Editor”s Note: Believe it or not, we are closing the curtain and sweeping up the stage after yet another year! We’ve seen many advances and surprises in Sales in 2014—but judging by the predictions of our panel of experts, next year promises to bring some more unexpected drama to the Sales landscape. Here”s what our friends and blog contributors—some of the best minds in the business—have to say about next year’s production!
Barbara Giamanco: Social Selling Tactics Will Become Integral to Sales Process
“Social selling will be viewed for what it is – a set of tactics that should be integrated into a sellers sales process, but doesn’t stand apart from selling in general. Rather than the use of social for selling being pushed up from within the sales ranks, I think sales leaders will start driving the adoption from a more strategic and holistic point of view. In other words, as sales leaders craft their salesforce strategies, the use of social – the how and what to do, plus what will be measured – will become part of a focused plan. I also predict that sales leaders will start to put more investment in training their sales teams to use social tools correctly to avoid the inevitable mistakes currently happening. Right now, many sellers are often left floundering around on their own.”
A leading Social Selling author, speaker, and advisor, Barbara Giamanco understands the challenges that sales leaders and individual contributors face because she”s walked that beat herself. She has managed corporate sales teams, and has exceeded quotas in selling to multiple customer types: enterprise, small medium business, distributors, retailers, and channel partner customers. In the past 10 years Barbara has focused on the application of social to sales and business processes, and her company, Social Centered Selling, was recognized by Triblio as one the top Social Selling training companies in the United States. Barbara’s Blog
Mike Weinberg: The Air Will Go Out of the Social Selling Balloon
“In 2015 the air will finally and thankfully leak out of the Social Selling balloon. The loud, shrill voices boldly proclaiming that everything has changed will be drowned out as sales executives and sales teams come to realize that there is no magic bullet and everything has not changed. And please don”t read what I am not writing. Social tools and methods are wonderful additions to our traditional prospecting and selling weapons. I”m as big a fan as anyone of using all means possible to build relationships and connect with prospective customers early in the process. But social selling is a supplement to, not replacement for the proven approaches and behaviors that top-producing salespeople have used for years.”
Mike is a consultant, coach, speaker and Amazon #1 bestselling author of New Sales. Simplified: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development. He was named a Forbes /KiteDesk Top 30 Social Sales Influencer for 2014, a Top 25 Sales Influencer for three consecutive years by both OpenView Labs. His blog was named a Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blog for 2014 by Top Sales World, and can be found here. Mike’s Blog
Kurt Shaver: Salespeople Will Systematically Share Social Content
“My prediction is that systematic social content sharing by salespeople will become as common as social prospecting is now. Admittedly, that is not a new concept, but there are still very few companies that have a closed-loop social content sharing system. By “closed-loop”, I mean one where Marketing distributes content to sales people to pass onto their individual social networks. Then Marketing measures the responses and ties them back into the company’s lead generation tracking system. That way social activity can be tied to directly to revenue for true Social Selling ROI. Imagine following a $1M deal back all the way back to a Tweet. That’s makes each of the 140 characters worth $7,142.86 each!”
Founder of consultancy group The Sales Foundry, Kurt is a former Silicon Valley VP of Sales who became a Social Selling speaker/trainer in 2011. Social Selling business intelligence pioneer InsideView named Kurt as “2013 Top Sales Influencer.” Kurt’s sales leadership experience includes building sales teams at a number of fast growth companies – where his teams averaged between 22%-43% annual growth between 2001-2007. Kurt’s Blog
Jonathan Farrington: Will You Make the Most of Your Customer Base in 2015?
“I feel certain that most of my colleagues and fellow commentators will be making predictions about the continuing growth of social media (social selling) or the mass migration from outside sales to inside sales, or even maybe the dramatic transformation from so called sales solutions to “commodity” sales – using the Amazon model as a prime example. But I guess my prediction for 2015 is probably more of a wish.
We could all be forgiven for thinking that the most critical sales function is new business identification – but in fact there are three significant phases, and it is my belief that the majority of commercial organizations globally are pretty good at the first, very average at the second, and quite negligent at the third.
Phase One: Business Generation. This is lead generation, cold calling, email marketing, social media use, referral selling, prospect attraction – in fact all the activities that produce new opportunities to continually fill up that funnel. Here, we are developing suspects into qualified prospects.
The middle part of our sandwich is effectively “opportunity management” – but for the purpose of this exercise we will call it …
Phase Two: Business Management. So, competitive profiling, qualification, presentation, proposal preparation (even major bid preparation) negotiation, closing, etc.
Phase Three: Business Development. Our final category is account management and development, which is where most companies are weakest. In their desperate pursuit and focus on generating new opportunities, 80% of organizations neglect their existing clients, despite the fact that there are so many incremental opportunities just waiting to be harvested. Unfortunately, when compared over time, the customer’s interest levels increase while salespeople’s interest levels tend to decrease. This creates a “relationship gap” and is due entirely to complacency.
