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