There is no doubt we are living in a fast-paced world, where every single day discoveries are being made. Not evolving with these changes means that your business can be left behind. Technological change is just one obvious example, with automation taking over tedious tasks, and cheaper and more accessible than ever. As far as sales is concerned, sales growth is considered to be one feature that can differentiate best-in-class sales leaders from the rest, but according to the author of Sales growth, planning sales growth means thinking ahead about such changes. The key is to have the ability to find growth opportunities and sales trends before competitors do.
Whenever we see spectacular sales growth, we can bet that someone has spent time thinking about what’s coming in technology, regulations, demographics, and economics, and how this is going to be affecting opportunities for sales now and in the future. The sales world has been constantly evolving, but according to the author, the following sales trends are particularly eye-catching in the context of driving sales growth today:
Trend #1: Investing in Future Growth
As we already said, thinking ahead is critical to sales growth and being on top of the sales game. However, this skill does not come automatically. Trend analysis should be a formal part of the sales-planning process, and so sales leaders tend to make forward planning part of someone’s job description. If you thinking ahead, you’ll also be ready to capture the opportunities created by sudden changes in the environment.
Having the knowledge is only one part of the equation though. Leading sales organizations have the will and the means to translate the shifts into more impact faster. Having forward-looking sales plans mean that you can drive sales activities in areas where competitors have yet to arrive.
Sales executives usually account for investment in new growth opportunities in their annual capacity-planning processes. Statistics show that more than half of the fast-growing companies look at least one year out, and 10% look more than three years out. Sales leaders have to keep in mind that thinking ahead is not just about resource planning: 45% of fast-growing companies invest more than 6% of their sales budget on activities supporting goals that are at least a year out.
Trend #2: Capturing Value from Big Data and Advanced Analytics
It is certain that sales forces have an incredible amount of data readily available today compared with even four or five years ago, but getting insights from it and making those actionable is much harder. Those sales leaders who get it right are more apt to make better decisions, uncover more insights into deal opportunities, and better refine their sales strategy.
In fact, the big shift we see today is from the analysis of historical data to using data to be more predictive. Sophisticated analytics are used to decide not only what the best opportunities are, but also which ones will help minimize risk.
Among fast-growing companies, only just over half of them — 53% — claim to be moderately or extremely effective in using analytics to make decisions. For slow-growing companies, it drops to a little over a third. These statistics indicate that there remains significant untapped potential in sales analytics.
To get started, it is essential to have smart data analysts to help you mine the data, and then you need people with the business expertise to translate that into something that salespeople can act upon. In this way, the next time a rep goes to see a customer, he or she knows exactly who to see, when to see them, what to say, and precisely what to offer.
Trend #3: Outsourcing the Sales Function
Another sales trend according to the author of Sales Growth is the outsourcing of parts (sometimes big parts) of the sales value chain. Nowadays, automation has enabled third-party vendors to run a company’s entire end-to-end sales process. From demand generation to customer acquisition and fulfilment, they take charge of everything.
Indeed, these companies understand your target segments, they use big data to identify leads, they market to different segments with different offers and using different platforms, and then they match their own sales reps to individual customers based on the likelihood of converting that particular type of person.
Trend #4: Understanding Social Selling
Having an effective sales organization means exploring every avenue in the quest to truly understand the customer. It is crucial for sellers to understand who the individual customer is, who the buyers are, who the decision-makers are, who the influencers are, and who owns the budget — and what their perception of their organization is. This information can be acquired through what they share online on different platforms and in different ways: expressing opinions, asking for help, and general discussions.
Trend #5: Adopting Automation and Artificial Intelligence
According to a research from McKinsey Global Institute, 40% of tasks within the traditional sales function can now be automated. Lead generation is a great example. Despite CRM systems in place, we see companies where 75% of leads are not being followed up. Yet, those are leads that have already had time and money spent on them, but are then left to wither away.
Companies are now starting to use Artificial intelligence (AI) for their lead generation qualification and research shows that the results have been a 100% touch rate, and the AI can keep these leads warm for months, sometimes even making the first introduction. In fact, this is just one aspect of sales that AI can help with, and there is no reason why automation and AI cannot be used in more complex elements of the sales process.
In order to improve productivity and overall sales, it is important to stay on top of sales trends and implement new technologies and new tactics to encourage sales growth. The innovators and early adopters are already doing this. The key lies in having sales leaders with an open-minded approach, ready to go the extra mile to boost sales.