2013 Make-or-Break Sales Predictions from the Top Sales Influencers Online

The most influential sales leaders on the Web weigh in with 2013 B2B sales predictions you can’t afford to miss.

It’s a new year and that means it’s predictions time. We turned to the experts who made our Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012 to ask them what trends will make the biggest waves this year. Will they wreak havoc on your business or will you be ahead of the game?

Are the experts spot-on or off-target? Don’t forget to add your own prediction below!

Content Marketing & Thought Leadership

Sales Team Shake-Ups: Fewer Field Reps, More Inside Sales

Aligning Content & Ongoing Conversation Is Key

2012 has seen a great deal of focus from marketing departments on creating content that seeks to establish thought leadership. I believe that 2013 will be the year in which these investments in marketing messages are backed by similar investments in equipping the sales team to shape the subsequent conversation.

Content and conversation need to be joined at the hip, and sales and marketing leaders need to work together more closely than ever to achieve this.

Bob Apollo, Founder and Chief Strategist at Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners. Connect with him on Twitter @bobapollo.

Successful Salespeople Will Position Themselves as People of Value

If you’ve been thinking that sales has become more challenging, you’re right. The basics are pretty much the same, but today’s business environment is more dynamic than ever. The competition is bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter than ever, and your clients are more educated, as well. They are searching for information by themselves, and looking to salespeople not to show them different marketing materials and list features and benefits, but to understand their wants, needs, and business concerns from the customers’ perspective.

It is time to use an approach tailored to this new market, and for that you need a new skill set that combines sales skills, persuasion, psychology and magic of NLP.

Stand out from the crowd and position yourself differently in the minds of your customers. Show them you are not just another sales rep, but rather a person of value – someone who understands their situation and can help their whole business. Connect with your clients on a different level. Elicit their criteria, match their needs and wants, and create long term relationships.

Alen Mayer is the author of Selling Is Better Than Sex and Trigger Events or How to Find Your Next Customer. Connect with him on Twitter @mayeralen.

Point: Buyers Will Control the Prospecting Process

Engaging with sellers will start with the buyer seeking solutions to challenges and engaging with companies that they find enticing. As a result, sellers will need to develop skills that transform them into objects of interests, or thought leaders that other seek out.

Cold calling and prospecting skills will be less important than writing, speaking, networking and conversational skills as buyers are looking to engage with a short list of personally selected companies (and their sellers) who can challenge assumptions and deliver unique solutions. To effectively sell in this environment sellers home their client attraction activities and reduce spending time perfecting their cold calling scripts.

Colleen Francis is founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions. Connect with her on Twitter @CFrancisVoice.

Counterpoint: Inbound Marketing Won’t Replace Traditional Prospecting

I predict there will be a returned focus to traditional prospecting efforts and the expectation that salespeople will proactively self-generate their own leads.

Reality is sinking in that inbound marketing is not a perfect panacea and sales teams will be forced to deal with the fact that they must create their own opportunities to succeed developing new business. Senior executives will lose patience with lack of results and the excuse that “targeting and pursuing prospects that are not coming to you is a waste of time.”

Be prepared to prospect for new business or be replaced by someone who will.

Mike Weinberg, bestselling author and founder of The New Sales Coach. Follow him on Twitter @mike_weinberg.

Say Goodbye to the Road Warriors

I predict road warriors – those sales professionals who spend two to three weeks of the month traveling to make sales calls – will be reduced and replaced by inside sales.

Here’s why:

  • Hotels, flights, and fuel costs continue to skyrocket.
  • Professionals are busier than ever and don’t have time for face-to-face sales calls.
  • The same results can be accomplished online or on the phone at a fraction of the cost of an in-person meeting.

If face-to-face interaction does occur, it will be at close or after the sale.

Brian Carroll is the executive director of applied research at MECLABS and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. Follow on Twitter: @brianjcarroll.

Sales (As We Know It) Is Dead

B2B sales ranks are shrinking and will shrink faster in 2013. Inside sales and marketing are growing and that trend will speed up in 2013.

In the new self-service world, buyers no longer need salespeople to educate them. Websites have become incredibly robust. Buyers are armed with tablets and smartphones. Wi-fi everywhere means instant access to information any time day or night. That has huge implication on B2B sales.

This trend was borne out by two questions Gerhard Geschwander asked at a Sales conference.

  1. “How many here have made a purchase from Amazon.com in the last 6 months?” (Every hand went up.)
  2. “How many of you have ever spoken to an Amazon.com salesperson?” (Zero hands went up.)

In this new world, marketing needs rise above the din and earn trust. Companies will invest much more in marketing in 2013. Inside sales will work the phones and build relationships. There is almost no role left for B2B sales.

Jeff Ogden is the president of Find New Customers. He writes for the popular blog Fearless Competitor and hosts the B2B marketing show Marketing Made Simple TV. Follow on Twitter: @fearlesscomp.