Fact: It now costs fifteen times as much to locate and sell to a new customer, as it does to an existing one.
So my question to frontline sales professionals and their managers is: “Will you make the very most of your customer base in 2015?”
Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, keynote speaker and sales thought leader. He is the Senior Partner of Jonathan Farrington & Associates, and CEO of Top Sales World, based in London & Paris. Jonathan is also the co-editor of Top Sales Magazine. Jonathan”s Award-Winning Blog
Mike Kunkle: Progressive Thought Leaders Will Focus on Growth, Alignment, and Buyer Experience
“I predict that in 2015, those leading the way with sales performance won”t talking as much about the most-often heard-about and blogged sales topics, or the standard things we talk about so much now. I believe the progressive, thought leaders will be focused on these themes:
- value creation
- buyer experience
- execution excellence (change)
And these practices:
- growth strategy alignment
- customer focus with better conversations and value creation
- predictive analytics applied to sales process and methodology
- real alignment of sales and marketing with lead-gen and account development
- figuring out insight selling and social selling, in more practical ways
- applying innovative thinking and best practices to sales selection and onboarding
- better execution of change initiatives”
Mike is a Sales Transformation Leader specializing in sales training, sales Enablement and sales effectiveness. Just a few of his accomplishments include achievement of an accretive revenue increase of $398MM in 1 year, a group of newly-trained sales reps with 120 days on the job outperforming a control group of reps with 5 years with the company, and in increasing of sales per rep by 47% in 9 months. Mike’s Blog
Kyle Porter: 2015 Will Be About Specialization
“In 2015, sales leaders will increasingly recognize the importance of specialization within their organizations. The benefits of breaking up sales into prospectors and closers are just too strong for businesses to avoid it and the convention of the “sales development rep” (SDR) will emerge as the most popular title for the prospecting role.
As the percentage of millennials continues to grow in our sales organizations, the role of the internet will play a bigger factor. Email, phone calls, social touches, CRM logging, and prospect list building will all be significantly improved by chrome extensions and in-browser web applications.
Conclusion: Salespeople specialized the internet will help change the landscape of the 2015 sales world.”
An entrepreneur and sales professional for over a decade, Kyle is today the CEO and co-founder of sales software developer SalesLoft. He is also the co-founder of B2BCamp, a non-profit teaching technology and process to B2B sales & marketing professionals. Kyle’s Blog
Barbara Giamanco: Resource Allocation Will Be a Key Part of the Sales Toolkit
“The momentum of shifting resources from outside sales to inside sales teams will continue. I think sales leaders will still face today’s challenge – hiring the right people with the right skills for an inside sales role. Inside sellers need to rely much more heavily on technology than their field sales counterparts are used to. Prowess and proficiency in researching and engaging prospects and customers via multiple channels: phone, social CRM, social media, texting, webinars or video hang-outs are not optional skills. These are required for the modern day sales playbook and toolkit.“
Dave Brock: Get Ready to See Things Morph, But Let’s Talk About Execution!
“I’ve been asked to outline my predictions for “new and notable” things happening in sales in 2015. When asked to do this, I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Every year we see the same thing over and over again, perhaps we put a veneer using new words. For example social media has morphed into social selling, which may morph into something else. The things we will be talking about will largely be the same, with a heavy technology influence. No doubt new technologies help improve our efficiency. Some in the analytics space have the potential of improving our effectiveness.
But we will continue to have conversations around marketing/sales integration or collaboration. Prospecting and finding new opportunities will continue to be huge. We will continue to talk about sales processes and methodologies. We will talk about metrics, then tied to that incentives/compensation. We’ll wrap words like gamification around these concepts. We’ll talk a lot about leveraging the web and new tools to research and be better prepared, but too many won’t be using those tools. We will talk recruiting, hiring, assessments, onboarding—that’s always important. We’ll talk about new skills that are really not so new but may have new names. We’ll look at business acumen, industry/customer knowledge, financial knowledge, problem solving, collaboration. And as always, how we win more deals, how we keep our pipelines healthy, how we maximize performance. Finally, we will talk a lot about the customer, their experience, their buying process, but we’ll probably continue to pitch and peddle.
So the issues will be the same, some of the discussions will move forward, appropriately, because technology will help us. The one thing I never hear much discussion about is execution. I wonder if we are missing something?”
President of Partners in EXCELLENCE, Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He has worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with many of today”s leading corporations. As a consultant, Dave is recognized as a thought leader in sales and marketing, new product introductions, and strategic partnering. Dave’s Blog
Jill Konrath: Learning Agility Will Emerge As the New Skill
“With constant change as the new norm, learning agility emerges as the crucial skill. Forward-thinking sales organizations will recognize its importance in on-boarding new hires, shortening the path to proficiency, adapting to changing conditions, launching new product/services and overall salesforce productivity.
- Screening for agility in the hiring process.
- Focusing on developing an agile sales culture.
- Coaching reps on rapid learning skills and “getting better” mindset.
Those sales organizations who embrace this trend early on will dominate their marketplace.”
