Connected & Ready

The lasting impact of COVID on digital sales, with Mary Shea

Episode Summary

As companies continue to adapt to the realities of remote sales, many are finding that the new “business as usual” is still being defined. And some of them are redefining it for themselves. On this episode of Connected & Ready, Mary Shea, a principal analyst serving B2B marketing professionals at Forrester Research, returns for an updated look at the state of digitization in sales. She and Gemma discuss her latest research findings, review the various technologies companies are using to adapt, and examine the impact current trends have had on the sales industry as a whole. From our sponsor: Learn how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales helps teams discover actionable insights and drive authentic relationships. Talk to an expert today:

Episode Notes

Host Gemma Milne is joined by Mary Shea for a follow-up conversation about the digitization of sales, including the recent Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Microsoft, how businesses are adapting to meet the needs of their customers, and the technologies companies are investing in. 

About Mary Shea

Mary Shea is a principal analyst at Forrester. She is specifically focused on the empowered B2B buyer and how business leaders must adapt, organize, and enable their marketers, sellers, and channel partners to succeed both today and in the future. 

Learn more about Mary Shea

Information on the research discussed

Learn more about Forrester

Topics of discussion

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Episode Transcription

Music playing [00:00:01]

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. Brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author, and I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disruptive world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm reconnecting with Forrester principal analyst, Mary Shea to dive into her research on B2B selling, sales engagement, and her recent study commissioned by Microsoft. We continue the conversation on digital selling and explore how businesses and organizations can adapt to move forward. We talk about how businesses are adapting to and aligning with what customers want, and we dive into what businesses are investing in and what's preventing them from making shifts. 

[00:01:03] Mary, thank you so much for coming back and joining us on the show. But for everyone who hasn't yet listened to the first interview with you that we did a couple of months ago, I wonder if you could give us a little bit of an introduction to yourself, but then also tell us what you've been up to since we last spoke. 

Mary [00:01:20] Sure sounds great, Gemma. It's great to be here. And for those of you that didn't join the last podcast, my name is Mary Shea. I'm a principal analyst at Forrester in our B2B marketing and sales practice. I conduct research and I work with clients and I follow some of the leading sales technologies, advise our client base on how to go to market effectively with a modern buying scenario. So it's great to be back. I've been extraordinarily busy doing a lot of recordings like this, both podcasts and videocasts and keynote speeches. And I'm finding myself even in a virtual world, I'm busier than ever. I completed some research with Microsoft that really looks at a lot of key themes around technology adoption, utilization in unmet needs, which we'll talk a little bit about today. And I'm working on an academic article that looks at women in sales and specifically the role of the top sales leader as a conduit to getting more female CEOs in seat. So that among many, many other things. 

Gemma [00:02:27] Amazing. Wow. That does sounds like pretty busy. It wasn't that long ago we last spoke. Well, last time we chatted about this sort of accelerating sales trends, how organizations should start to think about adapting or getting better at digital selling. You mentioned that they should focus on improving how they interact with customers and prospects, rescale and upscale their personnel for the digital sales environment, and, of course, organize in ways more aligned to what buyers really want. Are these the areas that you have indeed seen businesses start to act on over the last few months. You know, maybe there's a new area of focus that's emerged that we didn't get to talk about last time. Essentially, what are businesses prioritizing to make the shift?

Mary [00:03:08] Yeah, that's a great question. So I think as we're sort of deeper into the world of selling and buying in a remote and virtual capacity, we're starting to see companies really pivot and adapt in a deeper way than when we first spoke. So, you know, I'm starting to see things like B2B sellers start to get comfortable utilizing video and creating personalized video and delivering those to their customers and prospects. Either in an email or through social channel. We're seeing sellers that are continuing to drive and close business remotely, even very, very high dollar deals. And so I think it's really showing organizations that we're in the process of kind of carving out a new new. I'm not sure how long will have to stay remote, but I think when we do have the ability to go meet in person, that much more of the preliminary work will be done in remote capacity and certainly some meetings will take place in person. We're also seeing organizations really reevaluate their sales and marketing tech stack to take a look at what they have in place, potentially shed licenses where they're not getting significant value, and then look to double down on their investments on core partners where they want to get extended value from the increased functionality that those platforms have or through the broader ecosystem of partnerships that those vendors bring to the table. 

