The Four Industry Trends Changing Sales
The modern tech boom has produced an enormous amount of change to enterprise business models. Every aspect of the enterprise has been examined and targeted for disruption by start-ups and established titans alike. Some departments like IT, advertising and marketing have been experiencing upheaval for years. But sales organizations have remained mostly unchanged until very recently. For any company that relies on teams of salespeople to drive revenue, there are a number of tectonic shifts occurring that stand to turn the practice on its head.
The Rise of Inside Sales
The core assumption upon which almost all conventional sales wisdom is built is that salespeople are inevitably required to meet with a prospect face to face. But this is rapidly changing. As buyers find it easier to learn all they need to know about a product or service online, and as tools like Google Hangouts make it easier to conduct a presentation virtually, the demand for salespeople who can sell from a distance has grown. So much, in fact, that a 2013 study by Dave Elkington of InsideSales.com found that average headcount for inside sales vs. field sales is growing 26%. The modern sales hotshot is no longer a jet-setting fast-talker who can sell ice to Eskimos, but rather a tech-savvy knowledge guide who can lead a prospect along a digital journey of discovery.
Top of Funnel Activity = Bottom of Funnel Pressures
Thanks to the recent boom in marketing automation technology, marketing teams are producing an ocean of leads, layered with more context than ever before. Most forward-thinking companies are combining this technology with content-first marketing practices. What results is a constant stream of content aimed at potential customers, embedded with software to measure the audience’s interaction with that content. This creates huge amounts of data about potential customers. Studies have shown that these trends have led to most B2B buyers getting as much as 60% of the way through the decision making process before they ever contact a salesperson. This is leading to unprecedented pressure on sales professionals to improve win rates.
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It might seem that if 60% of the job is already done by the time they get on the phone, these trends have made the job of a salesperson easier. Sadly, this is not the case. This market shift has raised expectations on salespeople to all-time heights. They need to be more efficient and close more deals than ever before. And what have they been given to help them do so? An overwhelming selection of leads, with extremely varied levels of familiarity with the product. A salesperson’s job now includes learning how to prioritize and juggle the longest account list of their careers.
Data Driven Insight
The most pervasive concept driving change in sales organizations is the question of “Big Data”. Every media outlet covering the tech economy has examined modern technology’s inherent ability to produce data, and what companies are doing with it. The idea is simple – businesses should be able to analyze the data collected in their systems to find previously unknown opportunities for improvement. Plenty of useful tools have emerged to make the jobs easier of those higher in the funnel, but the promise of “Big Data” has had little benefit to salespeople. While Marketo and HubSpot have allowed marketing to become data driven, and ToutApp and YesWare have increased the quantity of leads generated by Sales Development teams, most salespeople aren’t applying data to the process of actually closing the deal.
Selling Ground Up
The rise of the “freemium” business model or “tools for the user” in the enterprise has turned the idea of a lead on its head. Companies like Slack offer a basic service free of charge, creating huge awareness and fandom in a company before they ever make a sales call. By offering a free service that targets the end user, they prove their value before any money has exchanged hands. This helps a tool cut through a noisy competitive space and quickly answer the first key question of any buyer – “will this tool be adopted?” By circumventing the ‘adoption’ challenge, companies can skip many difficult questions and go straight to the premium upsell.