In order to stay ahead in the sales industry, it is crucial for professionals to keep up with the latest topics and trends. As identified by industry leaders like Dr Phil Squire, there are currently three key trends that are particularly important in the world of sales:
- The lack of face-to-face interactions between buyers and sellers
- The economic impact on businesses and their customers
- The rapid advancement of AI and other technologies enabling salespeople to perform their roles more efficiently
In this blog, we'll dive into these topics in more detail, exploring the opportunities and challenges they present for sales professionals in today's ever-changing sales market.
The first major trend, as stated, is the noticeable lack of face-to-face meetings between buyers and sellers. This is a phenomenon that is rapidly transforming the way businesses interact with their customers.
The global pandemic has left a lasting impact on the sales industry and disrupted everything from daily life to business operations, forcing salespeople to adapt to abrupt changes while continuing to meet target goals. For some businesses, this change meant rethinking their selling approach or restructuring their sales teams. For many salespeople, it meant having to upskill themselves in order to better engage and understand the new way customers preferred to interact with sellers.
One of the results of the pandemic was in fact the way buyers and sellers interacted with one another. Customers have become accustomed to virtual interactions and are comfortable speaking over Zoom or other video communication technologies. This contrasts with salespeople who are wanting to have more face-to-face interaction with customers.
Reports have shown that not only are customers preferring to have meetings with salespeople digitally, but they are also spending less time speaking with them. Some of these reports have stated that 80% of salespeople believe virtual meetings make it harder to engage with buyers and on average, 40% believe it’s costing them sales personally.
In a survey by Showpad, it showed that there were 3 crucial elements that were hindering salespeople from connecting with buyers and making a sale:
- The inability to read body language – Without this, salespeople are unable to tell if a proposition is resonating with consumers.
- Less Organisational Alignment – Working in a hybrid or permanent work-from-home format is causing miscommunication and misalignment within departments. With this, there is a lack of on-the-job learning that would naturally happen when working side-by-side with colleagues.
- Trust issues – “From the research, 36% of sellers contend that there is a lack of tools while 36% believe there is a lack of best practices in their organisations which impacts their ability to act as a trusted adviser to clients.” - Showpad
In this context, it's more important than ever for sales professionals to be agile, adaptable, and able to meet the evolving needs of their customers digitally. This of course can be achieved through long-term solutions such as professional development. Recognising digital technologies would be a tool salespeople would increasingly use, Consalia showed foresight by incorporating digital selling into their programmes, such as the Professional Practice in B2B Sales Apprenticeship.
Consalia's programmes ensuring that the learnings acquired are not only applicable now but also adaptable to meet the needs of the future.
It’s important for us to not only teach how to correctly sell today but also to prepare salespeople to be agile and ready for any changes in selling tomorrow. This allows salespeople to not only be prepared for change but also enables them to better support their customers through understanding their preferred method of interacting with sellers.
Photo by: Investing News Australia on Google
The Economic impact on businesses and their customers
Another major trend impacting the sales industry is the ongoing economic impact currently affecting the world. This has created a challenging environment for businesses and customers alike.
Much like the effects of the pandemic, during this time it is important for salespeople to support their customers by displaying a client-centric mindset. Businesses can only thrive when the customer is satisfied with the salesperson or organisation's performance.
Client-centricity requires a salesperson to:
- Show interest
- Be knowledgeable
- Take responsibility and show accountability
- Be passionate and dedicated
It is important to note, that client-centricity is not just about the customer, it’s their entire ecosystem, including partners, suppliers, customers and competitors. This is a sales value that requires curiosity, interest and passion to do the right thing for the client; going the extra mile to find out more, leveraging more value for the customer, and demonstrating non-autobiographical listening skills. It’s consistently searching for new ways to add value to their business.
Buyers have an abundance of options when it comes to business. What often makes the difference in landing a winning deal, isn’t always what's being sold, but who is selling it. Salespeople must create an emotional attachment. This, in short, refers to emocracy. Now living in the post-knowledge era, it has become more prevalent that just as how AI and the digital economy continue to become drivers of efficiency, we as humans will be driven more by our social values. Sellers have to appeal to the buyer’s emotional context and again, create an attachment.
The global economy is going through turbulent changes. The cost of living is rising, healthcare is changing, the mental health of many individuals has left a lasting effect on lives, as the overall impact on buyers. With this being said, it's also important for salespeople to display emotional intelligence. Be considerate, be aware of the customer's mindset.
Salespeople must show values of client-centricity and emotional intelligence to create a stronger relationship between buyer and seller. There needs to be a level of trust between both. Economic changes have led to a domino effect between buyers and sellers.
Recessions can present significant challenges to large and small businesses alike. Some of these effects include:
- Decline in sales
- During the pandemic, many companies, regardless of their size, had to file for bankruptcy to cover costs. With that said, small businesses were more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic as they had less financial support and market power. – (Investopedia)
- Lack of motivation within the sales team. With the possible lack of generated revenue, it is easier for salespeople to feel demotivated. Buying and selling then become increasingly more difficult.
