According to research firm Forrester , more than 1 million sales jobs will become obsolete over the next five years due to technological change. Many of these job losses will come from the low end of the sales team, those who place orders and handle manual tasks that can be replaced by automation. Rainmakers who have mastered the art of sales have more job security.
The Forrester stats nonetheless highlight an essential sales truth: If you don’t keep up with the trends, both technological and industry-related, you’re courting disaster.
With that in mind, here are four of the top trends today that are changing sales.
1. Customers are in Control
It’s a buyer’s market. With the Internet making the competition just a few clicks away, businesses no longer are in a position of power compared to their customers. Buyers know that they have options, so they set the tone for business unless your business truly has an utterly unique product (and if you have a unique product, don’t expect that to last for very long).
Equally important, customers are coming into the sale armed with better product knowledge than ever before. The average customer is more than halfway through the decision-making process by the time they talk with a sales rep, according to some estimates. The Internet has greatly increased customer knowledge about products and options.
The takeaway is that sales also must come better prepared, knowing the customer’s journey and having a deep knowledge of their offerings and those of the competition. Sales tech such as Agile CRM’s web analytics—shows which pages of the company’s website have been visited and when—can help arm sales staff for this increasingly sophisticated selling environment.
2. Analytics Make the Difference
With more customer interaction happening online, there is even more opportunity for collecting data on customers and potential buyers. This new volume of data about the customer is game-changing for sales—but only if businesses properly make sense of it; much of the data collected by businesses is never used, and that data which is used is often not fully exploited.
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That’s why the role of analytics is increasingly important for sales. Firms that know how to exploit the mass of data at their disposal have a significant competitive advantage. Aberdeen, a consultancy, found that best in breed sales teams were three times as likely to use predictive analytics than the average.
Large businesses can use Big Data mining tools such as Hadoop and other specialty analytics solutions, but even small businesses can get in on the act through better use of dashboards, automated reports and add-on services. Data analytics should have a home at every business that is serious about sales (and we hope that is every business).
3. More Rigorous Sales Forecasting
Sales forecasting is important for managing cashflow, financing, scheduling production and staffing, among other benefits. Yet, most of the forecasts done are abysmally poor. According to CSO Insights, Only 20 percent of CFOs are confident that their sales forecasts are accurate. This could be because less than half of all predicted sales don’t close, CSO found.
Businesses are getting more serious about forecasting as a result. To narrow the gap between expectation and reality, an increasing number of sales teams are taking an integrated approach to forecasting that includes the CFO and more parts of the business, including marketing and customer support.
By integrating insights from all parts of the business, sales forecasts both become more rigorous and benefit from deeper customer insight for accurate predictions.
4. Video as a New Sales Tool
Closing the deal, especially for B2B sales, is getting harder. It took an average of four cold calls to reach a prospect in 2007, according to Martech Advisor. Six years later, the firm calculated that it took eight calls. This number is expected to reach double-digits soon, and that’s just a business getting its foot in the door.
Video is helping businesses overcome this challenging environment, however.
Sales teams are finding that easy video creation is helpful in at least two ways. First, video can augment prospecting by delivering a better pitch that more easily captures the attention of prospects. Second, video chat lowers the barrier for face time, helping sales staff meet prospects with more ease.
Martech reports that personalized video boosts email engagement by 44 percent, and it increases open rates by as much as 60 percent. Just adding “video” in an email’s subject line increases its open rate by 500 percent, according to Martech.
The art of selling might be the same, but the techniques used today are rapidly evolving. Innovative businesses are not resting on the methods of the past. Instead, they’re marshaling new data opportunities, improving processes, taking advantage of video and CRM innovations and adjusting as the business landscape changes.