BtoB Summit 2022

"Today, the relationship may be just as close, but it's based on different values."

Executive VP Global Sales Officer
Capgemini Engineering

Societal evolutions, Data, purchasing behavior...
A look back at the decade of the Sales Director!

The BtoB Summit is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year! On this occasion, BtoB Leaders looks back at the evolution of the Marketing and Sales professions over the last decade. Our teams have given the floor to French CMOs and Sales Directors to share their experience, their experiences and their feelings about the changes that have affected their daily lives since the first edition of the BtoB Summit. They also took the opportunity to make predictions and give us their vision of the next 10 years. Today, we had the pleasure of talking with Cyril Kovarsky, Executive VP, Global Sales Officer at Capgemini Engineering.

You are now Global Sales Officer at Capgemini Engineering. Can you briefly go back over your professional career?
Of course, but considering my age, it might be a while (laughs). When I graduated from business school, I started out in the field as a "hunter" salesman, as they say. I worked for 28 years in the telecom sector, mainly in sales force management, both on the SME and key account side. I had the chance to participate in the construction of Orange's B2B sales forces in France. I say "construction" because we were in the context of the privatization of the company.
 I then branched out for a few years to the general public as head of Orange stores in the Île-de-France region and then head of Orange distribution at the national level: 1,200 stores (owned and franchised) with nearly 12,000 salespeople. It was a great experience that allowed me to have a complete view of the NDP of the stores, but also to pilot the complete change of the concept of the points of sale with two major launches: the Triple Play offer (Internet - TV - Phone) and the iPhone. I had the chance to launch the iPhone in France in a store we opened for the "D" day on the Champs-Elysées, which remains a great source of pride for all the teams. I then left B2C to return to the B2B market as Sales Director for Orange France.
 In 2015, I left telecoms for the hotel industry by joining the Accor group as Global Chief Sales Officer. I then returned to a world closer to my beginnings as Group VP Sales Europe at Altran. The company was acquired by Capgemini more than two years ago. What a great adventure the integration of Altran's Go-to-Market into Capgemini! It is an example of successful integration and I am particularly happy to be the Global Sales Officer of Capgemini Engineering today.

 What do you think is the major difference between the Sales Director of the early 2010s and the Sales Director of today?
The impact of societal changes on management 
I think that management methods have completely evolved. They are much less directive, since they have adapted to societal changes. Today, we have a decisive challenge: building employee loyalty. To do this, we have to respond favorably to their aspirations... aspirations that have also been impacted by societal changes and the pandemic: balance between personal and professional life, changes in customer relations...

The latter has also evolved: "In the old days", you would have lunch in a restaurant with your client, you would take your time over a good bottle of wine... Today, the relationship may be just as close, but it is based on other values.

Forecasting in the face of technological advances
The tools available to sales management today allow them to be much more precise in analyzing results and the actions to be taken. In the past, we used to make our sales forecasts with a pen and paper, by going around the opportunities, with a precision that could leave something to be desired.... Today, you have powerful CRMs that calculate the forecast almost automatically, without the need for a human. However, this does not mean that the forecast is accurate. In my opinion, the right approach is to integrate the human into the system. I also think that we need to spend more time accompanying sales people on meetings. The Sales Director used to spend a lot of time with customers, before moving to a position where he is essentially behind his desk. Here again, I think we need to rebalance his role and his actions.

What has changed in sales teams in 10 years?
When I came out of school, there were a few large companies that had a reputation for having the best sales forces in the world. When they left the office, they were all the same: the pin, the blazer, the haircut... there was a kind of cloning of the typical salesperson. Today, if you look at a sales team, you see diversity, both in the look and in the skills and business contribution. There are far fewer clones of the typical salesperson.

According to HubSpot, 55% of B2B buyers feel that salespeople are not trusted partners. What is your opinion on this "disconnect" between buyer and salesperson?
I don't think that good salespeople have lost their place in the buyer's journey. In my opinion, the ones who have lost their place are those who relied solely on technical knowledge of the product. Prospects have access to a river of documentation on technical features. This is not what they expect from a (good) sales person.
As a young sales manager, I often lost interest in the technical side. We have pre-sales engineers who support us. A salesperson must know how to listen and identify the prospect's need and explain how, as a partner, we can help him/her achieve his/her objectives, without preconceived ideas.
Once we have thought with the customer about how to support the achievement of their goals, we can then propose the right solutions. The customer needs a sales person to help them go higher and faster in a competitive environment. The customer expects the sales representative to challenge him, to propose solutions that can sometimes go beyond the previously defined framework, and this cannot be found on the Internet.

There is a lot of talk about siloed organization and alignment. In your opinion, how can a Sales Director activate the synergies between Marketing and Sales?
I think the relationship between marketing and sales is similar to the relationship between the salesperson and the customer. If Sales Enablement brings the sales person an off-the-shelf tool that meets a marketing objective, it won't work.
The best approach to Sales Enablement, in my opinion, comes from actively listening to the needs of Sales and continuously adapting the marketing and tools to the story the salesperson is telling. You can have the best LeadGen tool in the world, but it will not help the sales person if it is not aligned with their target. If the marketing department tailors its work to the needs of the salesperson and the customer, it performs well and you activate the marketing-sales synergy. If he does it based only on the data he has entered himself, it won't work.

How do you see the position of Sales Director evolving in the next decade?
I like to say that I don't know what this business will look like in the next 10 years. If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to describe the magnitude of the changes. Society is moving so fast, and the role of the Sales Director has no choice but to adapt.
 But I can tell you what will not change: the Sales Manager will still have to see his customers to understand his market. Then, he will have to continue to spend a lot of time with his collaborators to anticipate things well. Human relations will remain at the center of his daily life: 50% with his customers and 50% with his employees.