A leading sales strategist and speaker, Jill is the author of the bestselling books Selling to Big Companies and SNAP Selling. She is an internationally recognized expert who is known for her fresh sales strategies and game-changing approaches. Jill’s Blog
Barbara Giamanco: An Increased Emphasis on Sales Basics
“I’d like to think that in 2015, greater emphasis will be placed on the importance of sales basics, which means putting more investment into training new hires and keeping the sales skills fresh for all team members on an ongoing basis. Like it or not, buyer behavior necessitates the need for salespeople to approach selling differently. At the same time, many of the basics of good selling are slipping. Consultative sellers who are business savvy, understand their prospect’s world, ask the right questions, listen well, communicate their message articulately and bring problem solving skills to the table will win the deals. The only thing more costly than investing in training your people is what happens when you don’t!”
Mike Schultz: Sales Education Will Grow Up
“In 2015, we’ll see sales education grow up. Leaders at companies realize more than ever they need their sellers to be the best, most focused, most effective professionals they can be. The focus on professional development for both full-time sellers and seller-doers has been strengthening for years. In 2015, we’ll see more companies establishing thoughtful systems of seller education, development, and coaching built to unleash their sellers’ potential.”
Co-President of RAIN Group, Mike is world-renowned as a consultant and sales expert. He is co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Rainmaking Conversations: How to Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation (Wiley, 2011) and Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently (Wiley, 2014), and was named the Top Sales Thought Leader globally in 2011 by Top Sales Awards. Mike”s blog
Changes in Buyer Behavior
Tom Searcy: Continuing Acceleration of Recent Sales Trends
“The year 2015 will continue the accelerating trends in selling that have been coming for some time. These include:
- Increased attempts by buying companies to control their own buyers through company policies and Procurement and Purchasing guidelines. These guidelines will mean more not less RFPs, RFQs, Vendor Qualification processes and so on.
- Companies will ease some of their default “keep it with the current provider” positions as they seek ways to develop newer advantages and do more than threaten current providers with competition for price reductions. That having been said, incumbents have an 88% win rate in competitive contract challenge processes, so there is a long way to fall for those incumbents before it is a fair fight for companies trying to take business from entrenched incumbents.
- Connecting with executive decision-makers will still be the number one problem for sales personnel in the marketplace, trumping even price challenges in the area of securing new business.
- Pent up demand for new solutions will increase the market opportunities in general
- The increased number of participants in the buyer’s organization in the buying process, (the number of personnel involved in the process has doubled in the past seven years), will continue and even increase
Growth will occur in general revenues for selling organizations in the next year, but these will be caused more by economic opportunities than by taking market share through winning business away from entrenched incumbents. Only those companies who have a strategic process for disrupting their market’s approach to solving problems will win audiences with executives and take business. Incremental improvements in performance will not be enough.”
Tom is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and a foremost expert in large account sales. He is the CEO and Founder of Hunt Big Sales, a fast-growth consultancy and thought leadership organization. With Searcy’s systems, Hunt Big Sales clients have landed more than $7.5 billion in new sales with 190 of the Fortune 500 companies. Tom has also written for Forbes, Money Watch, and Inc. Tom’s Blog
Barbara Giamanco: More Attention to Sales and Marketing Alignment
“Sales and marketing will align more tightly around their social strategy. In particular, I think the leaders in both camps will evaluate and monitor more closely the messages being used in sales activities. At the moment, I don’t believe there is enough oversight in this area. I predict that sales leaders will start understanding that boilerplate sales pitches are having a negative effect (rather than positive one) on the ability to generate sales opportunities.”
John Doerr: We’ll Be Driven By the New Buyer’s Behavior and Choices
“No longer can we say: sales is from Mars and marketing from Venus, and accept that as just the way it is. The buyer has information about their choices from everywhere. Buyers want new and meaningful ideas from salespeople. Only by providing these “insights” can they get the opportunity to show how they are the best choice. Sales cannot do this alone. Marketing must step up now more than ever to provide the support in developing the insights that sales can then deliver. In 2015, the planets will start to align.”
John is the Co-President of leading business consulting organization RAIN Group. He draws upon an extensive career in business leadership which has included senior executive management, business development and marketing, and product and service development. Co-author of the Wall Street Journal and Inc. Magazine bestseller Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation (Wiley, 2011) and Professional Services Marketing, second edition (Wiley, 2013), John was named the Top Sales Thought Leader in 2011 by Top Sales Awards. John”s blog
Barbara Giamanco: Tools Will Be More Aligned with the Sales Process
“On the technology front, I think new tools will keep cropping up, but I predict that sales leaders will expect more seamless integration of tools to support their sales process, industry and customer type. When this happens, I believe that salespeople will spend more time selling versus using technology. Fred Studer, Microsoft Dynamics CRM GM noted recently that sellers spend 22% – or less – of their time actually selling. More technology is not the answer. Better alignment of the right technology with the salesforce’s business processes is what’s needed.”