The Sales Summit always provides a great way to get a high-level view into the biggest trends taking place in the sales industry. Plus, because the sessions are all held in the Marriott Marquis, it makes it easy to get from one presentation to the next. This matters at Dreamforce where there are sessions being held at a dozen-plus locations spread out across the city.

I go to the Sales Summit to listen to leading industry experts, hear the latest sales research and gain more understanding about the current hot buttons. There were several recurring themes that came up at this year’s event – and all of them had everything to do with strengthening the customer experience.

Companies need to be customer-obsessed

Kicking off the summit in her 8 a.m. keynote, Tiffani Bova stated, “Increasingly, the experience is the product.” The reality is that we – as B2B customers – have come to expect the type of experience we’re getting in the B2C world. We want the same convenience, the same control, and the same purchasing ease.

Delivering this experience has become a focal point for businesses – and something that everyone acknowledges will be a key differentiator between winners and losers. Executives from companies, including Amazon, Ingersoll Rand and SapientNitro shared how they are delivering obsessive customer care – and new research presented at sessions underscored the stakes at hand.

In a sneak preview of Salesforce research, Robert DeSisto discussed findings showing how the top performers win more. They:

  • Don’t just meet customer expectations – but beat them

  • Adopt customer-driven communications strategies

  • Encourage shared organizational goals and metrics oriented around customer success

The high performers are customer obsessed, and they benefit because of it.

Customer focus needs to be driven from the top

So how do you drive customer obsession? As a CEO and sales leader, I was interested in hearing how businesses are creating a culture of customer obsession – particularly in sales organizations.

Melissa Nelson Tate, Enterprise Director of Sales Intelligence at Ingersoll Rand, talked about her organization’s strategy in building a customer-centric organization. With 10 thousand sales people interacting with customers nationwide you can’t possibly touch every single sales person. Instead, they focused on cultivating sales leadership – coaching sales leaders to be evangelists to implement customer-focused processes and teach their sales teams to do the same.

Ingersoll Rand’s strategy resonated with me personally. Effective sales leadership can be a huge challenge for businesses. Too often, sales leaders don’t get the training they need to be set up for success. They’re great sales people, so they’re promoted to managers. Sales leaders need training to set them up for success.

You need analytics to drive greater customer change

Organizations also need actionable insights to drive new behaviors. With analytics, for example, you can pinpoint at a much earlier stage which prospects are really the right ones. This data is easily actionable and saves your business a huge amount of time and effort from chasing down bad leads.

It’s also beneficial for your buyers. You don’t want to be sold to if you’re not the right prospect or you’re not looking to buy. Solutions, such as LiveHive, reveal this information so sellers don’t waste buyers’ time.

Because of these reasons, engagement analytics platforms have emerged as a huge market. Releasing its first ever Globe report on the sales engagement platform market during Dreamforce, Aragon Research projects that the market will reach $7 billion by 2021.

It’s become vital to capture customer intelligence. As Tiffani Bova explained, you need to find a way to get where the customers are going to be – where the puck is going – so you can be there to welcome them as they arrive.

Sales and marketing must be aligned

Finally, organizations must be aligned to meet new customer expectations. Disconnected teams cannot deliver the desired experience. Because interactions with customers are more powerful when they’re driven by data, customer data needs to be made available and integrated throughout the organization.

According to Salesforce’s State of Sales Technology findings, organizational alignment is a key differentiator between high and under performers. In fact, alignment has a huge impact on meeting objectives – at least 2:1 in all cases, according to DeSisto.

Dreamforce is an incredible, awe-inspiring event – but it can be difficult to digest all of the information. Attending the Sales Summit gives you the opportunity to focus – and to listen. By hearing recurring themes across multiple sessions – albeit delivered through different lenses – you get a sense of the issues you need to pay attention to in your own business.

Graham Curme is CEO of LiveHive, Inc., provider of an open and extensible sales acceleration platform that powers businesses to drive higher sales growth and deliver greater customer value. Curme is a senior business executive with 25 years of experience in technology sales, including senior management roles at both multinational public and private startup companies.