Despite an unprecedented pandemic, lockdown, and socioeconomic crisis, there were 12,123 American business mergers and acquisitions in the year ending August 31, 2020 — a rate of 1.4 companies sold every single hour, despite the 15 percent decrease from the previous 12-month period. With this extraordinary pace of change comes the inevitable downstream impact on frontline sales organizations: carrying a different product line, message, and motion into the field — sometimes immediately, and often without adequate planning or training.

Beyond the scope of M&A, the normal pace of existing product evolution creates new challenges and pressures for sellers: the time and effort required to understand the new offers, buyers, and needs; learning how to integrate new offers into selling motions; and modifying selling activities and motions to accommodate all these changes.

Even with adequate planning and training, the burdens that such changes place on B2B sellers is high. When does the pressure become too much?

At this year’s Forrester B2B Summit North America, Nancy Maluso and I will address the complications that often arise when M&A outcomes — and other sea changes that executive decision-making around new products, buyers, and markets needs to address — cascade down to the rep level, in the “Everyone Sells Everything … Until They Can’t!” track session on Thursday, May 6. At the heart of our thinking is this hypothesis: As organizations continuously add complexity to a B2B seller’s mission, there must come a point when overload occurs, the straw breaks the camel’s back, and misalignment between the increasing demands on a seller and their ability to deliver on requests from above ends up hurting the company more than helping.

We’re currently testing this theory in our Forrester 2021 Sales Study, and the early results validate our thinking. High-performing B2B reps, in comparison to under-performing peers, typically sell:

  • A smaller number of products
  • A lower-complexity set of products
  • A smaller range of sales motions (e.g., new logo acquisition, outbound cold-calling, up-sell, cross-sell, renewal)
  • To smaller and less complex buying groups
  • To a narrower variety of use cases

When the view is shifted to sales leader respondents, we see that low-performing sales teams are more likely to indicate that their reps (a) are responsible for ALL opportunity types, i.e., new logo acquisition, outbound cold-calling, up-sell, cross-sell, renewal, etc.; and (b) sell a much higher average total number of products and to a greater variety of buyer-use cases.

What does all this mean? That there IS a breaking point, and that as analysts, Nancy and I are charged with helping customers identify what it is. As we see it, there are a variety of sales load factors that get piled onto sellers, as their offerings, buyers, and motions grow in complexity. Fortunately, there are corollary relief valves available to leaders of sales enablement, operations, and executive teams that can counter-balance these load factors; we are calling them sales load offsets. In our Summit presentation, we’ll amplify more findings from our research study, introduce the Forrester B2B Sales Load Balancer, and provide all delegates with an interactive assessment tool to help them understand, truly, when we’re not enabling our sellers, but crushing them with too many products to sell.