Gemma [00:04:34] It sounds like there's been, I guess, a shift from reacting to this new environment that we're in, experimenting with all the different options that are out there quickly. Because, you know, you're sort of filling that need that you suddenly need to have all of your staff being able to work in this environment to now being like, "OK, we've been doing this for a couple of months now. Even if we manage to beat this virus and really get back to work, there's still going to be an element of digital selling for a long time, whether it's because the pandemic or otherwise, and it's enabling new things." So it seems like a shift from experimentation to sort of fully adopting and really thinking about what it is that businesses want. Is that kind of what you're seeing in terms of the prioritization? Or is it something, I guess, a bit more high-level strategy that you're seeing in terms of these shifts? 

Mary [00:05:24] Yeah, I think your assessment is really accurate. I think when we first spoke, there was a level of collective global shock that we were really adapting to a fundamentally remote digital world. Obviously, there are many health concerns, there are concerns around the economy, what's that's going to do for jobs. But in terms of our client base, what we're seeing is that folks are ready to kind of get on with things. When we first spoke, I would answer a lot of questions from clients. You know, "When are we gonna get back to normal? Or, you know, what's the timeline look like? How long are we going to have to endure this?" And now I think there's a deeper understanding. Like you said, we don't know what normal looks like in the future. And so we're carving that out collectively together. I think a couple of weeks ago, the CEO of Southwest Airlines actually stated that he didn't think that business travel would get to pre 2019 levels for over a decade. 

Gemma [00:06:19] Wow. 

[00:06:19] So whether or not you agree with that, you know, remains to be seen. But I think business leaders know that this digital remote setting is secured for the duration and that duration could be pretty long. And then even when things improve, it's probably more of a hybrid model versus an either/or model. So I think they're doubling down and really considering, "How do we invest? How do we have the best technology stack in place? How do we drive adoption and utilization of the tools that we have? And, you know, how do we use newer technologies like machine learning and AI and automation to really drive significant decision making and impact our buyer-seller interactions in a more profound way?" 

Gemma [00:07:02] So let's dive into that little bit deeper. What are the core benefits that the leaders in various different kind of companies are looking to realize when they start thinking about digital selling, changing their tech stack, or honing in on their tech stack and looking into these even newer technologies? What specifically is it that they're trying to do with all this? 

Mary [00:07:22] You know, there's a lot of things. You know, if you if you look at some of the recent data that I've pulled from some of the surveys of stuff that's not published yet, we see that 41 percent of businesses have reduced the size of their sales force. So first and foremost, you're going to need more efficiency from the existing sellers that they have. The other thing is that companies are still having pretty aggressive growth and margin targets, top line and profit margin growth. And so in addition to greater efficiency, they want a greater level of effectiveness. And then the other thing that most C-Suite execs care about is really this experience. And I think I'm starting to see more and more of a focus on using these different types of sales tools and new technologies to drive a better buyer experience and to drive that experience, not just sort of at the front of the cycle or mid-to-latter part of the cycle but across the entire customer lifecycle, with all of the activities that someone in sales, marketing. and even, you know, your prospects and customers want to engage in. So it's really efficiencies and effectiveness and experiences, I think. 

Gemma [00:08:31] Let's focus on that, that third one there, because I think that's really, really interesting. This idea of shifting to meet the demands and the needs and the expectations of a more digitally savvy buyer. What ways have organizations had to change to meet these needs, and what, you know, if anything, is preventing businesses from adapting or investing to meet them where they want and where they are? 

Mary [00:08:55] You know, when you think of the sales mentality and the sales DNA, you know, and I can say this because I've been a salesperson for much of my career. And we don't like change. If it isn't broken, people don't want to fix it. And so you have tenured sales reps that are out there doing things the way they've always done them, but they're not getting the results that they need to meet the quota requirements they have and to meet their economic goals. And so I think just sort of trying to encourage people to make those changes and start to adopt new methods and new techniques and new ways of doing things is pretty big. 

