December 22, 2014

The Future of Sales

the future of salesThere are predictions about everything – including the sales profession.  And after reading through prognostications over the years, the future for sales professionals looks…interesting.

Most agree that generational shifts and technology are the two driving forces behind the changes.  Technology will impart greater efficiency thanks to the mounds of data that can be collected about products, services and people. As a result, Gen Y, used to easy access to information, won’t view salespeople the same way as previous generations have.  If they need salespeople at all, they’ll expect them to act more like an equal partner in the process.

There’s also an underlying assumption that the current crop of salespeople is subpar even for today’s purposes.  But between higher customer expectations and assistance from technology, the elusive traits that make a salesperson great now may no longer be necessary.

So on with the predictions…

The Customer

  • They’re in charge.  Thanks to the internet, they’ll be doing their homework before they’re ready to make contact – unlike the old days when they started with salespeople as a primary information source.
  • Buyers will choose almost exclusively based on referrals and network connections.
  • Buying will become open sourced with people feeling comfortable enough to post needs online.

The “Salesperson”

  • Instead of persuading, you’ll be acting more as a consultant offering situational knowledge, more value and the benefit of experience.
  • Sales will be more like a conversation/collaborative experience with both sides wanting the best for each other.
  • Inside, outside, online sales – you’ll have to do it all.
  • On the other hand, sales positions will be broken into multiple jobs each catering to the specific role involved and the talent of the individual.
  • Data driven decision making will replace the need for sales training to develop “skills” gaps.  In other words the data, not the salesperson, will do the persuading.
  • Finding people to meet higher customer expectation of product knowledge, tech skills and service will be the new challenge.

The Sales Process

  • Salespeople will no longer need to prospect as marketing departments will take over the role of lead generation.
  • Customer service departments will also be integrated with sales and marketing for lead generation and customer management.
  • Cold calling will be dead.  Between government regulations and security concerns there will be more emphasis on social networking and in-person communications to generate leads.
  • No more product pitches.  Salespeople will be more like teachers hoping to attract “students” with the information the “salesteacher” provides – usually online and always for free.

Skills

  • Salespeople will need to evaluate customers faster to close a sale – and that whole process will be faster thanks to the knowledge buyers bring to the deal and better tools for salespeople.
  • Creativity and innovation will be the most desired traits for salespeople.  They’ll also need to be adaptable and proactive to thrive.
  • Knowing your customer is key.  And that means knowing everything – their needs, wants and place in the sales cycle – and when to persuade or close the deal.
  • If you’re not a buyer centric salesperson, you will fail.

Technology

  • Agenting technology – avatars/chat services on websites offering quick answers/support – will be commonplace. It will act as an expression of customer service/client centeredness, lead generator or “pre-qualifier”.
  • Spiders will be used to crawl the web in search of prospects.  They’ll be looking for specific behaviors and activities that indicate their place in the buying cycle.
  • All that spidered info will end up in a CRM.  In conjunction with marketing automation, you’ll be able to deliver the right content at the right time plus track the target for the entire sales cycle.
  • CRM will play a huge role – seamlessly integrated into the whole sales and marketing process and finally designed to work from the both the salesperson’s and management’s perspective.

Caveats

  • The fact that people feel overwhelmed with ads and pitches makes them more likely to acquiesce to silent/background data collection –and maybe even appreciative if they find it meets their needs.
  • All of the data collection could be in jeopardy if abused.  Internet marketing could end up being regulated and/or consumer tools will be available to block tracking for real.

If you’d like to read some of the sources for these predictions for more detail, here are the links:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505183_162-28557227-10391735/sales-jobs-of-the-future/
http://www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/CRM-News/Daily-News/Gartner-Predicts-the-Future-of-Sales-and-Marketing-60560.aspx
http://www.slideshare.net/linkedin-sales-solutions/the-future-of-sales-20668541
http://globalfuturist.com/dr-james-canton/in-the-news/the-future-of-sales-in-a-high-tech-world.html
http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/the-future-of-sales-technology.html
http://www.salestrainingplus.com/sales-marketing-information/sales-and-marketing-articles/65-future-sales-trends
http://www.cmswire.com/cms/customer-experience/sales-enablement-the-future-of-sales-is-now-016751.php

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Comments

  1. Great article Chris – I do not think cold calling will ever be dead, but I do agree more networking and in-person communications are needed to generate leads.

    One thing I like to do is get active in my community, wether on the board at my HOA or volunteering. I found http://www.volunteermatch.org a great place to start, as well as http://www.meetup.com for networking. It’s amazing the bonds you make on a long hike, run or at any of the meetup groups.

    • I don’t think cold calling is going away anytime soon either…though plenty of people would like it to…

      • I don’t mind someone cold calling me as long as they know who I am and that their prouduct is a good fit for my company. If you’re going to cold call, do it with class …

  2. Salesperson will be acting more as a consultant offering situational knowledge and the benefit of experience – I’ve been saying that for years!

    Also, as long as we use the phone, cold calling wont be going anywhere… just because you don’t like to receive calls or make them, doesn’t mean someone else out there wont. It’s still part of the grass roots marketing program and must be done!

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