For as long as there have been products and services to sell, sales reps have had to respond to a constantly evolving landscape. Most either find a way to adapt or fall by the wayside. Each year brings new sales trends to watch for, from how reps engage with prospects to how increasingly empowered buyers prefer to close deals. Because technology plays an enormous role in how sales reps interact, learn and succeed, it’s critical to know the tools that are available and what will truly spur productivity.
In the coming months, expect to see these noticeable sales industry trends:
Peer Learning, Including Mentoring and Coaching
The one-way flow of feedback from manager to sales rep is no longer the key to professional development, and there should be a marked increase in the use of peer-to-peer coaching and feedback among sales professionals. Why? In a recent survey of sales reps and managers, 91 percent of reps agreed that trading ideas with peers helps them succeed. Additionally, reps are more comfortable learning from peers who are in the field and interacting with customers every day.
In the same survey, 65 percent of sales reps agreed that pitch advice from peers is more effective than training from the corporation. Corporate training is critical to ensuring accurate product positioning and message consistency, and it’s not going away anytime soon. However, key insights from peers on how to handle objections, as well as advice on how to approach specific industries or business challenges, are just as valuable and more likely to be retained.
Selling With Storytelling
More than ever before, sales and marketing teams must develop content that truly resonates with their target audience. According to a Forrester content marketing survey, 85 percent of marketers admitted that the content they produce failed to deliver business value—and customers tend to agree. In the year ahead, more brands will look to storytelling not only to embody the values their brand represents but also to create content that speaks directly to customers.
Sales reps who use storytelling will be able more naturally to connect with and engage prospects during their sales pitches and to demonstrate more easily the value of a particular product or solution by telling a story of its success with a similar customer or demographic. Rather than reciting rote features and benefits, reps who address a prospect’s unique pain points and communicate insights and customer stories will find more success engaging with customers. This technique can be bolstered by mobile video, which makes it easier than ever for reps to capture and share stories of a successful unique approach or tactic with the entire sales team.
Bots, artificial intelligence and machine learning have had a major impact on the consumer market in the past couple of years. The enterprise will soon be similarly disrupted with new technologies and processes. In fact, the industry has already begun to realize the benefits of machine learning in sales. A survey by MIT Sloan Management Review found that two out of five companies have implemented machine learning in sales and marketing, and 38 percent of companies credited machine learning for improvements in sales performance metrics.
Drawing on information about past deals, current industry trends and the sale at hand, machine learning will improve sales training and customer engagement by providing reps with easy access to highly relevant content at deal time. More advanced software capabilities will provide sales reps with the tools they need to pull information from previous deals to create individualized playbooks, as well as to help reps share more compelling and relevant stories with prospects.
More Reliance on Mobile Devices at Work
Technology followers have long predicted that professionals and consumers would continue to gravitate toward tablets and away from laptops, and that trend will continue in the coming years. This development impacts members of the sales community by untethering them from the “weightiness” of laptops and encouraging them to interact through mobile devices and non-traditional content.
Tablets, and many of the large screen smartphones, make it easier than ever to create, share and receive content in settings and situations where laptops would never be usable. With the right platform and a tablet, reps can share critical details about a prospect, industry or objection that arose as soon as a meeting concludes or practice their sales pitches with remote colleagues, all from a parked car. Laptops simply don’t allow for that kind of flexibility and timing, which is why the sales industry will likely continue to move away from them as the primary business device.