Who do sales leaders fear most?

Shockingly, it’s not the CEO.

We do a lot of research to help organizations sell more. In our latest study, we analyzed anonymized details from more than 5.4 million sales pipeline transactions to uncover significant trends in sales cycle lengths, close rates, deal sizes, opportunity counts and overall pipeline health.

We also surveyed 600 sales leaders to capture their insights on the key factors that are driving these trends. Among other questions, we asked them who is the most difficult executive to deal with when they miss their numbers.

Here’s a snapshot of their answers:

  • CFO: 58.8%
  • CEO: 14.8%
  • CRO: 14.8%
  • CMO: 6.6%
  • COO: 5.1%

The No. 1 answer, by a long shot, was CFO.

It makes sense that a chief financial officer might flash his fangs in response to anemic bookings, but according to the rest of the data in our quarterly report, the Business Growth Index, most sales leaders really don’t have much to fear this year.

Tell your CFO to chill

Even though sales cycles grew 6.4% longer and close rates declined by 2.1% last year compared with 2014, more than 75% of sales leaders still predict steady or accelerated growth in 2016, according to our research.

Other key indicators of sales growth are on the rise:

  • Opportunity count: +12.6%
  • Deal size: +5.5%
  • Pipeline growth: +4.5%

It appears that many sales teams, particularly in the high-tech sector, are rapidly moving upmarket. In the Business Growth Index study, sales leaders attributed swollen sales cycles to the proactive pursuit of bigger deals, which are often more complex and take longer to close.

Deal sizes climbed the most in the high-tech industry (9.7%) and on the West Coast (18.5%), which bodes well for Silicon Valley.

Sales leaders in all industries remain optimistic, projecting sales growth of 30.5% in 2016 compared with 23% growth in 2015.

All signs point to continued growth as sales teams adopt new playbooks to tackle new challenges.

So maybe your CFO is just paranoid.

You can view the full Business Growth Index report here.

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