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Gartner (NYSE:IT)
Q2 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Aug. 1, 2018 8:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Gartner second-quarter 2018 earnings conference call. [Operator instructions] As a reminder, this conference call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to David Cohen, GVP of investor relations. Sir, you may begin.

David Cohen -- Group Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, Shannon, and good morning, everyone. We appreciate you joining us today for Gartner's second-quarter 2018 earnings call. With me today are Gene Hall, chief executive officer, and Craig Safian, chief financial officer. This call will include a discussion of second-quarter 2018 financial results and our current outlook for 2018 as disclosed in today's press release.

Following comments By Gene and Craig, we will open up the call for your questions. In addition to today's press release, we have provided a supplemental deck as a reference for investors and analysts. We have posted the press release and the deck to our website, investor.gartner.com. On the call, unless stated otherwise, all references to revenue and contribution margin are for adjusted revenue excluding divested operations and adjusted contribution margin excluding divested operations, which exclude the deferred-revenue purchase accounting adjustment and the recently divested businesses.

All references to EBITDA are for adjusted EBITDA, excluding divested operations, with the adjustments as described in our earnings release and excluding the recently divested businesses. Reconciliations for all non-GAAP numbers we use are available in the Investor Relations section of the gartner.com website. Finally, all contract values and associated growth rates we discuss are based on 2018 foreign exchange rates. In the earnings deck, the abbreviation Ex D.

O. indicates that the metric excludes divested operations. As set forth in more detail in today's earnings release, certain statements made on this call may constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements can vary materially from actual results and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including those contained in the company's 2017 annual report on Form 10-K and quarterly reports on Form 10-Q as well as in other filings with the SEC.

I encourage all of you to review the risk factors listed in these documents. Now, I will turn the call over to Gartner's chief executive officer, Gene Hall.

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks for joining us today. At our Investor Day earlier this year, we laid out a plan to continue driving double-digit profitable growth, Gartner's traditional business, while applying the Gartner Formula to accelerate the former CEB business. Today, you'll hear how we continue to be on track on both objectives. We delivered another great quarter of double-digit growth in Q2 of 2018.

Our revenue grew 14% and EBITDA 11%. EPS grew 17% compared to last year. We generated more than $210 million of free cash flow year to date. Research is our largest and most profitable segment.

Once again our research segment had strong performance, with revenue growth of 14% and contract value growth of 12%. As we previously discussed, we now manage the research sales force by global technology sales, or GTS, which is sales to users and providers of technology and global business sales, or GBS, which includes sales to all other functions. GTS had another strong quarter. GTS contract value accelerated from Q1 and grew 14%, with double-digit growth in every region, every size client, and in virtually every industry.

GTS client retention was 82% and wallet retention 105%, both near all-time highs. Our GTS sales headcount grew 9% year over year, and we expect this to accelerate in Q3. This provides a foundation for sustained double-digit growth. Even as we expanded the GTS team, productivity has improved up 10% in Q2 to $111,000 per salesperson.

As we discussed, we have enormous growth opportunity by applying the Gartner Formula to GBS. We developed an aggressive blueprint to capture this opportunity and accelerate GBS to sustained double-digit growth. We are executing well and meeting or exceeding our expectations on implementing this blueprint. In the quarter as we closed the CEB acquisition, we eliminated discounting and laying terms and conditions with Gartner standards.

We immediately began developing a new set of seat-based products including Gartner for HR leaders, Gartner for finance leaders and others. In Q4 of 2017, we pilot tested these new products with great feedback from clients and salespeople. We pilot-tested service elements from the Gartner Formula. Retention of these pilot clients was several percentage points higher than comparable clients without these service improvements.

During that time, we also expanded our sales recruiting organization and began accelerated hiring. In the first quarter of 2018, we trained GBS salespeople on these great new products. Our sales hiring continued. And by the end of Q2, our GBS sales force had grown by 24%.

All of the new products include the service elements of the Gartner Formula, and we're rolling out service elements with the remaining legacy products. All these changes are proceeding as or better than planned. As I mentioned, our priority is positioning GBS for sustained double-digit growth as soon as practical. As expected, these changes have some short-term impact with GBS contract value growth of 4% in Q2.

There were two primary things that impacted GBS contract value growth in Q2. First, to grow the GBS sales force 24%, we needed a sizable number of additional managers. As it's our usual practice, the promoted managers were selected from our highest performing salespeople. The new manager's former positions were then backfilled with new hires.

New sales hires, particularly in the first few months on average, have low sales productivity. As new salespeople get experience, their productivity rapidly accelerates. Second, GBS salespeople are very early in the learning curve, transitioning from the legacy products to the new seat-based products. As I just discussed, GBS salespeople were trained on the new products in Q1.

