Challenger’s most recent pulse survey of sales leaders continues to examine changes in sentiment regarding their personal future, the future of their organization, and the general business environment. In addition, we explored how organizations are thinking about potential National/Global Sales Meetings in 2021.

Download the infographic with the full survey results here. 

Overall Sentiment

In general, there has been a reasonable improvement in overall sentiment, with respondents reporting greater confidence in their professional future, as well as their organization’s future. Despite increased optimism, sentiment remains on the weaker side when it comes to the business environment.

Percent Strongly Agreeing or Agreeing with Sentiment About the Future

Sentiment around sales management practices 

In line with the general uncertainty around the business environment, respondents are exhibiting some worry about their ability to retain their best employees; we suspect this is centered around the issue of incentives. This could present a serious issue moving forward, and suggests a need to remain vigilant regarding staff engagement and retention.

Percent Strong Agreeing/Agreeing with Retention Strategies

The Future of National/Global Sales Meetings 

With the year more than half done, sales leaders would typically turn their attention to planning for their 2021 National/Global Sales Meetings. Given the uncertainty induced by the ongoing COVID epidemic, we were curious to learn how organizations are preparing.

Nearly 40% of respondents indicate a desire to transition to a virtual National/Global Sales Meeting, and another 25% have yet to decide. A smaller number have indicated that they unlikely to hold a National/Global Sales Meeting at all in 2021.

Percentage of Companies Holding National Sales Meeting in 2021

For those respondents who are considering holding an event, it appears that they plan to reduce their budget by almost a quarter, intending to spend only $1,700 per person, compared to $2,265 in 2020. 

Effectiveness of National/Global Sales Meetings 

In an effort to understand sentiment around planning for 2021, we asked respondents how effective National/Global Sales Meetings at accomplishing goals.

Overall, respondents rate these meetings as being most effective at building camaraderie and at providing an opportunity for senior leaders to meet with the sales force.  We believe that the realities of meeting in 2021 necessitates a redesign of the structures of these meetings to facilitate the networking and social benefits of the more traditional face-to-face meeting.

Sentiment around effectiveness of National Sales Meetings

What National/Global Sales Meetings Could Look Like

Knowing that the nature of the National/Global Sales Meeting is likely to change in 2021, we asked respondents how a re-imagined the meeting could look.

Unsurprisingly, the largest number respondents want to use their meeting to introduce new products or services and are fairly comfortable doing this virtually. A large number of participants want to use this event to improve team camaraderie and to provide their executives a chance to provide a keynote speech or session. Interestingly, a fair number of respondents still hope to provide in-person socialization, though we anticipate that this will still be extremely challenging to accomplish.

Additionally, 86% hope to provide some platform for training, and hope to include outside speakers to the meeting agenda. Challenger believes that both these goals can be achieved fairly easily, but will require organizations to rethink the format and presentation of the material; companies cannot simply replicate a traditional presentation over video as-is, but must instead leverage the strengths of the online format. For example, timeframes, length of presentation, and staggering the agenda are all opportunities to enhance the experience in a digital setting.

Sentiment around the purpose of National Sales Meetings in 2021

Staying Productive

Now that many organizations are nearly 5 months into work-from-home arrangements, we wanted to understand if there were any changes to tactics aimed at maintaining sales force productivity and engagement.

Overall, organizations report making progress in the area, with the most effective being the use of tools such as Slack or Teams; this has helped teams stay connected and engaged, acting as a kind of “digital watercooler.” Providing additional training has also been very effective, which seems to make sense; training helps sales reps keep up with what has changed in what and how they sell. Consistent with this, we also see a sustained effort at increasing the frequency at which organizations share success stories.

One of the largest shifts is around working new messages and collateral with sellers. In April, 48% of respondents indicated success with this tactic; in June, this has increased by 15% points, with 63% using updated insights and promotions. This very clearly highlights how many changes organizations have experienced in the last few months, and the necessity of creating content that recognizes the shifts in their customer needs.

Effectiveness of tactics for engagement

The data also contains hints of “Zoom fatigue”, with respondents finding tactics such as an increase in the number of digital “catch-ups” less effective than they were three months ago. 

Summary 

Overall, while individuals display resilience and optimism with regards to themselves, they worry about the potential economic headwinds which is also reflected in their assessment of whether or not they believe that their organizations will have a retention problem or not. 

In terms of National/Global Sales Meetings, most people want to mark the new year in some fashion and use the occasion to introduce any new products or other changes. Challenger’s assessment is that it will be difficult to replace the more social dimensions of any large-scale event without providing a more structured opportunity for individuals to get together and for them to impress more senior leaders. 

View our Past Survey Results

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Spencer Wixom & Timur Hicyilmaz

Spencer is Senior Vice President of Marketing at Challenger, and has helped transform sales and marketing teams in some of the biggest and best companies in the world.

Timur has been conducting research for most of his career. He was part of the team that researched many of the original concepts behind Challenger. Mostly focused on trying to better understand how commercial organizations succeed, Timur has spent time working on everything from trying to understand consumer attitudes toward energy consumption to identifying best practices for hospital operations leaders. His passion is for trying to identify strategies that are more likely to deliver a desired outcome than any others.