10 trends in sales for 2012

Here are my predictions for sales in 2012, enjoy and comment

Merging of sales and marketing departments

Sales and marketing function within companies will fuse together during 2012 and onwards. Research shows that buyers progress along our sales cycle and by the time salespeople are interacting with them, the buyer has moved more than half the way through the whole process on their own steam.  This means the buyer has done all their research, has found solutions to their needs and just wants someone to wrap things up for them, at the lowest commodity price. The key for salespeople is to get involved in the traditional work of marketing that is to create noise to encourage in-bound contacts and engage with customers earlier than they normally would.

Real-time customer tracking

Google are “making hay whilst the sun shines” in this prospecting tool.  Customers involved in their buying process often catch research’itis, particularly the Generation X customer (born 1965 to 1980).  Research’itis means they have their noses in the internet to satisfy their needs. Technology is there now to real time track these customers in action, to watch their every move. You can then contact them whilst they are red hot in the buying mode by phoning, texing, emailing, instant messaging, Skype them.

Shrinking attention spans

From both customers and salespeople alike. A product of the internet, request for attention from every corner and multimedia entertainment means we all have much shorter attention spans especially Generation Y (born 1980 to 2000). The implications are clear – we must shorten the time we spend with customers.  Bear in mind they’re doing over 50% of the old sales cycle themselves; our role is much more intense and involves closing. We just have to do this in small chunks; bite sized enough to keep their attention.  Salespeople need to learn to communicate with customers in tinier sound bites, one message emails, instant messaging that gets to the point, texing, Twitter.

On the other hand, the equally pressing issue is the attention span of most salespeople being shorter than a nat. Huge distractions lie in the social media space, the swelling of hand-held devices, wifi everywhere, means we are being constantly interrupted.  Even better time management skills are the key.

QR Codes

Will become as common place as bar codes and most people still won’t know what they mean.  I like to think QR codes allow the download of data from one person to another.  Images of the Matrix when Trinity needed to learn how to fly a helicopter. The steal for salespeople is to make sure they use them on all marketing to ensure their social media, blogs etc are downloaded into their customer’s worlds, instantly.

Sales managers are “a changin”

Boomer managers (born 1945 to 1965) are beginning to be replaced by generation X managers.  The implication? A less hierarchical style of sales management will evolve and these managers will have a higher EQ – Emotional Intelligence – and a greater willingness to treat salespeople individually feeding them with more coaching than their predecessors. There might be a people skills backlash against technology management. Whatever happens, if you don’t have a strong EQ and a coaching culture, you simply must learn, because your salespeople will demand it.

A blended sales world

The salesforce of the future will migrate indoors, dues to technology advances, costs and the commoditisation of many products and services.   This creates an inside salesforce who complete sales.  Strong in persuasion, influencing and closing skills and being able to bring in emotion to a sale that has been highly commoditised.  Inside sales forces will be able to interact with customer’s purchasing agent software.

White Paper’itis

Another modern disease, whitepaper’itis.  Devastating and the result of inbound marketing on steroids. Marketing departments who insist on producing White Papers, information articles, information videos and podcasts are causing an avalanche of data for consumers.  There’s only so much they can consume and they’re choking. Instead we should be thinking about creating internet “noise” using our unique expertise and insights.  True Thought Leadership means we provide information they wouldn’t normally get from Google, insightful information that can provide added value to a potential customer. If you can google it, don’t publish it. Be different, excite, lead.

An evolving point of sale

Tablets will become widespread especially the ubiquitous iPad and its clones.  Tablets tick all the boxes.  Customer friendly, bright, light, no screen barrier. Add the most modern CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) system such as salesforce.com which has intuitive features and cloud based facilities will seal the deal.  Modern CRMs will actually start to coach salespeople this year; they are more intelligent than the dumb systems of the past.  They learn, predict the sale and can offer real advice to the salesperson. Once they start offering tangible benefits to the salesforce, we’ll start using them with relish.

Engage in social media or wither

Wither on the vine.  A phrase used to describe companies that don’t embrace social media to engage customers and protect their reputations.  Facebook will become more common than Google as the start of any consumer buying process, as people seek out friend’s recommendations.

Intelligent prospecting

The future will see the demise of the telephone banging sales teams.  Those who start making 100 calls a day, boiling down the 100 to 2 potential customers before being passed onto the field force for closing.  Old model, doesn’t work anymore. The future is for intelligent web based prospecting teams who campaign using the web in its entire glory.  Web marketing and prospecting using the various tools will be the way forward whereby prospects are researched on the web, thoroughly examined before a contact is made.  Reports and accounts are examined, understood, metrics assimilated and problems determined.  Contact is made using email, Skype, Instant Messaging, maybe the phone, more than likely not. This evolution in prospecting will also see the demise of consultancy selling practices.  After all, the customer has to be researched before the meeting so what’s the point in asking questions such as “tell me about your company” or “what are your major challenges”.  Those that ask these questions will be escorted of the premises by security.

Podcast version