Gemma [00:09:28] You think even there's still a cultural change required, despite the fact that we've been all working from home all this time and using technology to kind of, well, do everything really? 

Mary [00:09:39] Yeah, I mean, I think there certainly are some folks out there that do think things will go back to some sort of a normality. But by and large, I think most everyone's kind of accepted that we're dealing with a very different situation. Business relationships will be different and we probably won't be shaking hands when we meet in person. Even large scale events, you know, where you'd have three thousand people — in all likelihood, we will be having events that predominantly happen in a digital capacity. Folks will go and meet up in person. But I think those will be smaller, more exclusive groups or groups of people that have very unique interests. And so that network working will happen that way. So we are seeing, you know, by and large, companies make the pivot and really begin to invest in the strategies, the technologies, the methods, and the tactics that they're going to need to be successful, you know, not only today, but also two to three and five years down the line. 

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Gemma [00:11:02] You mentioned this idea that we kind of all know that we're not going to be going back to the office anytime soon. And New Normal — what does that even look like? 

[00:11:11] We're not sure, but there is still a level of, I guess for some people feeling like, well, we will go back. Do you have any sorts of data, statistics or evidence that show that sort of disparity and kind of expectations? 

Mary [00:11:23] Yeah, I've been really following these data points since I was aware of Covid and starting to see how they change. This summer, Forrester did a global employee experience pandemic survey. We went out and surveyed a lot of white collar workers. And what we found was that 53 percent of them were actually happy that their business travel had curtailed. They were happy that they were traveling less. And they hope that in the future they would not have to travel as much for business travel. So, you know, I look forward to continuing to look at the data for more and more insights. But what I hear from my conversations and on different social networks is that road warriors, we miss that that in-person connection for sure. But there certainly are advantages in a sense of efficiency. We can accomplish a lot more at home when we're not waiting for the airline crew to show up. We're more attentive to our health needs. We can work out and family connections and friend connections can be a little bit deeper because we're actually home. So I'm seeing and hearing and the data is showing that even the most hardened road warriors are not eager to get out the road anytime soon. 

Gemma [00:12:30] We talk about forecasting, obviously, in sales. So is forecasting in this really unpredictable time the sort of living in a challenge? And what can help, in your opinion, or based on your research, sales leaders to get on top and get good forecasting now and into the future? 

Mary [00:12:47] Well, forecasting is challenging even in the best of all possible worlds. And what I found from my teaching and my experience as an analyst and my experience as a chief revenue officer is that every business leader often has their own secret sauce for forecasting. There's, you know, sort of the data and then the triangulation of that data. And then maybe we have a different algorithm and then there's sort of a "feel." But I think we're moving away from the art of forecasting more towards the science of forecasting, thankfully. And having great data and a great CRM solution and being able to benefit from artificial intelligence and machine learning. I think the rich behavioral data that a lot of these systems capture around buyer engagement and so on, that we will eventually move to a world where the human isn't so important. And part of the forecasting we're going to be able to see from all that interactions with a buyer and pull in external third-party data as well. We'll be able to forecast probably from an automated capacity in the not too distant future. So I think where we are today is that business leaders need to be very, very disciplined, rely on their systems and processes, and move more towards the science of forecasting and away from the art of it. 

Gemma [00:14:05] So let's talk a little bit about these things that companies are prioritizing and are investing. What are these things that they're looking to do, whether it's the tech or new methodologies or new strategies, as you mentioned, that are allowing these organizations to really improve that customer experience? And also, are there any areas that they've been dis investing in as a result of all these changes? 