So most had their first opportunity to make a sale during Q2 and selling cycles are often longer than a single quarter. We note that the pilot testing last year and our past experience with similar transitions that they'll come up the learning curve quickly. Even with the GBS sales force having a much lower average tenure and being early on the learning curve selling seat-based products, leading indicators are strong. Total sales to new clients increased by more than 20% during Q2 compared to Q1 and our seat-based products represented more than half of these sales.

Sales of our seat-based products to existing clients grew about 80% in Q2 compared to Q1 and were about one-third of total sales to existing clients. We developed a blueprint to implement the Gartner Formula in GBS. And with the changes we've already made, we're well-positioned for future, sustained double-digit growth. Our new seat-based products provide much greater value to clients, which will drive both accelerated new business and stronger retention.

Our sales force expansion will allow us to enter 2019 with a sales force that is about 24% larger than we had in 2017. This expanded sales force will be more tenured, trained and experienced in selling these great new products. All the new products, as well as a significant amount of the legacy products, will have service support for the Gartner Formula, which will drive improved retention. With our aggressive implementation of the Gartner Formula, we continue to expect double-digit growth in GBS contract value next year and at least 12% growth in 2020.

Our business segment combines the outstanding value of research with the immersive experience of live events, making every conference we produce the most important gathering for the executives we serve. Our events segment had another strong quarter. Revenues grew 17%. During the quarter, we held 24 destination events, with attendance growing 13% compared to Q2 last year.

On a same-event basis, attendance grew 16% year over year. Revenue for events continues to see double-digit growth and the forward-looking metrics for our events segment remained strong. The Gartner Consulting segment is an extension of Gartner Research and provides clients a deeper level of involvement through extended project-based work to help them execute on their more strategic initiatives. Our consulting segment had a solid quarter, with Q2 consulting revenues growing 5%.

Our labor-based business had a strong performance, growing 13%. Our Contract Optimization business had the second-highest quarter for the business in the past five years, although down 17% year over year because we had our strongest quarter a year ago. Q2 consulting bookings remained strong, with backlog up 16%. In summary, I continue to be excited about our business, our prospects for growth and our strategy to drive long-term value for our shareholders.

Our strong Q2 results demonstrate we know the right things to do to drive success in our business by applying the Gartner Formula, with the capability to address critical client needs in technology and in business across every major function in the enterprise. We remain in an outstanding position to provide sustained double-digit growth across all our key metrics. And with that introduction, I'll now turn over the call to Craig Safian, our chief financial officer.

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Gene, and good morning. Thank you, Gene, and good morning, everyone. We continue to see robust demand for our services across the globe. During the second quarter, we saw a year-over-year acceleration in our contract value and very good financial results across our three primary operating segments.

And as our 2018 outlook continues to demonstrate, we expect to deliver another year of double-digit revenue and EBITDA growth with strong cash flow generation. Second-quarter revenue was $1 billion, up 14% and up 12% on an FX-neutral basis. Purchase accounting adjustment for deferred revenue was down to $1 million for the quarter. Also in the second quarter, we delivered contribution margins of 63%, up modestly from the prior year; EBITDA of $191 million, up 11% year over year; and adjusted EPS of $1.03 per share, up 17% versus the prior year.

Free cash flow in the quarter was $183 million. Research had another excellent quarter, with significant year-over-year growth in revenue and improvements in contribution margin. Research revenue grew 14% in the second quarter and 12% on an FX-neutral basis. The contribution margin for research was 69%.

Total contract value was $2.9 billion at June 30, growth of 12% versus the prior year. We always report contract value growth in FX-neutral terms. New business growth was very strong in global technology sales. We continue to see a healthy mix of new business across new clients, sales of additional services, and upgrades to existing clients.

The average contract value for enterprise also continues to grow. It now stands at $195,000 per enterprise, up 6% versus the prior year. This continued and consistent increase in average spend reflects our ability to drive CV growth, both through new and existing enterprises. I'll now review the details of our performance for both GTS and GBS.

In the second quarter, GTS contract value growth accelerated to 14%. GTS now has contract value of $2.3 billion. Client retention for GTS remained strong at 82%. Wallet retention for GTS was 105% for the quarter, up almost 80 basis points year over year and at an all-time high.

These retention rates reflect a combination of greater spending and greater retention rates with our higher spending and larger clients. GTS growth in new business was 16% in the second quarter, an acceleration from the first quarter, as our sales team continues to execute very well. We ended the second quarter with 12,375 GTS clients, up 6% compared to Q2 2017. Our investments to improve sales force productivity continue to pay off with an increase again this quarter.

For GTS, the year-over-year net contract value increase, or NCVI, divided by the beginning period quota-bearing headcount was $111,000 per salesperson, up 10% versus the second quarter of last year. Turning to global business sales. As of June 30, GBS had contract value of $611 million, representing year-over-year growth of 4%. Since the third quarter of last year, we have made a number of changes and operational improvements to follow the Gartner growth formula that we detailed at Investor Day.

