This year’s annual TOPO Summit was billed as “the only event where the world’s best sales and marketing leaders share exactly what they do to achieve scalable revenue growth.” The specificity of that statement, it turns out, was quite accurate. The two-day event featured a one-hour welcome and broad industry overview from TOPO CEO Scott Albro, but the remaining time focused on breakout sessions with no-nonsense, tactical discussions about actionable practices and ideas that sales and marketing leaders can put into action. These breakout sessions were focused and specific– they spoke directly to the sales and marketing leaders in attendance, and in most cases those in attendance shared the same role as the speaker at their own company. This approach made for great discussion and provided a clear picture of best practices across sales and marketing in any industry.
While the topics of these breakout groups ranged broadly from sales ops and sales development to executive leadership, key themes emerged throughout the breakout rooms of the San Francisco Pier 27 event space. Below are four key takeaways and themes from our three days at TOPO 2018:
- Sales and marketing teams are focusing more on the customer
Perhaps the greatest trend throughout the summit was a constant focus on account-based sales and marketing – an intuitive approach that prioritizes a holistic view of customers and involves selling to targeted and highly-valued accounts, rather than focusing prospecting efforts more broadly. At its core, this is how leaders identify their most profitable accounts and determine how best to serve them long term. While this approach is typically too high touch for B2C, it’s become best practice for enterprise sales. This also emphasizes a shift from a product-focused sales approach to one that is far more customer-centric (i.e. storytelling around how you solve a specific customer’s challenges vs. traditional product-based messaging).
It’s a simple concept, but the technology and processes of old aren’t designed to deliver the data required to achieve this, or to effectively identify the customers most worthy of a sales team’s time. It’s clear that the technology in this space is catching up, but adjusting the strategy and processes will be a challenge for companies in the short-term.
- Collaboration is key, not only across sales and marketing, but also with the post-sales (i.e. customer success) organization
While TOPO took a siloed approach to its breakout sessions, collaboration between sales and marketing groups was a constant talking point for everyone involved. Sales ops, capable of providing the closed loop holistic customer view and the horsepower needed to enable growth, and sales development, responsible for qualifying MQLs and enabling sales success, were identified as an effective bridge between the sales and marketing organizations.
Speaking of collaboration, the importance of customer success operations and the need for collaboration with the pre-sales organization cannot be overstated. With the shift to a more customer-focused sales approach, customer experience is key. Attempting to upsell customers who have previously had a negative customer experience or bad interaction is a recipe for disaster. This all too common scenario may indicate a gap in communication between the pre- and post-sales organizations, underinvestment in customer experience, or both. Ultimately, this inhibits upselling opportunities, hinders customer retention, and impacts long-term growth.
The consensus throughout the event was that goals, strategy, and communication should be shared across sales, marketing and post-sales teams, not siloed. After all, the customer sees one organization, not silos, and interacts with your company horizontally across functions, creating one end-to-end customer experience.
- The sales technology curve is progressing past automation and entering the world of enablement
In addition to the breakout sessions, attendees had an opportunity to visit the vendor booths of (what felt like) every up-and-coming technology company in the industry. After talking to a few, it wasn’t hard to determine most of them were offering one of two things – predictive analytics and valuable data for sales enablement, or mature account-based solutions to offer a more holistic view of the customer. In either case, the focus was on data and enablement, not necessarily automation. What this indicates is that we’re nearing the end of sales automation as the predominant Sales and Marketing solution in the technology landscape and moving up the maturity curve toward sales enablement solutions.
- Sales and marketing technology is and will continue to be a hot topic in Private Equity and strategic M&A
Given what West Monroe does within the Mergers & Acquisitions space – and especially as we see more and more private equity firms coming to us for help with unlocking their target’s growth potential by focusing diligence and post-close efforts around a target’s revenue engine – we had our nose turned toward anything relevant to private equity and strategic M&A. Without question, we picked up some powerful insights to bring back to our clients, but what we noticed most was the number of technology companies with overlapping or nearly identical value propositions, and the sheer volume of VC money that has supported it. Amanda Kahlow, CSO and founder of 6sense, noted that the VC funding has finally dried up within the space and from here winners will be identified, signaling mergers and PE investment to come. As the landscape begins to settle, we anticipate significant movement amongst the companies that emerge victorious.