Mary [00:14:28] Yeah, those are great questions. I mean, I think a couple of things. We talked a little bit about artificial intelligence and some research that I conducted showed that 57 percent of B2B sales leaders are going to invest in solutions that have embedded AI or automation in them in the upcoming fiscal year. And so that's pretty dramatically higher than what we've seen in the past. And part of that is to put their organizations in a place to have a great and rich data strategy and be able to leverage large data sets to get more insights about how to engage more effectively with their customers. We're also seeing investments in really putting in place those foundational technologies from CRM to content to engagement to readiness and ensuring that those technology solutions integrate deeply and effectively. Because without that integration, you can't have a single view of all of the customer interactions across all of the different channels. And so I know companies have been really struggling with that. And so we're seeing that level of investment which will allow a wider range of revenue team members to engage with customers and prospects across the cycle. But to do it in a seamless and fluid way so that everyone's sort of in the loop about what that last interaction was with marketing or with customer success or even as an indirect salesperson. So we're seeing those kinds of investment not only in the tools, but also in ensuring that those tools and technologies are in lock step. And that they're able to build really great database of their customers so that they can engage more personalized manners and have a more fluid interaction. And then I think we're starting to see a larger group of folks on the supply side be involved in selling activities. So, again, not just sort of, you know, you're AEs or your top of the funnel folks, but a wider range of sellers to match larger buying committees that we're seeing on the buy side. 

Gemma [00:16:33] So we speak of this idea of the power of personalization. 

[00:16:38] And I guess what a lot of the digital selling tools are doing or trying to do is replicate or scale the ability for you to deliver a personalized experience by basically giving you the information you need right at the right point at the point of sale or at the point of conversation. But of course, selling is all about relationships. And a lot of this information, how you used to get it was by having conversations with people and learning it yourself. So how do you balance, I guess, the tools’ ability to scale you being personal as a seller vs. I guess not going round the nice process of actually getting to know someone and being personal because it's taking time and nurturing. 

Mary [00:17:23] Yeah. So interesting juxtaposition, right? So buyers today really won't put up with a call where a salesperson would start to ask a query of questions to try to understand if they were qualified and had a need that their solution could provide. Buyers now expect all of that to be done in advance of the call. And so sellers really need to have access right on their desktop, on their smartphones, wherever they are, to tools and technologies that are going to provide rich data and insights around exactly what the buyer needs. And to come to that conversation, knowing what the last purchase was from that buyer and how they can replenish that. And to be able to do that at scale in a rapid way. Most organizations, as I think I've mentioned earlier, are dealing with smaller sized sales forces and we'll see that happen in the future where you'll have sales people that you know, instead of having 30 accounts, they'll have 300 or instead of 300, they'll have three thousand. And the only way they can manage that is by having access to tools that can provide them with real time access to the data that they need to have a personalized and productive conversation with their customers. 

Gemma [00:18:31] With this sort of remote environment, digital selling environment, where sellers are, you know, sitting in front of their computers, they've got various different things that they might want to reference and look at millions different windows, whether it's, you know, looking at the information about the buyer, whether it's pulling up products, information, you name it. How are digital tools helping manage that? And what's the kind of nice ideal scenario to help make this remote digital selling process as smooth as possible? 

Mary [00:19:03] Yeah, so I was just getting anxious, just listening to all of that. Sellers obviously have to be great multitaskers. But the best technology solutions will provide a platform for sellers to do pretty much everything that they need to do. And through integrations and pipes into some of these other functionalities or tools, sellers can actually work in a place of comfort, right? And they can initiate an outbound dialer. They can initiate an email. They can initiate a social interaction engagement right from whatever platform or system they're working from. And then all of that data can be extracted back in, uploaded into your CRM system. So there's ways to do it that can make it really effective and easy for sellers of all types. 

Gemma [00:19:45] Would you say that these are trends or I guess shifts in priorities — is that the same across industries and geographies? I mean, you don't want to sort of lump every kind of salesperson together, but at the same time, you could argue there’s probably a lot of similarities across the board. 

Mary [00:20:02] Yeah, I think there's certain geographical nuances in terms of how sales happen. Even just in looking at the European countries, you would sell differently into France than you would into Germany versus Spain. And so we certainly do see those nuances. And my research tends to be pretty global in its perspective. But naturally, because I'm sitting here in North America, I get a bit over indexed to North America. So, you know, there are some differences. But I think by and large, these trends are pretty global and cross-industry. I think probably a year ago, two years ago, you would see only sort of technology companies or really big professional services companies or FinServ companies with a large financial advisor network investing in the most innovative technologies. And now we're seeing energy, oil and gas, manufacturing, beer and all kinds of, you know, distributors investing in these types of solutions. And I think it's necessary, as I said, because we're not going back to a situation where we're going to be 100 percent face to face. 

