The world of sales is fundamentally changing, driven by technological advancements and shifts in the way that purchasing decisions are made. The stereotypical image of sales people sitting in an office making cold calls does not reflect the reality in most organisations. The modern sales team has a wealth of different methods and tools at their disposal, which is not only changing the way that selling is done but also the role of salespeople. Here are four of the key trends currently occurring in the sector.
Traditional sales methods dying out
The traditional sales approach of cold calling and hard selling is dying out simply because it is no longer a successful way of selling. Buyers are increasingly empowered and informed, often having most of the information they need before even beginning the purchasing process. Studies have found that the average B2B buyer is 57 per cent of the way through the purchase decision before engaging with a supplier and that 80 per cent of buyers know what they want before even contacting a vendor, while a majority of buyers view aggressive salespeople or unsolicited approaches as their biggest frustrations. This suggests a change in the dynamic of the buyer-seller relationship, with buyers now holding the upper hand and armed with more information than ever before.
While cold calling is in rapid decline as a method for successful selling, the opposite approach of social selling – developing one-on-one relationships with buyers using a range of communication channels – is growing in prominence, helping businesses improve their sales figures. Social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn provide sales professionals with a platform to reach out to buyers and build relationships while also shaping their own reputation and credibility by sharing content and commenting on industry stories. Modern buyers are digitally connected and mobile, so salespeople need to be too so that they can leverage the power of social media.
Data, and lots of it
Advancements in CRM and reporting systems are giving sales representatives – both office-based and field teams – greater access to information about their customer base. Not only is there a lot more data around but it is cheaper and more accessible than ever before. Again, this is contributing to the demise of traditional sales methods as it allows sales professionals to be more targeted and efficient in their approach. CRM systems that are optimised for mobile and wearable devices provide field sales representatives with the same resources that office-based teams enjoy, enabling them to better manage customer and prospect relationships. Technology also offers sales management better insight and analytics into sales staff activity and performance, allowing them to identify weak spots and ultimately boost sales.
Salespeople as consultants
The role of the salesperson is changing from one of direct prospecting and selling to a more consultative and advisory role. Because buyers have often done research and know what they want before engaging with a seller, the traditional methods are less effective. This does not mean that salespeople are becoming less valuable, though – far from it. Salespeople need to engage with buyers throughout the whole purchasing process, adding their expert knowledge and providing advice on the best solution for the customer. Buyers want to work with sellers who have in-depth knowledge of the products they are selling and the industry in which they operate, and who offer recommendations and deals that are relevant to the company’s needs. People expect a more personalised buying experience nowadays, and salespeople are in a strong position to offer this with the tools and data they now have at their disposal.
Technology and shifts in the way that buyers make decisions are changing the role of salespeople and the relationship between buyer and seller. With traditional selling methods dying out, salespeople need to respond to these changes and position themselves as trusted advisors and consultants.