NINE TRENDS THAT WILL SHAPE THE FUTURE OF SALES
Just as technological changes affect the landscape of our daily lives, they also affect sales processes and cycles. Taking everything into consideration, from AI software to mobile devices, the technology advances are reponsible for the evolution of the way we do business.
As the way we work becomes more complex and sophisticated, the sales cycle of the future will look completely different from what it has been so far. Instead of a classic telesales approach of calling a list of phone numbers, sales and marketing departments will deal with customers and clients who are fully informed and expect services that are increasingly personalized.
Here we bring nine trends that we believe will have the most impact on how companies communicate with customers and the way they shape sales processes related to them.
◉ TREND 1: 50% of sales metrics will change in the next 3 years.
The metrics for sales performance are under pressure to adapt to changing customer demands and purchasing patterns. Customer experience and customer satisfaction have become number one sales metrics, almost over night.
Do evolving KPIs mean companies should start tracking the lifetime value of customers, instead of a signed contract amount? We'll see in the next few years.
◉ TREND 2: Sales reps will be compensated on usage, not deal size.
Flexible usage is the ability for customers to pay for a service or product based on need and usage. Long employed by utility and telecom companies, flexible usage is expanding to businesses in other industries - software (consumption), auto insurance (miles driven), transportation (miles ridden), real estate (flexible workspace), advertising (pay per click, impressions)...
As customers pay differently, it will change how reps are compensated. Reps will have a usage growth quota and be paid commission based on the growth of the customer. Closing a deal may mean far less to the rep - enabling the client to use the product could be much more significant.
◉ TREND 3: Customer service agents are the new sales reps.
With today's customers demanding superior experiences, as well as a commitment to their success, customer service is in a perfect position to become the next "sales force". There's a pivot away from viewing customer service as a cost center and instead viewing it as a revenue center. 59% of service agents are already empowered to create quotes and orders directly from their CRM.
And this is not limited to B2C companies. 82% of B2B buyers want the same experience for their companies as when they shop for themselves.
◉ TREND 4: Modern selling continues to expand into more digital channels.
Multi-channel customer engagement will no longer be reserved just for marketing. This includes the options of text messages, chat, mobile chat, video content...
There are two major things driving this. The first is the focus being on providing a buying experience on the channel customers most prefer. The second is a massive increaase in the amount of time sales reps spend selling via virtual channels.
Time spent interacting with customers virtually has increased 3x over that of meeting in-person. How long before text messages, chat and video become a tool embedded within CRM?
◉ TREND 5: AI will require more sales headcount, not less.
The rapid ascent of artificial intelligence, robots, automation and machine learning has caused job security fears for many roles. Sales need not be one of them. Not only is AI not destroying sales jobs, it's creating them.
Why is this? When it comes to sales, AI's roles is to ease the burden of manual and tedious tasks. This gives reps more time to focus on giving customers what they want - consultative, trusted advisors, a uniquely human skill set.
The value of humans is reflected in hiring trends among sales teams using AI - 76% of them are adding staff.
◉ TREND 6: Chat bots might be the answer to improving quota attainment.
Quota attainment has gone down for 5 straight years. More than 50% of reps expect to miss quota. With all of these advancements in technology these should be shocking statistics to see. One reason for the low quota attainment: those increased customer expectations we keep talking about.
Digital assistants, aka sales chat bots, may be the key to filling in the gaps. Brands leveraging chatbots have already seen them become their number one lead generation source, automating may of the roles of SDR and BDR reps.
Going forward, bots will even provide reps with real-time information and coaching during sales calls, improving close rates and help to drive selling behavior.
◉ TREND 7: The client will take charge of how they receive information.
The boundary between the physical and the digital worlds continues to break down. Much of the innovation now underway is focused on helping people move seamlessly across the two.
59& of customers say tailored enagagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business. More and more, the pressure will be on companies to connect with people and make their pitch something the customer actually wants, and also show that they have the customers' best interest in mind.
And extreme existing example of customers choosing to be marketed to is the annual Super Bowl broadcast, where 46% of viewers watch specifically for the ads.
◉ TREND 8: We'll be able to talk to our CRM.
There's a lot of potential for an increase in productivity with the option to easily capture unstructured data - such as meeting notes and tasks - by dictating them into CRM and having them automatically logged via artifical intelligence.
CRM information could be captured and accessed using smart speakers, giving executives seamless and real-time KPI reporting. Voice technology will also likely evolve into a virtual CRM assistant of sorts, because CRM will turn into an AI-powered helper.
◉ TREND 9: CRM will become invisible.
The CRM system will no longer just react to what the salesperson does. CRM will exist around a rep's day and be seamless in the way it supports them.
Sales reps will no longer need to enter data. It will happen naturally as they sell. E-mails, meetings, calls, etc. will all be integrated and the CRM will use that to proactively suggest the next best action, what to prioritize and so on.
As technological changes keep affecting how we work, one thing is clear: individualization and personalization are key. New methods of interaction and data analysis have to put the wishes and needs of clients in the center, and further development will help us focus even more on adapting the various elements of the sales cycle to the new landscape we have found ourselves in.
Slaven Stojanović, Head of Sales, HSM informatika