All these changes and improvements position us for sustained long-term double-digit growth. We continue to make good progress with GBS retention metrics. And for deals up for renewal in the quarter, we saw a significant improvement both year over year and sequentially. GBS client retention was 83%, up more than 370 basis points from the prior year.

GBS wallet retention was 97%, up 10 basis points versus the prior year and down sequentially. The sequential decline in wallet retention was due to lower new business sales to existing clients. New business declined by 19% in the quarter versus the prior year, primarily due to declines in legacy product sales. As Gene detailed, we are seeing a number of positive trends within our new business results.

First, new business to new clients was up more than 20% sequentially, driven by significant growth in seat-based products. The seat-based products made up greater than 50% of new business sales to new clients in the second quarter. Second, while new business to existing clients was down 40% sequentially from Q1, seat-based new business to existing clients was up 80% sequentially. Though that growth wasn't fast enough to compensate for the decline in new business of the legacy products, the uptake of new seat-based products are trending in the right direction.

These seat-based results are particularly encouraging, given the context that Gene described around the GBS sales forces, lower tenure and coming up the learning curve on selling seat-based products. We ended the second quarter with 5,659 GBS enterprise clients, up 1% versus the prior-year period. For GBS, the year-over-year net contract value increase, or NCVI, divided by the beginning period quota-bearing headcount was $37,000, down 23% versus second quarter last year. The decline in productivity reflects the operational shifts we have the sales team making to the new Gartner seat-based products.

The operational changes we made are all part of the Gartner Formula for growth and our data and analytics show that as our sellers gain more experience with the new products, their productivity improves. Our Research business performance in Q2 was strong. GTS was outstanding with increases in wallet retention and sales productivity and in acceleration in contract value growth. For GBS, the early indications reinforced our outlook for double-digit contract value growth next year and 12-plus-percent growth in 2020.

In events, revenues increased by 17% year on year in Q2 to $111 million. FX-neutral growth was 16%. Events second-quarter gross contribution margin was 57%, stable with last year's quarter. The second quarter is typically our second-largest quarter of the year after the fourth quarter.

We had two fewer destination events than last year. On a same-event, FX-neutral basis, revenues were up 15% with a 16% increase in same event attendees. Q2 was strong for our events business and the forward-looking metrics also remained robust. Second-quarter consulting revenues increased by 5% to $96 million.

FX-neutral growth was about 2%. Labor-based revenues were $77 million. In the labor-based business, revenues increased 13% versus Q2 of last year or 9% on an FX-neutral basis. On the labor-based side, billable headcount of 710 was up 7%, and we had 135 managing partners at the end of Q2, up about 5% versus the prior year.

Backlog, which measures labor-based projects under contract, where there is more work to be done is the key leading indicator of future revenue growth for our consulting business. Backlog ended the quarter at $106 million, up 16% year over year and 11% in FX-neutral terms. Our booking performance remains strong and our 2018 pipeline is encouraging. The contract optimization business was down 17% versus the prior-year quarter due to a very tough compare.

Overall, consulting gross contribution margin was 35% in the second quarter. Revenue in the "other" segment increased by 29% compared to the year-ago quarter to $22 million. Gross contribution margin was 68%. Early in the second quarter, we divested CEB Talent Assessment for about $400 million and CEB Workforce Surveys for $28 million.

On a GAAP basis, SG&A increased by 13% year over year in the second quarter and 11% on an FX-neutral basis. Adjusting for the divestitures and other nonrecurring items, SG&A increased 14% year over year on an FX-neutral basis. We continue to grow sales capacity and enabling infrastructure to support our strategy of delivering sustained double-digit growth over the long term. The enabling infrastructure includes investments in human resources functions, like recruiting and real estate to support the increased number of associates around the world.

Our sales force continues to be our largest investment. And at the end of the second quarter, we had 3,595 quota-bearing associates across Gartner in GTS and GBS. This includes 2,801 in GTS and 794 in GBS, or a growth of 9% and 24%, respectively. The GTS growth will increase in the second half, as we still expect mid-teens growth for GTS headcount for 2018.

EBITDA for the second quarter was $191 million, up 11% with strong revenue growth partially offset by higher SG&A costs as expected. Depreciation, amortization, and integration expenses were down year over year, as we get past the one-year anniversary of the CEB acquisition and as a result of the recent divestitures. Interest expense in the quarter was $38 million, down from $44 million in the second quarter of 2017. The lower interest expense relates to paying down debt over the past year.

Our tax rate, which we use for the calculation of adjusted net income was 27.9% for the quarter. As we'll discuss in the outlook section, we still expect our adjusted tax rate to be about 26% for the full year. Adjusted EPS in Q2 was $1.03, with upside relative to our expectations, primarily from a few items below the EBITDA line. In Q2, operating cash flow is $174 million, compared to $112 million last year.

