Well, 2017 is moving along at a fast clip, and hopefully you are meeting your sales goals thus far. If not, there is still plenty of time to make some adjustments. To that end, I’ve noticed a few emerging trends in B2B sales, and I thought providing a top 10 list would be beneficial for those tweaking their plans for the rest of the year.
The best sales training seminars are already addressing some of the points, as are forward thinking executives and managers. Let’s get to them!
1. Salespeople selling undifferentiated commodities are being replaced by on-line sales. This trend is also affecting many distributors.
How to leverage: Amplify your online presence. Invest in content marketing, social media marketing, and in producing a superior, personalized customer experience across any device they might use to visit your website. Are you fully optimized for mobile yet?
2. Differentiation of product/service offerings using Simon Sinek’s “Why” technique is increasing in importance as prospects are considering more sales as commodities.
How to leverage: Why do you do what you do? Why does your company make the product or deliver the service? Simon Sinek advises to figure this out and deliver this message when selling, to appeal to the emotional part of the brain rather than the rational one. In this way, you will differentiate your offering from others and avoid becoming commoditized.
3. For the rest of the sales based on overall value (buyer wants good quality, reasonable price and good follow on service), the salespeople using a consultative approach are winning sales. Sales skills training has become more important.
How to leverage: After identifying the best among your talent pool using the APQ sales aptitude assessment, send your salespeople for the best sales training seminars which teach the consultative process that you can afford.
4. The salespeople schooled in the “Challenger Sale” technique (using technology) are winning business from the traditional relationship salespeople who depend on their personal relationship with the buyer to maintain their position.
How to Leverage: First, read the book. Then, adopt a sales approach where you know so much about the prospect’s business that you can challenge them and prompt them to act. You earn this right by providing a lot of value during the buying experience and providing innovative solutions. How you sell becomes part of your worth. The best sales training seminars teach a consultative approach that employs challenger tactics.
5. Sales cycle times are getting longer because of the growing complexity and/ or size of products/service offerings, the need for more customized sales solutions and more decision makers being involved in the decision process.
How to leverage: Research and focus on only the best possible prospects, so your win rate is higher despite the longer runway to the close. See the next point for how.
6. Qualification of prospects has become more important. Since sales cycle times are longer, sellers can no longer spend time on leads that are not highly qualified.
How to leverage: Adopt an ABM approach where you target only the top prospects who are likeliest to close and provide the best ROI. Invest in technology to identify these accounts, track when they visit your website, and display buying intent. Provide an automated, customized experience which triggers appropriate action to move them towards the next step in the process. You will spend time on the best of the best and shorten your buying time.
7. Subject matter experts (SME) have become the real rainmakers in highly technical sales. Executives would rather deal with an SME with deep expertise than a salesperson whose mission is to sell them something.
How to leverage: Send your SMEs who display some sales aptitude to the best sales training seminars. While they likely won’t become sales superstars (as many engineers/tech people are characteristically poor at selling), they will perform better when speaking with the prospect – especially when paired with an experienced salesperson as a partner while delivering the pitch.
8. Marketing is taking over the first third of the sales cycle. Six integrated marketing techniques are being used to develop qualified leads for salespeople (inbound and outbound digital marketing, blogs, social media campaigns, content rich websites, marketing automation and CRM). The output is qualified leads for salespeople.
How to leverage: Hold marketing and the sales department accountable for revenue and sales velocity equally. This ensures they are working towards the same goal. MQLs are no longer the key metric for marketing teams – revenue is. You might experience some pushback from the old-school crowd, but many forward thinking people agree the traditional divisions between marketing and sales are becoming obsolete.
9. Sales and content marketing are becoming integrated. The content on websites needs to be robust to keep the customer engaged and educated such that they want to contact a salesperson.
How to leverage: Ramp up your content and take no shortcuts. Rather, expand your efforts towards developing different types and better quality content. The value of content marketing is not going away, so develop a content marketing plan with KPIs and editorial calendar. Hire experts to produce it if you don’t have resources in house.
10. As consultative selling has become more important, the sales aptitude of the people doing the selling has increased in importance. The “get the right people on the (sales) bus” adage based on natural talent has increased in importance.
How to leverage: Offload or reassign sales people who test poorly on the APQ sales aptitude test for their current role. Don’t monkey around with this, because having just one poor salesperson on your staff can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted training and lost opportunities. Test everyone currently on staff plus all potential hires, and use the coaching tools which come with each APQ report to address areas of weakness.
Now is an excellent time to be in B2B sales. Despite the complexity of this changing world, we have so much technology to help us navigate and profit from it. May the rest of 2017 (and beyond) be fabulously successful for you! If you need help in revitalizing your sales force with the best sales training seminars and coaching, please reach out.