Sales of the future: where is the industry going?

By Pascal Salasca - December 11, 2019

At Goalplan, we think a lot about modernizing the sales process, trends in sales, and meeting changing consumer expectations. When we discuss digitalizing the sales performance management process, and how sales organizations can be more effective, efficient, and engaging, we often think about how these relate to the future of our industry.

From Enterprise SaaS companies to brick-and-mortar-retailers, we are all finding the same to be true: we need to adapt to impending changes, or we won't live to see the future. And more crucially, we need to have the platform and support in place to ensure that we have the necessary foundation that allows us to be agile. So in considering all this, where is the sales industry going?

1. Sales enablement isn't enough

For the past couple of years, sales enablement has been one of the hot buzzwords and necessary new tech implementations for any type of sales organization. Sure, it allows salespeople to be better equipped with the right tools and resources for the sales process, but it isn't the be-all, end-all solution. That's because to utilize a tool such as sales enablement, you need to do so with a strategy.

What we're finding in 2019 and beyond is that having sales enablement isn't enough. You need to have real playbooks for using it effectively. But we'd also suggest taking it one step farther. Because sales enablement is great, but understanding how sales enablement actually affects performance and end results through real-time data analysis, process management, employee engagement, and learning and development is what the sales of the future is all about. Once you have clear understandings of the different parts away from silos, you can actually use sales enablement software in the most effective way.

2. Machine learning and AI

Articles, stories, party conversations all seem to be about a particular topic these days: machine learning and AI. And while you may already feel fatigued hearing about the implications of what automation and "robots" may do to our society, it really is time to pay close attention.

When it comes to sales and sales tools, machine learning and AI can be huge differentiating factors in our abilities to identify, understand, and service our customers and prospects. If we leverage the power of these new tools, we can be much better at not just collecting the enormous amounts of data we now have access too, but also understanding, processing, and actually utilizing it.

Where before, it took an enormous amount of time and effort to see patterns in how employee performance and changes in behavior impacted sales, we now have programs that work for us to identify opportunities, improve our systems, simplify and clarify the daily decision making, and help us to be the best organizations we can be.

3. Changing the view on KPIs

Basically since the beginning of time, sales has been about volume. More connections means more sales which means more revenue. With this model, we often focus on volume: how many customers can we get through the door, how many prospects can we get on the phone, how many fliers can we stuff into mailboxes, how many emails can we send. High numbers were often viewed as the indicator for success.

But sales of the future means quality over quantity. It doesn't matter if one million people visit our websites, if we only make 100 sales. Our priorities in sales are shifting, and so should the data points that we care most about.

What are the most important KPIs for modern sales organizations? While typically we look at average purchase values, conversion rates, and the like, today we need to also add metrics regarding performance of sales people at a detailed level. When we can do this, we are then able to truly understand inside and out what behaviors, activites, and KPIs are actually driving sales performance in the right direction. When we start to prioritize customer and "people performance" metrics together, we can find that the way we conduct sales changes immensely.

4. Focus on personalization and creating positive experiences

When we spend less time on just trying to talk to as many new people as possible, and instead on providing quality experiences, we are much more likely to be engaged and connected with our customers. Just as employees don't want to feel like a "number" to their managers, customers don't want to feel like a means to and end for salespeople.

That's why developing the skillsets of sales staff and leaders needs to be a continuous and ongoing effort. When we can better learn how to provide great experiences to our prospects and customers, we can be much more likely to capture their attention - and their business.

By using the right tools (like sales enablement, sales performance management, CRMs, loyalty and membership programs, AI for product recommendations, NPS and eNPS scores, the list goes on...) we can more easily provide those great experiences and be continuously improving to meet customers where they want and expect us.

5. Everyone sells a service

Similarly, there is a shift in the business and sales mindset that is going to shape the future of the industry tremendously: Even if you make your profits from selling a product, the reality is that now every business in actuality sells a service.

Your sales staff must adapt to this change in mindset. They are no longer simply selling an electronic to an average person, they are selling the experience of their expertise and knowledge, advice-giving, security of quality and satisfaction, and inclusion in a user community.

This can be a tall order for some, but with the right company values and environment, leadership that is supportive and pro-active, and tools for understanding how sales operational performance, as well as individual sales people, can better match with customer needs, any organization can become service-minded.

Sales of the future is a lot about digitalization of our processes, and how we can be the most effective in securing revenue. But at the end of the day, it comes down to truly being agile, changing our perspectives on performance, and ensuring we are prepared to meet customer demands through creating an organizational foundation that consists of the right tools, data insights, and employee engagement.

Want to learn more about the future of sales? Download our E-book, Sales Enablement and Digitalisation, now.

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