At the end of 2014, I put together a blog post on my predictions for 2015 and talked about how marketing automation was going to continue to move upstream and take over more and more of the value sales reps provide in the sales process. I went into more detail with a follow-up post titled Death of the Average Sales rep. For 2016, I don’t see this trend slowing down in any way. As a matter of fact, I see it accelerating even faster.
Consolidation of Sales Tools
It seems like there is a new sales enablement / automation tool coming out every day at this point. It’s almost impossible to keep them all straight or understand which one fits at which stage of the sales process and how they work together without overlapping and getting in each other’s way. My prediction (and hope) is that in 2016 we’re going to start to see some consolidation of these tools and more holistic solutions instead of point solutions. I’m not sure if this will be accomplished more through acquisition or by some of these companies evolving their solutions themselves. My gut tells me it’s going to be more of the latter and by the end of 2016 there will be a few players who have evolved to the point of having a more complete solution. Then in 2017 I think we’ll start to see the acquisition and IPO market heat up for some of the larger ones.
Further Automation of Sales Processes
With this evolution of these sales tools along with the continued evolution of the marketing automation tools we’re going to see even more and more automation of the sales process. I read an article posted by Salesforlife where they talked about how a large portion of the sales process will be automated by 2020. A lot of people are probably going to hate me for this prediction but I think the SDR role (the one that only deals with inbound leads) is going to turn into a salaried position by 2020 and will be considered more of a customer service role than a sales role. The reason I say this is because Marketing automation is just going to get better and more targeted which is going to lead to higher quality inbound leads from people who know more about what they want than ever. As a former VP of Sales I don’t understand why I would spend so much money investing in one of those tools, hire someone or a team of people to manage it, optimize the hell out of it to drive high quality leads and then pay commission to a rep who probably knows less about the product than the client does and is just there to ask “how many would you like?” It doesn’t make much sense to me.
AI, Predictive Analytics & Profiling Impact Sales
The last prediction I’ll throw out is how we’re going to start to see Artificial Intelligence, Predictive Analytics and profiling have a significant impact on our lives and on Sales. There is some cool albeit scary stuff going on in these areas right now. When you have people like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates warning us about Artificial Intelligence we might want to start paying attention. Are you seeing those IBM/Watson commercials? Yup, that thing is getting scary smart. Did anyone read the article about Tesla drivers and how all of a sudden drivers woke up one day with an automated driving feature installed? I guarantee within 2 years you’re next Uber ride will be from a driverless car. With Predictive Analytics I’m starting to see tools that are looking at your pipeline and proactively identify deals that are in danger and providing recommendations on what to do. Profiling is going to a whole new level with tools like Crystal where you don’t even need someone to answer questions any more to help figure out how they like to be communicate with. All this stuff is just going to get more and more integrated into our daily lives and impact everything we do, including sales.
The question we need to continue to ask ourselves is “what can we do that a computer can’t?” It’s getting harder and harder to answer that question but more and more important. For those of you who are still blasting out template e-mails, making generic cold calls, trying to hit 50+ dials a day, asking basic BANT questions, pressing play on demos and simply going through the motions with Sales….good luck.
Evolve or die. Make it happen!