Despite these challenges, there are still opportunities for businesses to thrive in the face of economic adversity through upskilling. One of those skills is being able to properly support your customers. Salespeople can do this by using the S.P.A.C.E curve. This is a framework that enables salespeople to better understand what a customer is thinking so they can sell to customers more efficiently, and re-work their selling strategies to better fit those customers if needed.
S.P.A.C.E stands for:
- Survival – Going into survival mode during turbulent times and asking yourself, “How are we going to survive and manage through this situation?”
- Preserve – Looking at risk analysis and considering the impact a situation will have on the organisation.
- Agile – Being able to adapt and deal with unforeseen change while still performing and supporting customers.
- Co-create – Once deciding how to adapt to change more effectively, they will start to be open to new ideas. This is the stage where customers will realise that they must work with people and partners that will help them move towards a brighter future.
- Emerge – Where new ideas that were formed begin to firmly establish themselves within an organisation.
Start to think about your customers and where they land on the S.P.A.C.E curve. Think about the solutions that you have at your disposal that can fit within these different categories.
You may also want to share the S.P.A.C.E curve with them to see how they feel right now and therefore whether you could help them on this journey. This alone shows the emotional intelligence required to forge the building of trust for the future.
However, it must also be noted that the best way a salesperson can support their customers is by first taking care of themselves. Making sure they are mentally and physically healthy will allow a salesperson to be better at their practice and give their full attention, to not only their job but also their customers, showing the values customers what to see from salespeople, such as client-centricity.
“It’s just like when you go on a plane, and they encourage you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. The more you manage your own change to get yourself in a good state first, the better position you're going to be in to support your family, friends, your colleagues and yes, your customers; and to be able to sell more.” Ian Helps, Director at Consalia
AI and technologies that enable salespeople to do their job
The use of AI tools in the sales industry is currently one of the most talked-about topics, with a growing number of software options available, including established solutions like Saleswale and newer offerings such as ChatGPT. These tools are designed to support sales professionals in their day-to-day tasks, streamlining workflows and simplifying processes.
There have been many reports on the positive effects of salespeople using AI tools, for example assisting in lead generation.
“When some of the organisations we work with started to use artificial intelligence (AI) for their lead generation qualification, the results have been a 100% touch rate, and the AI can keep these leads warm for months, sometimes even making the first introduction.” Maria Valdivieso de Uster, Director of Knowledge, McKinsey & Company’s Marketing and Sales Practice.
AI tools will help salespeople save on time and energy through automation, eliminate repetitive outreach and assist in closing more deals. This falls in line with digital selling, as previously mentioned. It’s more important than ever for salespeople to understand digital selling, as it will undoubtedly be a useful skill to have as AI and more advanced digital tools emerge and become more normalised in the sales industry.
With that being said, it’s also important to remember Korthargen’s onion, the ability to align values and beliefs around the purposeful use of AI technologies.
- Core - relating to a person’s soul which does not change
- Purpose - the reason for existence be-it personal or organisational
- Values and Beliefs - the influences from experiences and learnings from a young age
- Competencies - describes what an individual is capable of accomplishing
- Behaviour - verbal and non-verbal communication
- Environment - relates to the market context in which an organisation operates. This can be influenced by various factors such as supply chain or economic growth or decline
Although AI tools are showing signs of being immensely helpful to salespeople, they can only be used correctly if that salesperson is properly aligned with the core values that customers wish to see when being sold to: Authenticity, Client-centricity, Proactive Creativity and Tactful Audacity. These tools do not have the ability to display emotional intelligence, which in the end, is what will enable a buyer and seller to create a strong relationship.
If the salesperson has the right values and beliefs, the use of the AI tool will have the customer in mind and be used it to its full potential. However, if that salesperson does not align their own values with what customers want, then it is likely that the AI tool will be misused. This will not only affect relationships between buyers and sellers but eventually affect customer relationships with the company of that salesperson. The misuse of AI tools could possibly lead to mistrust and therefore a bad relationship between buyer and seller.
In conclusion, the sales industry is experiencing significant transformation and disruption, with new challenges and opportunities to learn and upskill emerging. Sales professionals must remain agile, adaptable, and willing to embrace new technologies and approaches to succeed in this dynamic environment. Through Consalia’s various programmes for sales education, we provide many opportunities to learn, adapt and succeed.
From understanding digital selling to gain the skills needed to sell to customers through their preferred communication source, to having the right mindset to better support customers during turbulent times.
These key trends are a reminder of the importance of staying informed and up-to-date on developments in the sales industry. By doing so, sales professionals can position themselves for success and continue to meet the evolving needs of their customers in the years ahead.
Hear more on the topic of AI tools enabling salespeople on our Sales Transformation Podcast featuring Dr Philip Squire and Will Squire.
This is an audio recording of the January Ask Me Anything webinar that covered a range of topics including:
- How will AI tools like ChatGPT change the way salespeople work?
- How should you split account management teams and new business development teams to optimise the sales function?
- Why do organisations still focus primarily on skills-based training?
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