Like most functions in today’s businesses, sales is currently undergoing a transformation. Customer expectations are skyrocketing, and it’s changing what it means to be a successful in sales. With the rise of real-time messaging, and the on-demand economy, buyers have come to expect a new type of sales experience — one where their voices are heard and where conversations happen on their terms.
Advances in technology have reshaped the face of sales. Mobile devices now enable reps to connect with prospects anytime, anywhere. Meanwhile, improvements in supporting tech can provide high-quality prospect data, enabling smarter conversations that help inside sales reps to close more deals.
Today, we live in an instantaneous world, but also one in which tailored, sales messages will be what attracts customers to your business.
With our crystal ball, we are here to help you see the future of sales to help you grow your business.
Say Hello to the Real Boss: The Customer
Customers will drive business outcomes in the future even more than they do today. An incredible amount of buying options puts real power in the hands of the customer. If organizations cannot meet customer needs or add value, the customer can easily move on. The roles and responsibilities of sales people will expand and grow in importance, as they become the voice of the customer.
Sales techniques and marketing quick fixes are out. Soft sell, partnerships and relationship building with customers are the coming trends. The goal is to partner with the customer. Partnerships are built on trust, immediate problem-solving, frequent contact, honest communications, and a win-win relationship. Relationships of this nature meet needs and add value to the customer. No longer can customers be thought of as a tool for personal gain. Rather, the focus must be on the customers’ gain and making the customers’ needs the key issue.
It is the customer who pays your salary and determines your company’s future. The best way to meet customer needs is to ask the customer, “How can our company add value or better meet your needs?” Then do it better than your competitors.
Millennials take over
Members of Generation Y have finished their studies and entered the job market a while ago. In 2018, they are not just in junior roles, but many of them are getting promoted into more senior positions. Many sales teams and organisations are led by these young people. And these people know how to leverage technology, they value work-life balance and they want to know why things are done the way they are.
What they lack in experience they make up for with enthusiasm, technical know-how and creativity. Many organizations will rely on them when they renew their old sales processes and bring them to a modern digitalised world. If you want to succeed in 2018, the odds are you need to know how to collaborate, manage and be managed by millennials.
The modern-day sales team has had to change its methods for approaching prospects. Before, it was all about enumerating product features. But this sales tactic never really addressed each prospect’s personal needs. Instead, it assumed everyone could benefit from the same features.
Now, sales teams must focus on personalizing all their sales pitches, specifically addressing each prospect’s perceived needs and desires. This, in turn, requires leveraging the available data and conducting extensive prospect research, which may include surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups.
Sales professionals know that they have to observe more and ask questions. They must pay attention to continue personalizing future sales with the insights gained through those conversations.
The Impact of Artificial Intelligence Is Taking Shape
We are still in the early days of AI in sales organizations, but most teams expect that it will gain ground quickly as they figure out how this new level of intelligence can boost productivity. The study found that the majority of reps and managers foresee substantial impacts from AI over the next five years on many of teams’ toughest tasks. Use cases range from guidance on which leads need the most attention, to knowing which emails should be answered first, to automating data entry. Although there is often fear that AI will displace sales jobs, the data shows that even teams that are already using AI continue to expand their ranks at a faster rate than others. The growth of AI is expected to continue as sales leaders expect their adoption of AI to grow by 155% by 2020.
Social media is the future of referrals
Over the next several years social proof via social media will continue to grow as the major driver of referrals. There is absolutely no stronger marketing then when a satisfied customer tells 100, 1,000 or 100,000 people about how amazing your products and services are. So building strong relationships with highly satisfied customers, who become customer evangelists and tell everyone on their social media platforms that you totally rock, will be the most powerful way to increase your sales success. On the other hand, you must also remember that if you mess something up terribly, you can just as easily create a customer terrorist who goes out to their entire network in an effort to shut you down.
A new era of personalisation
In the future, the companies that are successful will be the ones that capture prospect data and turn it into actionable insight for sales reps. For instance, Salesforce this year added predictive analytics to its service offering, which consolidates data sets to provide a better understanding of customers’ preferences. As this type of tech matures, it will help inside sales teams create more personalized marketing opportunities, which in turn, will create better customer engagement rates and drive more conversions.
The availability of increasing amounts of data means that sales teams have a completely different perspective on who they are approaching. This data might include more specific information about various buyer personas, such as demographics, location, motivation, previous purchase behaviour, and timeline for purchasing. That intelligence is enough to replace the cold call right there.
So, there we have it.
For more insights on the current state of sales, sales professionals must learn from the past, live in the present and plan for the future. If you truly want a world-class sales team that is effective, cost-efficient and gets the job done well into the future. If you are a small to medium-sized business, you may be contemplating how to transform your sales team to maximize the results from lead generation and customer acquisition activities while minimizing sales resources.