Gemma [00:21:08] You did mention that there's some sort of newer entrants when it comes to kind of industry players. So, you know, tech companies are already pretty set up and very comfortable using digital tools, whereas certain other types of industries, perhaps it wasn't so automatic. Excuse the pun. So what's the difference here? Are the newer entrants using different kinds of tools or are they just earlier in the process or are they ready to kind of jump in and almost, I guess, leapfrog into using the latest and greatest? 

Mary [00:21:39] Great question. So I think, you know, we're seeing some of the newer entrants, some of the more traditional industries, whether that's manufacturing, whether it's energy, whether it's multilevel marketing, where all the engagements and interactions would happen in the physical world. These entrants are now embracing tools and technologies to help their market facing personnel engage effectively in the digital world. There are some challenges and some differences. In some cases, more education needs to happen, maybe slower rollouts, sometimes the level of functionality, maybe less that some of these traditional businesses need. But I think what we've seen in our work is that companies that could sit by the sidelines and say, well, it wasn't necessary to digitally transform their organizations or their sales organizations can no longer do so. And so they are looking to move forward very quickly in ways that make sense for the cultural dynamics and what their business model looks like. There are some that also have the ability to leapfrog and make tremendous progress in going forward. And we're seeing some companies do that as well. 

Gemma [00:22:47] Let's talk about some examples. What digital tools or approaches do you think are working really well? You know, how have they impacted the sales process and helped teams shift to more buyer centric or connected buyer experiences? 

Mary [00:23:01] Yes. So, you know, there's a range of tools that I think are helping to drive those experiences. One is what we call sales content solutions, and those are solutions that enable sellers to quickly access content, whether that's marketing content or other types of content, to personalize it within the brand or regulatory requirements that their marketing organization has. And then to deliver that content in really personalized ways and then to be able to give data back to marketing and sales around how that content's being utilized. Sales engagement is another type of technology category where we're seeing a lot of interest and that helps sellers of all shapes and sizes manage their multi cadence touch points. And how to understand which channels, for example, a customer or prospect might prefer to be contacted by. Some prefer direct messaging. Other might prefer text. Maybe you're in Asia, you're OK with text if you've already developed a relationship. In other countries, maybe it's more formal. So to get those insights that can allow them to understand what customer preferences are I think are really, really helpful. 

Gemma [00:24:10] So in terms of the different kinds of new tools out there, they're giving that insight for customers, what is it and how is it that they prefer to be sold to? What does that kind of look like? What kind of experience, I guess, is it this choice and this personalization allows for? 

Mary [00:24:30] What we see is that customers and buyers are incredibly demanding now because they have so much information at their fingertips. They can go out online, they can download digital content, they could go to peer review sites. They can do a wide range of things. And so when they do have that interaction with a salesperson, the expectation is really high and they expect to get value to have personalized, meaningful connections that the salesperson can talk specifically about data and have information at their fingertips. So it's not sort of enough to understand the industry, the company and the persona you're talking to. You have to have deep information and relay that your conversation in a relevant way to your buyers. 

Gemma [00:25:16] Just quickly, on that last example you gave there, I mean, my sort of journalism head is immediately going, what does that mean for consent and privacy? And is it, you know, are we the person who's kind of trusting that information on the Internet and it is public and it's being pulled from these public sources? Are you consenting for it to be used in a way that sales is when you're being sold to? And I guess with the shift towards digital sales, you are having to think about how you make it personal, but also fair and with respect to the person that you're trying to sell to. 

