The way we sell is changing. Here’s what you need to embrace.
In some very real ways, the future of selling is here.
We collect an incredible amount of data about our customers, about which tactics work and which ones fail, and how our sales reps perform.
We have more ways than ever to reach out to our customers. It’s not just phone or email – IMs, social media, chat, video calls and text messaging are all commonplace.
We see salespeople functioning as teams rather than independent agents. Gone are the days of the closely guarded Rolodex full of leads, replaced with shared customer data and CRMs to manage it all.
So what’s next? Here are the trends taking shape today:
Sales will become a team of highly specialized roles
Say goodbye to the one-size-fits-all sales generalist. In their place: a team of specialists dedicated to different parts of the sales process, such as handling sales data, different stages of the sales funnel and different areas of product knowledge. Add to this the behind-the-scenes roles being created that aren’t directly selling, like analysis and strategy.
Sales measurability continues to improve
Not only are we capturing better data around sales activity, lead generation, channel sales, pipelines, hiring and onboarding (and much more – Hubspot has a list of 93 need-to-know metrics), but new technology and AI can track the previously untrackable. We’re entering a stage where we can pinpoint softer skills, competencies, motivations, work habits and professional development to help sales teams sell better.
AI-assisted selling is changing the game entirely
This is a dense topic, but to simplify it, think of AI-assisted selling two broad categories:
- Productivity: Sales reps report they spend too much time on administration and not enough time selling. AI-assisted tools take the routine, low-value work that bogs them down and does it for them in the background so reps can focus on their customers and leads.
- Insights: Partnered with great data tracking, tools powered by AI will be able to make sense of those metrics, prioritize leads, recommend products, improve performance and even predict future trends.
Real-time selling enters the mainstream
Customers are busy people. That moment when they first make contact is the best moment to stay in contact because they’ve already set aside time to reach out. Whether that means using bots to handle the initial communication, ask a few qualifying questions, set up a meeting with a sales rep or send out an alert to a live rep who can hop on and chat, there are more ways than ever to capitalize on that critical timing.
Sales emphasizes conversations over pitches
Customers value the interaction they have with your reps as much as what they’re buying. That means putting the customer experience first. More and more, customers want a sales rep who will help them cut through the noise, explain what they don’t understand and figure out what they actually need. Being genuine, empathetic and caring can make or break a buying decision, so get ready for a new mantra: helping is the future of selling.
A formalized education in selling is emerging
As sales roles become more specialized, so too will training and coaching. An estimated $7.1 billion is spent on sales training every year by U.S. firms, reports Inc.com. To meet that demand, more colleges and universities are offering continuing-education programs aimed at building sales skills. Even online educational resources, like Coursera and Udemy, offer classes on the subject. That number is expected to grow.
A few tools will rule them all
The sales tool landscape is dizzying. So was the marketing automation landscape just a few years ago. Eventually, a handful of providers became market leaders because they built and consolidated the right features together in the right way. While a rep may have a huge number of tools to choose from today, those of the future will most likely be consolidated rather than integrated.
VR and simulations enter the coaching world
VR has been used for military and industrial labour training for a little while now, but it’s entering the service field. Walmart is already testing the waters with an AI-enabled VR system that simulates customer interactions for its on-floor employees. Not only is it more engaging than that training handbook, but a recent study shows retention increases dramatically through simulation – as high as 80%, compared to 20% for more traditional methods.
[bctt tweet="New technology and AI can track the previously untrackable. We’re entering a stage where we can pinpoint softer skills, competencies, motivations, work habits and professional development to help sales teams sell better." username="kiiteHQ"]
We’ve come a long way, but there’s still more work to do. Experts have been predicting some of these trends for years – especially around changing customer expectations, specialized roles and conversational selling – and we’re only now catching up with it. The future of selling has already started to take shape, but it’s clear that it won’t get here overnight.
But the world of sales is changing, and the companies that succeed will be the ones that change with it.