The increase in operating cash flow was driven by strong operating results, lower interest expense and improvements in catch up in working capital. Q2 2018 capex was $22 million and Q2 cash acquisition and integration payments and other nonrecurring items were approximately $31 million. This yields Q2 free cash flow of $183 million, which is up over 40% versus the prior-year quarter. In the second quarter, we resumed our share-repurchase program, buying about 500,000 shares for $68 million.

We have over $1 billion remaining on our repurchase authorization. During second quarter of 2018, we repaid $554 million worth of debt, leaving our June 30 debt balance at about $2.5 billion. That's down more than $1.1 billion since the acquisition a little more than a year ago. Adjusting EBITDA for the divestitures, our gross leverage ratio is now about 3.6 times EBITDA, and we are tracking toward our target of about three times, which we continue to expect to see by the end of 2018.

Turning to the outlook for 2018. Revenue, adjusted EBITDA, free cash flow and adjusted EPS guidance remain the same. The only updates we are making are to our GAAP EPS guidance range to reflect the modest changes arriving from -- arising from the divestitures, use of divestiture proceeds and some updates to other expenses. With the strengthening of the U.S.

dollar that we saw over the course of the second quarter, we do expect to see our top-line reported results impacted modestly in the second half of the year by foreign exchange. As you update your models for Q3 and Q4, please keep in mind that our original estimates for reported revenues reported expenses and reported EBITDA will be impacted by about 1% due to the stronger U.S. dollar. The highlights of our annual guidance are as follows: for 2018, we continue to expect adjusted revenues of approximately $3.9 billion to $4 billion; we expect adjusted EBITDA of $710 million to $760 million; amortization will take noticeable step down from about $49 million in Q3 to about $35 million in Q4; we continue to expect an adjusted tax rate of around 26% for the full year.

Please note that if you are adding back from the GAAP net income, the rate for the tax effect on the add backs in the second half of the year is about 23%. We expect full-year 2018 adjusted EPS of between $3.51 and $3.91 per share. We expect free cash flow of $416 million to $456 million. At the midpoint, the conversion from adjusted net income is 126%.

And lastly, for the third quarter of 2018, we expect adjusted EPS of between $0.58 to $0.62 per share. All the details of our guidance are included in the press release and our quarterly earnings deck, both of which are available on our Investor Relations site. We've had a great start to the year, with strength across all of our operating segments and improvements in most of our key operating measures. Notably, GTS contract value growth accelerated to 14% in the second quarter and sales of our new seat-based products and GBS continue to scale.

Free cash flow also improved significantly in the quarter. We've also divested a number of noncore assets and used those proceeds to rapidly delever. We've reduced our debt balance by more than $800 million in 2018. The trends going into the third quarter are strong and our teams are working hard to execute the 2018 plan.

As we shared with you at Investor Day, we are applying the Gartner growth formula across the combined business to drive sustained, long-term, double-digit growth to revenues, EBITDA and free cash flow. With that, I'll turn the call back over to the operator, and we'll be happy to take your questions. Operator?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions] Our first question comes from Tim McHugh with William Blair. Your line is open.

Tim McHugh -- William Blair & Company -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks. Just want to ask, I guess, a little more color on the GBS side? I know you gave some explanation, but just, I guess, what caused those headwinds to get bigger in Q2 versus Q1, especially, I guess, relates to promotions and so forth? Any more color there would be helpful. Thanks.

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Tim, it's Gene. So as I mentioned earlier that proceeding that really hit in Q2. So first, we hired a bunch of salespeople beginning in Q4. Those people actually came on board and went through training in Q1.

And then we identified -- when they came on board, we had to have some managers for them. We generally promote our managers from our highest-performing salespeople, which we did. And so what you can imagine is, if you take your highest-performing salespeople and then promote them to managers, so they're not selling anymore, they are managers, replace them with somebody that just got through training, someone just got trained doesn't sell nearly as much as somebody who has been one of our highest performers. And it can be -- it's a big delta.

And so if you look at comparisons, again, you take your highest performers, you replace with brand-new people, that's one factor. The second factor is that, as we mentioned, we had developed these new seat-based products. We piloted them in Q4 last year, they did very well. We rolled them out in Q1 and Q2.

In Q1, our sales force, the GBS services getting trained. So they were still mostly selling legacy products because they were getting trained on the new products. In Q2, they could actually start selling the new products. Again, I guess, a few of them made sales in Q1 right after training, most didn't until Q2.

And so as they made the transition, obviously, with the new product seat-based as opposed to enterprise agreements and a different kind of product, there's a learning curve for it. And so those are the two primary factors that impacted us. So first, we promoted some of our highest performers to be managers and replaced them with brand-new people and secondly, we made the transition from most of the legacy product sales to actually now the seat-based sales and there's a bit of a learning curve there. As Craig and I both highlighted, the initial results on selling new seat-based products are very strong, and we're very happy about that.