Mary [00:25:48] So great point, particularly with GDPR and the privacy regulations that are stateside as well. And all of these technology vendors that I follow and work with are keenly attuned to compliance and regulatory issues. One of the things that we saw with GDPR was that social selling or social engagement became a more popular avenue for supplier companies, because by setting up a social profile on Facebook or LinkedIn or even LinkedIn, more specifically, you've kind of already implicitly given that consent, right? You've said, I want to learn more. If you've connected with somebody, I want to learn more about areas that you care about. But so we're seeing more utilization of social channels to sort of, in some ways, get around that consent. What we find is that when a salesperson reaches out to someone with something that is really, truly personal and relevant to their area of interest and focus, they tend to get really positive responses. 

Gemma [00:26:50] I suppose it's nice to have something that feels like it was done for you as opposed to getting these automated copy and paste sort of approaches. Let's talk a little bit about some of the challenges or hurdles that perhaps organizations have faced in adopting these new tools or technology. What are you seeing happening within in terms of trying to meet some of these challenges, perhaps reskilling? Is there sort of a learning curve for workers? Tell us a little about that. 

Mary [00:27:18] You know, most big initiatives don't really fail because the technology doesn't work. In most cases, right? Particularly with a lot of the technologies that we're talking about here. They fail because of lack of buy in, a lack of education. There's no change management, training isn't good enough. And I think the biggest thing that companies can do is really bring sellers into the discussion prior to making a big technology purchase and help provide some education around how that purchase is potentially going to enhance their work life, make them more successful and create a better buyer experience. So ultimately, you know, that's what we all want and that's what sellers want. But oftentimes some of these technologies are procured by marketing or sales operations or IT and sales was brought in at the 11th hour when you need to roll it out. And so, you know, I encourage organizations to take the time to educate all the constituents to learn what their use case is going to be from the different technologies that you're going to acquire. And then help them understand how it's going to benefit them. And then create, you know, pilots. Create advocacy groups where you have different types of users who can weigh in and get feedback from the field and help you understand what metrics for success are. All of those things, I think, can really help initiatives be more successful. And when you don't do them, conversely, it puts the success of the initiative in balance. 

Gemma [00:28:50] Of course, there are also so many different technologies that, you know, these companies are acquiring and looking at and deciding which ones are going to fit best. From your perspective, how do you see vendors sort of differentiating themselves in this arguably quite crowded space? 

Mary [00:29:07] Yeah, it is a really crowded space. And with the current environment that we're in, about 40 percent of business leaders state cost reduction as one of their top priorities. And so I think the first thing that's going to happen is that technology buyers and business buyers are going to take a really hard look at their technology partnerships if they're not getting exponential value from a particular partner. So I think the days of so many different point solutions and niche solutions and the sales and marketing world are going to start to come to a close, accelerated by the pandemic, Gemma. And I think what we will see is companies really going to a foundational partner and pushing that partner for more value. So whether they're driving the product development or they encourage that partner to make acquisitions or extend their ecosystem of partners, I think they're going to want to make less bets and get more from really high quality partnerships they have. And so we'll see. I think 2020 could be a year of amazing M&A, IPOs, roll ups and acquisitions. And I think it's going to be customer driven, driven by the market. 

Gemma [00:30:25] You've mentioned 2020 being a year of change for business structures, but it has we have to come back to this, the fact that it's been such a change in terms of how people work. And I want to I want to talk a little bit about that. In addition to sort of digital tools that are being adopted, what other ways, have you seen sales organizations adapt? You know, have they been collaborating or integrating with other departments or working together in different kind of ways? I wonder if you could talk us through that. 

Mary [00:30:54] You know, collectively, we're all a little bit lonely for that connection that we have. And video is great, but it only gets you so far. So I think that in addition to fundamentally changing how people buy stuff, I think that this is going to bring marketing and sales together more closely. And that's an alignment that has been really elusive for decades, quite frankly. But I do see, as companies really do the hard work of integrating and having great data strategies and understanding that it's going to take a larger group of folks on the supply side to help sell stuff that sales and marketing and come together and work together very much more closely. And we'll see less boundaries between those roles and less discussions about MQLs and SQLs and more rolling up the sleeves and working together to bring home some business. I also think my recent research showed that 20 percent of business leaders, sales leaders are starting to think about experimenting with a variable compensation for non quota carrying members. So spiffs or opportunistic compensation that will help drive more collaboration and drive more personas across the organization to get involved in driving revenue and leading to commercial outcomes. But one of the things we're going to be doing at Forester is having a move-a-thon, because we all feel, many of us, at least in my demographic, feel like we have a little bit of a Covid-19 still hanging around. And so we're creating a virtual move-a-thon where we're going to fundraise for some of our important things that we care about. And we're going to cycle, power walk, and some of us will be able to do that together in a socially twisted way. And then others of us will do it virtually. So you're seeing just creativity of all sorts, I think,  come to the forefront. 

