If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that the future is uncertain. As sales leaders look ahead to 2021, what should they prepare for? What trends, best practices and new learnings can be used to forge a strong position for the upcoming year?

Looking at the latest data, research and best practices, we look ahead to what sales leaders should be focused on for 2021, and beyond. 

Sales Leadership In 2021: What The Data Says

Forrester researchers have identified 5 key trends that sales leaders should take into account when preparing for 2021.

  • Dynamic sales planning
  • Sales compensation design
  • Analytics center of excellence
  • Dynamic guided selling
  • Revenue operations
Dynamic sales planning

This is a mindset and a process – one that enables organizations to respond quickly to internal and external change, something that is going to differentiate winners from losers in 2021. The process includes defining and monitoring signals of significant events, and developing contingency plans to assess, evaluate and act on these signals.

Sales compensation design

This includes encouraging team-based selling approaches that are based on a deep understanding of buyers and customers. Essentially, it’s about more strongly connecting activities and outcomes with compensation.

Analytics center of excellence

Forget siloed reporting. Sales leaders of 2021 are going to need to centralize analytics strategy, infrastructure and processes – and allow different stakeholders to access this information in ways that make them more effective. 

Dynamic guided selling

Forrester defines dynamic guided selling as “the automated collection of seller activities and buyer interactions, combined with analytics using AI capabilities, that informs reps how to position the sale and identify differentiators and next-best actions”. This of course is dependent on gathering high quality data and performing effective analysis. The key, according to the researchers? Deploying technologies that automatically capture sales interactions.

Revenue operations

There is a strong argument to create a single revenue operations team that includes sales operations, marketing operations and customer operations. This strategy includes looking beyond the sales function to include collaboration with other areas of the business to mutually benefit one another. 

The Future Of Sales Leadership

Gartner, in its “The Future of Sales” report (download here) has some fascinating predictions and observations for sales leaders looking to 2021 and beyond. Among these:

  • The future of sales is adaptive: including the convergence of hyperautomation, digital scalability and artificial intelligence
  • 60% of B2B sales organizations will transition from experience- and intuition-based selling to data-driven selling, merging their sales process, applications, data and analytics into a single operational practice
  • Over the next five years, the number of digital interactions between buyers and suppliers will skyrocket
  • Customers will increasingly reward a rich virtual buying experiences

Based on these observations, Gartner outlines 4 key actions for sales leaders to take:

  • Be ready to engage the “everywhere customer”
  • Position sales to facilitate complex buying decisions
  • Increase digital skill sets in the sales organization
  • Build a future-forward sales technology roadmap

The Sales Leader of Tomorrow

As the Forrester researchers note (source), “Over the past decade, B2B sales operations has evolved from a largely tactical function — focused on measurement, reporting, processes and systems — to a more complex and integrated function that informs and enables sales strategy and technology capabilities, drives change across the sales organization, aligns with other components of the revenue engine and supports growth objectives.”

What comes up constantly across the expert research is harnessing technology across the organization to act as a multiplier, and to both consume and generate data that can be used to optimize the sales process. 

Walnut’s perspective takes this into account; harnessing data from multiple sources across the organization, optimizing the power of sales teams and leaders, and generating high quality data for constant optimization and improvement. 

With 2021 fast approaching, successful sales leaders will be integrating these findings into their sales organizations – strategically setting themselves up for ongoing success.

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