Tim McHugh -- William Blair & Company -- Analyst

OK. And then just on Q3 guidance, I guess on profit margins, I'm not sure the exact margin implied by the Q3 guide, but I think given year-to-date results plus that EPS guidance. I guess, unless margins are up a lot in Q4 is the indication, the lower end of the margin guide is more likely at this point? Any color on that?

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Tim, thanks for the question. I think the way to think about it is as we talked about, I think, last year post the acquisition, there is a little more seasonality in our revenue, particularly driven by events and consulting since the acquisition with Q2 and Q4 now by far being our largest revenue and profit quarters in Q4 by a long way. And so when we have a relatively fixed SG&A base across each of the four quarters, when the revenue spikes as it does in Q2 and Q4, the margins look better than the average.

And when the revenue is lower a little bit in the smaller quarters for us, Q1 and Q3, the margins are down. So I think the way we're thinking about it is, we're still if you look at the midpoint of our annual guidance, it still calls for stable margins for the full year and that's essentially the way we're thinking about it.

Tim McHugh -- William Blair & Company -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Jeff Meuler with Baird. Your line is open.

Jeff Meuler -- Robert W. Baird & Company -- Analyst

Yes. So I think I'm little confused on the GBS selling activity. So that salespeople are used to selling enterprise wide, and it sounds like that's what's taken ahead and they're doing well with their new seat-based sales. But I guess, how -- what's the message or the incentive structure to the sales force? Like are you -- I think, you're allowing them to still sell both either seat-based or enterprise wide? But how are you incenting it? Or how are you messaging it? Like are you still allowing them to sell it, but you're paying more incentive for seat-based? Just trying to understand why something they're more comfortable with is, where we're seeing the bigger hit?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So Jeff, Gene. So during Q1 and Q2, we allowed our sales force to sell both the legacy product and the new seat-based products. The reason we did that is they were only trained on the new seat-based products in Q1. And so they had something to sell in the meantime.

And then we let them keep selling the legacy part in Q2 because they had pipelines where they had already introduced the product, the legacy products to clients, in the middle of a selling cycle we didn't want to have that change. So again, still we -- for those reasons allowed them to sell both products during Q1 and Q2. As I mentioned, Q1 was mostly the legacy products because they hadn't yet been trained on the new products in general. And Q2, we saw a steep ramp-up to material shares, as we talked about, of our new business in Q2.

The incentives are exactly the same, meaning that if you sell the legacy product or you sell the new seat-based product, the commission structure and the incentive structure is exactly the same as legacy. So salesperson, on an economic basis, is indifferent, which one they sell. If you're a salesperson, it's a lot better to sell the seat-based products because we believe they're going to have better retention because they provide better value to clients, and they provide better growth opportunities for the future. So even they're incented the same, our salespeople understand why the new products provide more value to our clients.

And once they got trained on it that would be the preference for selling. Beginning July 1 for where we have in the majority of our salespeople, they'll be selling just the seat-based products.

Jeff Meuler -- Robert W. Baird & Company -- Analyst

OK. So was it basically that sometime in the -- during the first half of the year as your sales force was developing pipeline, they were developing it with the intention of seat-based sales and that was the conversation. So the pipeline started to dry up previously for enterprisewide sales, and that's why it's taking the hit, is that the -- a fair characterization?

[Inaudible] Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Manav Patnaik with Barclays. Your line is open.

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays -- Analyst

Yeah. Thank you. Good morning, guys. So maybe just ask a different way, I guess, these changes you are making seat-based hiring, they're all sort of what you planned.

But was this deceleration in 2Q like pretty much in line with what you were expecting? Or did it go a little worse than maybe what you had planned? I know you reiterated the full-year guidance, so will there be like a catch up toward the end of the year in your expectation?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So the -- we made the changes that we expected to make and the impact had the impact we expected. I'd sort of leave it at that. In terms of -- I don't know how to figure out the catch-up, but it's kind of like -- we're on plan with what we expected. We won't make these changes.

We had an aggressive plan. We made them exactly as we expected. They're going at least as well or better than we expected in terms of making these changes. In fact, I had a -- one of the things that really made me feel good about these things is we had a meeting with our senior leaders in July, where I got together with the senior GBS leaders from around the world, senior sales leaders.

And their level of enthusiasm about the new products and how much value add to clients and their future was extremely high. And it's great, yes, when you have your senior sales leaders are all very excited about this transition to new products. It makes me feel very confident we're on the right track.

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays -- Analyst

Got it. And then maybe Craig, just for you, I mean, small repurchase this quarter. When do you think we get back to sort of the level of activity you guys used to do before the deal?