Gemma [00:32:46] I think another area of kind of culture which you touched on right at the very beginning in the introduction, which I'd love a little summary on is you mentioned, you'd also been doing some research around women in sales. And I'd be remiss to not ask you to just give us a little bit of background on what that is and what your research found. 

Mary [00:33:03] Yeah. Thank you. Thanks so much for asking. You certainly do know how to talk to an analyst. So my data is everything. So I do have a survey in field, so I'd love to put a pitch in to anyone who feels like they could weigh in of all genders to contribute to the research is live. But I have culled it and we found some really, really interesting data, Gemma. And just to start to set the stage, today in the Fortune 500, 7.4% of CEOs are female. It's shocking. And when I started this research on women in sales, the number was six percent. So we've upticked by one point four percent. So I'm not sure that's high fives all around, but at least we're going in the right direction. And so females at the top, top sales positions, chief sales officers, chief revenue officer, are dramatically underrepresented as well. And so my premise is that in order to solve this female CEO problem, we need to encourage more women to go into the sales profession and B2B sales. Now, my research also shows that 74 percent of B2B sales leaders say they hire with diversity in mind. But – wait for it – only one third of B2B sales people are female. So there's a ton of work to be done. But to net it out, I was asked by an academic journal, the Journal of Selling, to write an article for a publication that's going to focus on articles that really look at all different aspects of women in sales with a goal of trying to encourage academic institutions, businesses, the regulatory environment, and actually females themselves to embrace the profession and to find ways to be more successful, particularly as they move up the higher echelons of the sales leadership and sales management. 

Gemma [00:34:52] And of course, if there's people listening that want to get involved, they can get in touch and help add to what sounds like a very broad ranging area of research we're working on. 

Mary [00:35:00] Absolutely. 

Gemma [00:35:02] Amazing. Well, one final question for you, because, you know, you said you're an analyst at the end of day. So I'm going to ask you an analyst question, which is: I want to know what are the trends? What should organizations be keeping an eye on? You know, what's here to stay? What shifts have we seen here to stay? And what's going to be the focus going into the future? 

Mary [00:35:20] Yeah. So I think buyer centricity is here to stay. And I think we've talked about it a lot. But because this buying and selling environment is so challenged right now, I think we're going to finally crack the code on having just more meaningful interactions and connections between the buying and selling process. And I think that may start with a seller using a customized video to reach out to someone. And it may sort of get to the point where we have collaborative platforms, where we're working together in augmented reality environment, to create business cases, to create ROI studies. And to collectively create proposals together, and then when it's done, you know, buyers may actually just go transact on commerce. So I think this move to buyer centricity in meaningful ways, I think will happen. And I'm hearing a lot about that. I think this concept of commerce as a sales enablement or buyer enablement 3.0. is something we'll see more of in the future where it's not an either or, or bifurcation of the process, but commerce and human interactions are going to happen simultaneously. And I think from a technology perspective, I think we're going to see rapid consolidation in companies really lean on their primary technology providers to get a wide range of needs met, both from a functionality and subject matter expertise perspective. 

Gemma [00:36:52] Amazing, Mary. Thank you so much for joining us again on the podcast. It's a pleasure, as it was last time and so brilliant to hear basically what's going on and hearing it from the person that really is taking the time to look at it and analyze it and share all of the insights that you're gathering. So thank you so much for joining us on the show. 

Mary [00:37:11] Thank you, Gemma. 

Gemma [00:37:15] That's it for this week. Thanks so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Mary's research and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoyed the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. And don't forget to subscribe. And tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

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