No Room for Dead Weight: Focus on Grooming Sales Talent with Promise

Given the revenue pressures that companies face, executives will be faster to let subpar performers go and slower to bring new salespeople on. Between those two relationship milestones, sales talent development will become a focus in the forms of both onboarding and coaching.

Lee Salz is a leading Sales Management Strategist and founder of Sales Architects. Connect with him on Twitter @SalesArchitects.

Increased Investment in Recruiting & Retention

At The Steel Method we’re predicting an increase in spending in 2013, with a significant portion of that being invested in recruiting and retention for proven performers. In other words, it stands to be a good year for headhunters.

We also expect to see more salespeople turning to social media and industry forums to engage prospects, build trust, and close deals by leveraging their industry expertise. At the same time, we’re predicting a return to good old fashioned telephone prospecting — email will continue to become less effective due to overuse.

David Steel manages the Steel on Sales blog and author of the popular book (now a free eBook) The Care and Feeding of Highly Aggressive Sales People. Connect with on Twitter @dsteel.

Marketing Automation Becomes a Necessity

Time to Get Personal with Lead Nurturing

One of the most important things companies must do in 2013 is to create lead generation campaigns that are personally tailored to, and nurture, their target segments. There are more people utilizing Internet-centric marketing vehicles than ever before. You can no longer expect to be heard above the noise without a nurturing approach that integrates digital, collaborative, and personal activities and distinguishes you with your target prospects.

Kendra Lee is president of KLA Group and author of The Sales Magnet: How to Get More Customers Without Cold Calling. Connect with her on Twitter @KendraLeeKLA.

Touch Points, Touch Points, Touch Points

One big trend is the use of marketing automation to help drive more sales-ready leads and assist sales in closing more business. Done right, marketing-automation-driven emails can appear to have come from the individual reps or resellers who are responsible for each prospective customer. It can be used to generate, nurture, and qualify leads, as well as to accelerate sales by “selling” alongside sales (It’s like 1+1=3!). It can also be used to help cement the sale (ex: automatic thank you emails), or to cross-sell, up-sell, or resell existing customers.

Another developing trend is compensating the folks in marketing in a similar fashion to how salespeople are compensated. If marketers generate enough sales-accepted leads, or if they help the sales team exceed its quota, then the marketers earn more money.

Mac McIntosh specializes in B2B sales lead management consulting. Connect with him on Twitter @B2B_Sales_Leads.

The Days of Manually Dialing Are Over

Click to call is a must have. Combine that with local presence technology whereby every dial appears as a local number to the recipient and watch the number of conversations your reps have sky rocket! Remember, it is not about the number of dials your reps make or the number of emails they send — it is all about the conversations.

Trish Bertuzzi is founder of The Bridge Group and a frequent contributor to the company’s Inside Sales Experts Blog. Connect with her on Twitter @bridgegroupinc.

Next Page: Selling Gets Social

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SVP Marketing & Sales

  • This is a thought-provoking piece and I’m pleased to have been a part of it. When I read through it, I thought how it could be a great read for sales leaders and company leaders to pick up one new angle or idea – or to reinforce the direction they are heading this year. If one company leader gains one insight that helps shape new revenue growth – it has served its purpose.

  • The trend away from field sales to inside sales suggests 2013 will see increased invesstment in technology to reduce time sales reps spend in low value activities, improve lead quality and increase yields from phone conversations.

  • Ray Collis

    At Buyer Insights .com we are confidently predicting that 2013 will be a great year for those on the opposite side of the table – the procurement team. Indeed it may be their best year yet! That is clearly good news for buyers, but it presents opportunities for sellers too. Our analysis can be found here: http://buyer.sellerinsights.com/2012/12/28/procurements-best-year-yet/

  • Ray Collis

    At Buyer Insights .com we are confidently predicting that 2013 will be a great year for those on the opposite side of the table – the procurement/buying team. Indeed it may be their best year yet! That is clearly good news for buyers, but it presents opportunities for sellers too. Our analysis can be found here: http://buyer.sellerinsights.com/2012/12/28/procurements-best-year-yet/

  • Jon Ferrara

    Brian

    Great #SocialSelling tips from some smart friends of mine. The old ways of sales engagement is shifting under our feet and the companies that adjust now to the new ways of Social Business will be at a distinct advantage.

    I continue to be impressed the OpenView Partners Team. Your website is a virtual honeypot of knowledge for entrepreneurs. I also like that the content is contributed to by the whole OpenView team including the front and back office people at your company, which is critical for being a social business. Future social businesses will need to educate & inspire it’s prospects and customers by practicing the 5 E’s of social business; Educate, Enchant, Engage, Embrace and Empower their customers.

    OpenView is a great model of how a VC or for that matter, any business should be engaging with it’s community.

    Cheers

    Jon

    Jon Ferrara
    CEO | Nimble – Social Relationships, Made Easy.
    @jon_ferrara | http://www.nimble.com

  • Hank

    I am fully aligned here, however how do you see this movement in B2B when selling to professionals through distribution (electrical wholesalers in my business)?
    Will distribution loose its value/role, since we all might ship direct or have amazon distribute our goods