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Good morning, Manav. Thanks. The way that we think about deployment of capital is, as we get down to our overall leverage target, which as we've talked about is about three times EBITDA on a gross leverage basis.

We're going to deploy our capital in two ways. No. 1, looking at strategic value-enhancing M&A that either fills in gaps or can clear our top line and bottom line or things like that and return of capital to shareholders through share repurchasing. As I mentioned on -- in my prepared remarks, we have over $1 billion of authorization remaining.

The way we think about it is, we will declare our capital very similar to the way we did prior to the acquisition, as we reduced our leveraging down to our target levels.

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays -- Analyst

Got it. Thanks, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from George Tong with Goldman Sachs. Your line is open.

Keen Tong -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks. Good morning. You've indicated that overall GBS sales force productivity was impacted by the promotion of your highest-performing salespeople to managers and then these people were backfilled with new sales.

Can you comment on trends in sales force productivity among your nonpromoted salespeople? And how their productivity tracked versus last quarter and your own internal expectations?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So I think one of the best ways to look at it is, we had a pilot of the news-based products last year, as I mentioned. And if you look at the productivity of those people, who have now reintroduced it to them in the fourth quarter. They started selling the seat-based products. If you look at their productivity in second quarter, it is whole numbers better than the new people would be.

And so it gives us confidence in fact as people get experience with this they can grow very quickly.

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

The other thing, George, that I'll just add to that. When we look at our sales to new clients sequentially, we saw really nice increase in the new business. The absolute dollars from Q1 to Q2 of that group of sellers and the mix shifted pretty significantly too, with the majority of the Q2 new business to new clients being in our -- sorry, to use new again, new seat-based products. So you asked a really good question around the underlying trends.

The underlying trends are very positive. And everything we see analytically both from experience and what we're seeing now with the current GBS sales force is, as they get more time or more tenure, their productivity does improve.

Keen Tong -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Got it. That's very helpful context. You're obviously in the process now of transitioning from enterprise to seat-based licensing, can you talk about, generally, what the client take rate is on these new contract terms? What proportion of contracts or clients that you're going out to are converting under these new terms?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So as I mentioned earlier, salespeople that had already been talking to a client about enterprise agreements, they can continue those and close those. As we switch and that, again, we're ending that as of July 1. The -- as Craig mentioned earlier, when we have a new client situation between Q1 and Q2, our sales to new clients were up 20%, more than 20% year over year, as I mentioned in my remarks. And in Q2, the proportion of new seat-based sales was more than half of those sales.

So again the total actual dollars were up 20% -- more than 20% year over year and in Q2 for new clients, the mix was more than half of the new seat-based products. And I think -- and the reason we're ending legacy products is just they were already in the pipeline, we had already been discussing with clients. So the uptick is very positive.

Keen Tong -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Got it. I guess, the question is more qualitative. Are clients receptive to this new kind of seat-based structure in your conversations?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. And again, great question. So clients love the new seat-based products and the reason is that they provide a lot more value. And the actual product itself -- and as you'll recall, we took research from heritage Gartner on the technology side, so for example, HR, on HR information systems, analytics and HR -- added that to what CEB had already had, I mean, we actually changed the structure of the product even within the CEB piece.

So if you look at actually the seat-based product that's a much higher-value product than the legacy product we had before. And so when we talk -- the reason the uptick is been very positive for new clients is, when the new client see this and then when you sell it to the individual for their personal use, they really understand the value than they -- they respect it in very, very positive, which is why you're seeing the statistics, I mentioned earlier, where our total new business is actually up 20% year over year in GBS -- for new clients.

Keen Tong -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Very helpful. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Toni Kaplan with Morgan Stanley. Your line is open.

Toni Kaplan -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. Gene, you mentioned the July 1 data a couple of times in the last question and earlier, but just unclear, that's when the salespeople are not able to sell the enterprise licenses anymore? Is that how to think about that July 1 change?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So for the largest -- for our larger products, HR, finance, legal, sales, marketing, etc., we gave until July 1 for our salespeople to close out any deals they have in the pipeline with the legacy products. There's still some very small legacy products, but it's a small portion. So it's not literally zeroq, but a small portion of our products just the legacy. Over time those will be converted.

The vast majority and all the big important ones will be on the seat-based products starting July 1, the sales team will sell starting July 1.

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

From a new-business perspective.

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

From a new business. Yes. Again, people can renew -- our -- lot of the clients renew their legacy product as long as they wanted to renew them.

Toni Kaplan -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. And the fact that the new seat-based product sales are going so well, it shouldn't have -- you're not expecting a very negative impact on Q3 from like basically this change already?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So again, we feel like we're in a very good trajectory, where the sales force understands that they're getting more experience. And from new sales to new clients, we actually had great results. And so we're feeling very good about it.

