Predicting the future is never easy, given conditions can shift and new disruptions emerge a moment's notice. There are, however, some trends in sales that we expect to continue or gain momentum, including strong adoption of automated, artificial intelligence-based sales tools, the need for solid sales coaching, and a return to business communications basics.
Leveraging Today's Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) will be big in just about ever industry, including sales and marketing. We at ValueSelling Associates are seeing AI tools being leveraged to gain true, actionable data insights so sales teams work smarter, not harder. Among the most popular tools will be those that automate administrative tasks, from setting up auto-dialers to creating cadence reminders and recycling stale opportunities. By taking advantage of technology to handle a lot of the prep work, sales reps have more time to actively prospect and have quality conversations.
This should be good news for those among us (and there are a lot of you) who dislike manual date-input, such as logging calls in customer relations software. Now there are solutions, including voice recognition software, that save time and reduce the potential for keying errors in integrated, unified platforms.
Additionally, there will be more algorithms that help improve the sales process. Tools like Gong.io's Conversation Intelligence™ can analyze emails, record sales calls and web demos to determine what top performers say or do differently than reps struggling to make their quotas. This helps not only the reps but their sales managers and executives who can use results for more targeted hiring and training.
Better Coaching Wanted
The last point leads me to another trend: growing expectations for sales managers to also be great coaches. The workforce is changing, and it's important that today's sales leaders manage their teams differently than they did a decade, or even a couple of years, ago.
Employees will stay with a company if they have a good relationship with their manager. This is particularly true of millenials, those born between the early '80s and mid-1990s, who now are the dominant workforce demographic. These men and women crave continuous learning and constant feedback -- positive, corrective and constructive. Historically, most sales managers haven't had the time and bandwidth to focus on developing their sales people; they've had to deliver the numbers. That's going to change.
Learning how to step back to obtain the skills to develop everyone within a sales team will be more important than ever. That's why coaching is a hot topic, whether you're an independent consultant or part of a Fortune 100 company. I don't have a client that isn't looking at some tool or platform to facilitate sales coaching. CommercialTribe, for instance, has a rubric that evaluates feedback against pre-defined metrics and uses AI capabilities to gauge someone's coaching abilities and results over time. Needless to say, the feedback can improve every stage of the sales cycle.
Back to the Basics
While sales reps will increasingly rely on automation and analytical tools for some of their sales work, we're also expecting sales professionals to return to basics, particularly in [re]learning both written and verbal communication skills.
Getting buyers' attention is getting harder and harder. Sales reps need to maximize their effectiveness with every sales call they make, which means working on listening, questioning, positioning and speaking. They also must work on their written communication skills -- the email follow-up, using complete sentences and proper grammar. Those emails now tend to be shared throughout the organization and may be the first impression decision makers have of the sales rep.
By implementing the core of each of these 3 trends - effective use of AI, proactive coaching and sharp communication - high performing sales reps and managers will excel among their peers. The focus here is not on a better sales pitch but instead a more effective and efficient means to manage the sales process. You can no longer afford to waste anyone's time, and that includes your time too.
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