9 sales trends to look out for in 2018

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9 sales trends to look out for in 2018

With the new year just around the corner, sales professionals need to consider what’s coming next in the world of B2B sales. Propelled by new developments in technology and empirical research, many exciting changes are underway.

In 2018, B2B sales will rely on new channels for both prospecting and internal communication, and predictive analytics will become more important than ever. At the same time, old-fashioned tools such as hands-on training will also play a bigger role.

Here are nine sales trends you can expect to see in 2018:

1. Managers will provide SDRs with more hands-on training.

Companies are increasingly recognizing that poorly trained SDRs cost money. Hiring and training a single SDR costs around $100,000, making high turnover very costly.  A major cause of turnover is that SDRs aren’t adequately trained and supported in their role.

Experts recommend that SDRs should receive around 5-6 hours of one-on-one training per month. The best training activities have a hands-on component, whether that’s role-playing or a manager listening and giving feedback on calls.

Sales training programs often emphasize product training. While product education is critical, SDRs also need to understand buyers and the buying process on a macro level. Reps who can develop a deep understanding of buyers will be better equipped to identify which prospects are viable and which ones just won’t be ready to buy anytime soon.

Moreover, it’s important for new sales professionals to understand the entire B2B sales process so they can work effectively with other team members.

2. Sales collaboration tools will be more prevalent throughout the sales process.

Communication and collaboration tools such as Slack and Basecamp have become standard in the modern workplace, as they centralize information about customers and prospects. There are even sales-specific collaboration tools available, such as Salesmate. Sales departments are revising their internal communications protocols to accommodate these tools.

Major B2B deals require close communication between multiple team members—and bad internal communication can easily kill a deal. If you haven’t already done so, you need to take stock of the tools your team is using and create policies to ensure that communication goes smoothly.

3. Text messaging will become used more for communications with prospects and clients.

Email is still a crucial tool, but it’s becoming less viable as a sales prospecting tool. Less than 25% of sales emails actually get opened, a sobering fact for SDRs who labor over every prospecting email.

But there’s good news: messaging apps are growing in popularity. 71% of consumers in the U.S., U.K., and China use mobile messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, in addition to standard mobile texting. Sales professionals must be able to communicate with customers and prospects effectively on these channels. Using an automated messaging system, sales representatives can send prospects automated reminders about meetings and important deadlines.

New technologies are emerging to help sales professionals manage SMS messaging. Twilio, for example, offers an API that enables customized SMS messaging, including messages with images. The platform is hosted on the cloud, enabling sales professionals to remain in close contact with prospects regardless of location.

4. Video will be used more in both prospecting and client communication.

By making smart use of video prospecting techniques, it’s possible to create a more personalized pitch. Platforms such as Vidyard allow sales representatives to record a personalized video message and then send it out to prospects. That makes a much bigger impact than a standard email or voicemail message.

And video conferencing apps are increasingly being used for initial discovery calls and regular client meetings. Video conferencing is more personal than a phone call, yet less costly than in-person visits.

Being able to build rapport with prospects and nurture existing client relationships without leaving the office is an incredible advantage.

5. Predictive analytics will become more integrated into the sales process.

Predictive analytics and Artificial Intelligence are enabling sales professionals to figure out the likelihood of a deal going through ahead of time. By identifying common factors in past successful deals, these tools can assess the likelihood that a prospect converts. As time goes by, the system refines its algorithms for more accurate predictions.

By integrating predictive analytics into CRM, reps receive suggestions for product recommendations and are thus better able to prioritize and personalize their offers. These tools are rapidly evolving to analyze new types of data. For example, they can provide insight into a prospect’s personality and readiness based on analyses of phone calls and emails. Predictive analytics can actually humanize the sales process as it informs a more tailored approach to communicating with each prospect.

There are a number of predictive analytics tools available on the market. A few leading platforms include InsideSales, InsightSquared, and Crystal.

6. Social media prospecting will be used by more sales teams.

According to Forbes, 78% of sales representatives who use social media outsell peers who don’t use social media. Companies with coordinated social selling strategies consistently out-perform companies who lack such a strategy.

But in 2018, simply being on social media isn’t enough. Now, insights gleaned from social media can be incorporated directly into CRM. Top CRM platforms now integrate fully with social media. Additionally, platforms such as Mattermark and DataFox enable enriched customer databases that help sales representatives learn more relevant information about prospects. There are also new ways to gain insights into buyers that can be used in conjunction with social media. For example, Emissary puts sales professionals in contact with former representatives in targeted accounts.

And social media isn’t just useful for prospecting: in 2008 it will become more common to use social media to monitor competitors and nurture long-term customer relationships.

7. B2B companies will tailor their efforts to the end user (not just the decision maker).

B2B sales processes are starting to resemble B2C as companies increasingly focus on providing end users with a stellar experience.

Although the C-suite is still important, ultimately users play the biggest role in purchasing decisions. Many highly successful B2B companies like Trello and Slack have achieved rapid growth by focusing on user growth. When companies get buy-in from end users, major accounts naturally follow.

Here’s what companies can do to ease the transition:

  • Learn how end users acquire information about B2B products. Utilize a sales and marketing strategy that reaches them where they are.
  • Make sure your sales process works with users’ busy schedules. They don’t necessarily have time to sit through a lengthy sales demonstration, but still want to learn more about your products.
  • Prospects will be researching you across multiple devices. Your technology should provide them with a seamless omnichannel experience.
  • Find brand ambassadors. As with B2C products, recommendations from peers can generate business.

8. Account-based selling will continue to grow.

In 2017 Account Based Sales grew in popularity, but in 2018 we are reaching a point where ABS will be the norm. New technologies make it easy to identify key decision-makers within target accounts, and by strategically reaching out to those decision-makers, sales representatives can position themselves to land major deals.

ABS goes hand-in-hand with ABM (account-based marketing), so your team may need to reframe its relationship to the marketing department. Closer alignment between sales and marketing can help both teams enjoy greater success.

New tools like Engagio, created by the co-founder of Marketo, enable companies to succeed with ABM and ABS. These platforms, which integrate with CRM and marketing automation platforms, make it easier for sales and marketing to measure prospect engagement, which may be otherwise especially tricky when multiple decision-makers are involved.

9. Automation will be important to the sales process—but won’t replace the human touch.

Advances in automation have helped sales reps, but often at a cost. Personal contact can make all of the difference in business decisions. In fact, as competitors increasingly focus on automation, a reputation for stellar, personal service can help your organization to stand out.

Generally, the more expensive the product, the more human contact is necessary to make the sale.

To serve your customers’ need for human contact, you need to make it easy for them to contact you. Chatbots are great and can be useful for the initial stages of the sales process, but make sure that customers can connect with a real human being at the click of a button. Those one-on-one conversations are still where the real magic happens.

Technology should serve to augment understanding of your prospects, rather than replace it. Automating tedious processes offers many advantages, but fundamental sales skills such as effective listening and communication remain paramount even as these sales technologies accumulate.

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