Toni Kaplan -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. Great. And just my follow-up is, were there any particular functional areas within GBS that were particularly strong this quarter, any that were particularly slower that would be helpful?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

I would say, everything was in trend. I don't think there are any differences. The -- if you look at the differences between the seat-based and the legacy products or even the trend overall, it's kind of in trend with where it's been.

Toni Kaplan -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. So nothing to call out on like marketing versus supply chain versus...

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

No. No. I think, again, everything I would say is in trend with where it's been historically.

Toni Kaplan -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Jeff Silber with BMO Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Jeff Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Sorry to go back to this GBS sales issue, just one minor question. If I look at the GBS sales force today, roughly what percentage of those folks are new versus those that came from CEB?

Yes. I guess, where I was going with the question is that I look over time, when do you think the GBS sales force will be comprised of mostly new folks as opposed to CEB legacy sales?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So let me give you an illustrative example, because -- and I don't have the exact numbers right in front of me. But if you have a business that you want to grow the sales headcount 15% net and you have 15% turnover and 15% promotions, so if I start with 100 people and move 15 for turnover, I promote 15 and I want to grow 15, I have to hire 45 people to grow 100, 215 people. 45 divided by 115 is 40 -- is 39%, is 40%. So if you had a -- under the theoretical assumption I just gave you, 15% growth in net headcount, 15% turnover, 15% promotions, 40% of people are the first year all the time.

Again this is how we went Gartner forever, so that gives you sort of flavor for it.

Jeff Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

All right. I appreciate that. And where are you finding these new GBS salespeople?

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So we have a world-class recruiting organization. In fact, I think about our recruiting organization being a real source of competitive advantage for us. We focused on building it for a number of years. And as you know the labor markets are quite tight, despite the fact that labor markets are tight as you've heard, we're growing our total sales force significantly, both GTS and GBS.

And all of our metrics in terms of the quality for the people are stronger, stronger is in the past. We find our salespeople from all over. We operate -- we have clients in 100 countries. We operate in many of those directly and so we hire people all around the world.

So there's no kind of one source because we're operating all these different markets. We sell large clients, medium clients, small clients, those are different sources. So there's kind of like one -- not one source, it depends on what geography it is and what size clients that we're serving, etc.

Jeff Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

OK. Thanks for the color.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Hamzah Mazari with Macquarie. Your line is open.

Mario Cortellacci -- Macquarie -- Analyst

Hey, guys, this is Mario Cortellacci filling in for Hamzah. Does GBS wallet retention have any structural changes that would keep it from getting to where GTS is running currently?

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

No. I think we believe that the wallet retention in GBS, there's no reason why it can't be the same over time as what we see in GTS. And in fact, two primary things we believe will unlock that. No.

1 is driving the normal Gartner growth formula around engagement and service and all those things have been translating into higher retention rates and then there's still room to improve there. And the second thing is, and this is one of the other benefits of transitioning to seat-based products is with enterprise license, once you penetrate the organization, there's really no more growth to go. Gartner historically has derived about two-thirds of its gross growth from further penetration of existing enterprises. And with the new seat-based products, we'll now be able to run that play on the GBS side as well.

So that was a long-winded answer to your question, which I could have just said, no, there's no reason why GBS wallet retention can't get to the same levels as GTS wallet retention.

Mario Cortellacci -- Macquarie -- Analyst

Gotcha. Perfect. And a quick follow-up. Given the divestitures and some of the noncore assets, could you walk us through how you think about further portfolio pruning if there may be is any? And how robust does your future pipeline look in terms of M&A? And if that is the case, do you see any -- do you see yourselves adding any, or into the league, to the portfolio?

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Sure. From a divestiture perspective, the biggest one for us was the Talent Assessment business, which was by far the biggest business within heritage CEB that we deemed as noncore. We worked very quickly to do the analysis to figure out that it was noncore and then to market and divest that asset.

And so getting that completed in early April was kind of mission No. 1 for us. We continue to look at the portfolio to make sure that everything we have is core and really supports the growth of our research business, which is what all of our other businesses are there to do, and we'll continue to look at that. From an M&A perspective, we continue to track 100-plus different companies across all the areas that we now participate in.

So not just in IT research, but HR research, finance research, legal research, etc. We continue to track those. We have a core dev team that is all over that. But again the way we think about M&A going forward is similar to the way we thought about it previously, which was we're going to be really diligent, really disciplined around how we deploy our capital.

If there are assets that can fill in gaps for us or accelerate our growth rate and drive real shareholder value, we'll deploy our capital that way. Absent that, we'll look to deploy our capital, as we talked about earlier, on share repurchases.

Mario Cortellacci -- Macquarie -- Analyst

Perfect. Thank you

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Joseph Foresi with Cantor Fitzgerald. Your line is open

Joseph Foresi -- Cantor Fitzgerald -- Analyst

Hi. I was wondering if we can get as best you can a breakdown of what the growth drivers are. And what I mean by that is, how much of your growth is coming from new market penetration versus new products versus industry tailwinds?

