bond.

There are a few things that constitute the foundations of good leadership, shows Dr. Frank Bond:

  • Agree and monitor goals
  • Provide support
  • Use active management skills
  • Use evidence-based selection and promotion procedures

*Research shows that more stay-at-home parents demonstrate these basic management skills than do great high-management leaders,” said Frank.

To move from competent leaders to great leaders, managers need to know what matters to them, they need to be aware of their embodied feelings and be very good communicators, he adds. To gain all of this knowledge, they need to connect with other people, observe them, understand them. More than anything, never assume you know what matters to most to a person, added Frank.

“Know yourself, communicate with others. The sales come, the excellence comes, the striving is there. You sacrifice much but gain so much more. Even in space there are speed limits. Be yourself, be a human in the world in which you live,” said Dr. Frank Bond.

how to fit social selling into your sales cadence strategy

Social Selling Is Essential

Modern sellers need to use all the communication channels at their disposal, to be able to reach an increasingly fragmented audience, showed Jill Rowley, chief growth officer at Marketo.

Successful digital transformation requires cross functional leadership, collaboration and participation, added Jill. In the digital landscape, marketing brings content and sales brings coaching and accountability, while enablement brings the knowledge, skills and assets to transform behaviors.

“Don’t change your process, weave digital and social into it,” added Jill.

Jill Rowley also underlined 7 key elements companies should to aim for in their digital journies:

  1. Customer is placed at the center
  2. Digital strategy is an executive priority
  3. Learning is a culture: continuously enabled, measured and evolved
  4. Accountability to change is the responsibility of sales leadership
  5. Embed digital into existing sales process
  6. Take seriously marketing alignment with sales
  7. Be willing to test, measure and improve

Accelerate 2018 is a Wrap-Up — See the Speaker Sessions

We found these and many other gold nuggets of leadership insight at the Accelerate 2018 business growth summit. This event has been a massive success as an exclusive gathering of sales and marketing leaders from Fortune 500 companies.

You’ll be able to watch all the speaker sessions from Accelerate at our next virtual event, the Sales Leadership Summit in April, so stay tuned for it!

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