As we move rapidly toward the end of 2011, the time has come to start looking ahead at what’s to come next year. In this end-of-year roundtable discussion, we asked some of the top sales minds in the biz to share their predictions for what the world of inside sales might look like for companies in 2012.
What are your predictions for sales trends in 2012?
Anthony Iannarino, President and Chief Sales Officer, SOLUTIONS Staffing
Trend #1: Sales force automation will continue to create opportunities to capture data, and that data will be used to create offerings around predictive modeling. While these offerings aren’t yet mature, they will continue to be adopted so that sales organizations can better predict revenue and client acquisition. The responsibility of the salespeople to capture and record data will increase.
Trend #2: As buying continues to change and evolve, sales organizations are going to continue to work to come up with ways to get in front of the buying cycle. This is why ideas like those captured in The Challenger Sale are, in part, so alluring.
Trend #3: Creating value for clients is more complex and difficult than ever. So sales organizations are going to hire, train, coach, and develop salespeople that look something like a good general manager, with lots of business acumen and situational knowledge to accompany their sales acumen.
Colleen Francis, Founder and President, Engage Selling Solution
Smart sellers will use a combination of written, audio and video testimonials, as well as case studies, interviews and site visits to show their products in live environments being used by real customers to achieve the results desired by prospects.
Jonathan Farrington, Chairman, The JF Corporation
Most observers from across the pond in North America are probably viewing the financial debacle − which the Eurozone is fast becoming − as a “not in my backyard, so not my problem” situation. The reality is that no other economic relationship in the world is as integrated as the transatlantic economy. The E.U. and U.S. economies account together for about half of the entire world GDP and nearly a third of world trade flows. The transatlantic relationship also defines the shape of the global economy as a whole, as either the E.U. or the U.S. is also the largest trade and investment partner for almost all other countries in the global economy.
My personal view is that the total disintegration of the European community is inevitable; eventually, taxpayers in the northern European countries will grow tired of standing by and watching their governments continue to prop up the economies of southern European countries, who they perceive to be lazy and incompetent. They will adopt a far more “selfish” and independent stance, which will put money back into their own economies, increasing investment in their own infrastructures.
This will lead to a “two-tier” Europe, which in turn will cast countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy adrift, leading to potential bankruptcy – and considerable exposure for both American and European banks, who have been lending them money – albeit at extortionate interest rates!
I therefore believe that 2012 should be a time of consolidation and preparation for what’s to come in 2013.
Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter
Salespeople are going to be spending a large amount of time with clients talking about pricing. After several years of companies willingly making discounts to secure sales and putting off price increases, the time has now come to move forward on pricing. Salespeople will have to recondition themselves to learn how to sell without offering a discount and, at the same time, implement a price increase.
Social media will now finally start being called by the name it should be called: business networking. We are now reaching a tipping point with sites such as LinkedIn, where buyers and senior business people are joining the site and actively using it.
LinkedIn is becoming such a powerful tool for business people of all types to network and exchange information, and we will see its use grow even more. Key for salespeople will be to use it to exchange information in which other people will see value. Due to the sheer amount of information on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., the salespeople who think they can use the site to “sell” will be banished quickly from media communities.
Another major trend is one that started to take hold the last several years, and that’s the use of live video to communicate. Salespeople and companies that learn how to leverage live video, whether it’s through GoTo Meeting, Skype or any other number of sites, will have a distinct advantage.
The expanded use of live video is not going to reduce the amount of time salespeople spend traveling. Salespeople will still travel as much as ever; it’s just that now their travel will be even further in length, as traditional sales territories will continue to breakdown with the use of video. A key reason for this is that customers are demanding more and more; they deal only with “subject matter” experts regardless of where they are located.
Rich Chiarello, President, Above the Line, LLC
With the acceleration of internet access and the prowess of the business consumer in 2012, the commercial buyer will complete 25% of the buying process before speaking with a salesperson. Value mapping, top 5 list creation and even reference checking via social media websites and blogs will mean that most vendors will already have had their products positioned into (or out of) the buyers “radar.”
This will have the greatest effect on smaller or startup companies that have not yet become household names. It will mandate a greater coordination between a company’s marketing efforts, its value proposition and its sales team. In many cases, generic marketing messages with a broad appeal will be detrimental in this new age.
Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist, The Bridge Group, Inc.
* Data will become an integral component for predicting the likelihood of inside sales success. No longer will companies buy data from one vendor, but rather they will create a network of data providers to deliver to them the specific information in their target markets. Inside sales reps will rely and be trained on how to use that data to have meaningful conversations with their buyers.
* Marketing measurement will become revenue-focused as opposed to activity-focused. It will be less important to track what comes in at the top of the funnel (TOFU) and much more important to track what makes it to the middle of the funnel (MOFU). It won’t be as much about number of leads as it will be about number of forecast opportunities.
* Effective onboarding will finally be recognized as a critical success factor. The days of “Let’s hire a bunch of college kids and let them go at a list!” are gone. Companies realize that you need to have an effective process with supporting tools in place and you need to train your reps on that process for them to be effective.
* Messaging will continue to evolve from sales-centric to buyer-centric. It is increasingly less important for inside sales reps (ISRs) to understand every nuance of their product and market, and increasingly more important for them to understand a day in the life of their buyers.
* Great content will continue to evolve as the tool of choice for ISRs. Ask an ISR what they want and they will tell you they want meaningful tools that will allow buyers to better understand their company’s unique value proposition. They want content that is interesting, available in a variety of mediums and moves the qualification and sales process forward.
* ISRs will begin to understand the value of personal branding and how it can impact their sales efforts. Social media has leveled the playing field. No longer are thought leaders found only at the top of the organization − they can be found throughout. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin have created an environment where individual sales reps can now showcase their knowledge and value as a partner to their buyers.
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