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Joe, we -- because our portfolio is so diverse now and because technology is ubiquitous, regardless of geography, industry or company size and you can make the same comment for all the other functions we serve like HR and finance and legal. We tend to look at the market as, obviously, as we've talked about huge and untapped. And we have a huge opportunity both from a further-client-penetration perspective and from working with enterprises that currently don't do business with us. And we have ample opportunity on both sides of that equation, and as I -- I think I just mentioned historically, on the heritage Gartner side, about two-thirds of our growth has come from existing enterprises through a combination of placing upgrades of products to higher value, higher-priced products, finding new seats within existing buying centers and finding new buying centers within the existing enterprise.

We think that same algorithm or formula applies across GBS as well. And again it's a combination of new products of going after the C-level in the organization and then expanding the account below that. All those plays that have worked really well for us on the heritage Gartner, or GTS side, we think we have available for us on the GBS side as well.

Joseph Foresi -- Cantor Fitzgerald -- Analyst

Got it. And just as my follow-up. I think we're trying to figure out how much of GBS is sales force versus product? Maybe you could give us some stats? I'm sure CEB is integrated into the whole business now, but any stats you could share with us around CEB, it's products or the changes in wallet retention that would help us understand the product side of things a little bit better?

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure, Joe. The way to think about GBS is, first, its construction was about 25% supply chain and marketing from the heritage Gartner side and about 75% on heritage CEB leadership councils. As we talked about we started this journey now of really converting everything over to Gartner seat-based products for each of the major functions that we serve. We're very early innings in that game, particularly on the functions that came over from Heritage CEB.

But again similar to the way we've run it historically. In heritage Gartner and GTS, the growth algorithm is a combination of increased selling capacity because the opportunity is there. And then that increased capacity selling the products and services that we have for those particular functions into the function and then expanding within that function. And so you'll get it.

It's the same algorithm as we've talked about and have managed for the last decade or so on the heritage Gartner/GTS side.

Joseph Foresi -- Cantor Fitzgerald -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Peter Appert with Piper Jaffray. Your line is open.

Peter Appert -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning. I'm wondering if you guys see potential for profitability impact from the shift in the GPS -- GBS, excuse me, product mix. So I'm specifically wondering if the higher level of support and service from these new products perhaps implies a lower level of margin for those products.

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Peter, good question. The -- so a couple of ways to think about it. One is, we priced for that. That's baked into the price.

And two, we fully anticipate higher intervention rates on those products as well and the combination of the pricing, the scale will get and the higher retention rates, we believe that on a combined basis, we can run the overall research segment at 70% gross margins, both incremental and absolute with all of that incremental service baked in to again, to support the higher retention rates. But again, when we build our pricing, we're very cognizant of the elements of the products, service being one of those elements.

Peter Appert -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

Got it. Understood. And then the flip side, I guess, that -- to that, Craig, is that you've got all this upfront hiring of sales force in GBS this year, presumably the sales force growth would slow some next year. I'm wondering if that then potentially helps the margin.

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

So, Peter, it's Gene. As we've talked about in the past in terms of sales force growth, we've increased the GBS sales force growth substantially. We're going to look at what happens to sales productivity. If -- as through the second half of the year, our sales productivity goes up nicely and gets to kind of GTS levels of productivity then we're going to continue to aggressively grow the GBS sales force.

And again, if we believe we can grow it at the same kind of rates we grew it this year, we will do that. But it's all based on seeing the kind of productivity that we expect, which again that you think about is being on par with kind of GTS productivity. And so we haven't decided yet how much we're going to grow in 2019, because we don't know what those productivities look like yet, and we're prepared to go either way.

Peter Appert -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. I'm showing no further questions in the queue. I'd now like to turn the call back over to Gene Hall for closing remarks.

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, I continue to be excited about our business, our prospects for growth and our strategy to drive long-term value for our shareholders. Our strong Q2 results demonstrate we know the right things to do to address success in our business by applying the Gartner Formula. We have the capability to address critical client needs in technology and in business across every function of the enterprise. And we remain in outstanding position to provide sustained double-digit growth across all our key metrics.

Thanks for joining us today, and I look forward to updating you next quarter.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 58 minutes

Call Participants:

David Cohen -- Group Vice President, Investor Relations

Eugene Hall -- Chief Executive Officer

Craig Safian -- Chief Financial Officer

Tim McHugh -- William Blair & Company -- Analyst

Jeff Meuler -- Robert W. Baird & Company -- Analyst

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays -- Analyst

Keen Tong -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Toni Kaplan -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Jeff Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Mario Cortellacci -- Macquarie -- Analyst

Joseph Foresi -- Cantor Fitzgerald -- Analyst

Peter Appert -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

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