What it means to be a salesperson has changed. The days of the golf junkets, the three-martini lunches and the schmoozing Herb Tarleks (WKRP in Cincinnati) or eccentric Dwight Schrutes (The Office) of the world are dwindling, if not already long gone. As today’s savvy buyers demand instant information and more online interactions, the role of the sales person to meet these needs has evolved – and probably for the better for all.
What specifically has changed? Take a look at these three sales trends as well as our corresponding tips on how to successfully address them:
Sales People Are Adding More Immediate Value: To be successful in today’s world, sales people need to bring real, immediate value to their customers and prospects. They must quickly adapt and learn how to effectively sell by developing fast rapport and relying on informative, objective approaches to sales, versus depending on deep, long-developed one-to-one personal relationships. As such, they rely on data-driven supporting tools that provide instant access to business and customer data and the latest marketing and social media campaign information. And they are learning to be lightning fast in responding to the needs and requests of prospects and customers.
Buyers Prefer Online Engagements: Buyers today work in shorter and more fragmented time increments. They do more research online and they often prefer to engage remotely. Today's buyers are increasingly initiating their purchase decisions via the web, phone and social media, preferring electronic engagement to face-to-face sales meetings. They can also participate in sales presentations via Skype, web conferencing and video. Such tools are quickly overtaking face-to-face visits, which are often considered too time consuming for these busy buyers. In fact, Gartner reports that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationships without even talking to a human at all.
More Inside Sales; Less Field Sales: The makeup of sales operations is evolving to mirror new buying trends. Many companies are implementing a sales model that includes a larger mix of inside sales professionals – who are now considered a specialized breed of sophisticated sales people that interact with buyers remotely. This shift to increasing inside sales presence initiated with B2B technology start-ups. A recent study (“Outside In: The Rise of the Inside Sales Team”) found that such smaller high-tech companies already generate 55 percent of sales from inside teams. The same study noted this trend growing more broadly, with 40 percent of larger technology companies planning to increase their inside sales headcount by 2016. A separate report (“The Trend Changing the Sales Landscape”) found that 46 percent of sales leaders reported a move within their organizations from field sales models to using more inside sales. Some companies are even taking this emphasis on inside sales a step further, by leveraging call centers to help move these prospects through the sales pipeline and into customer engagements.
With the growth and influence of inside sales comes the inherent need for the data, analytics and automation tools that can make the changing landscape of sales successful. Big data combined with predictive analytics is bringing a whole new lead generation toolset into the mix. Mining this data enables inside sales professionals to quickly identify prospective sales opportunities, instantly reach out to prospects, and anticipate their existing customers’ buying patterns and preferences. Such technologies ensure that sales people approach prospects with the right offer at just the right time, and across multiple channels, from email and social media, to search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.
How is the sales process changing in your organization? And, more importantly, how are you using innovative data and analytics tools to advance the role, sophistication and success of your sales team?
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