It is clear that 2016 will mark a period of change for the 4.5 million business-to-business sales professionals in the United States. Large industry trends such as new technology, reliance on social media, big data, the relationship between sales and marketing, workplace diversity, and the influx of Millennials will all have a major effect on the sales industry and its leaders.
In any business, staying ahead of the curve is critical if you want to beat out your competitors. That means adapting growth strategies and tactics to industry trends so that forecasted growth estimates can be realized.
Since launching Peak Sales Recruiting in 2006, there may never be a more pronounced year of trends that sales and business leaders alike will encounter than in 2016.
Here are the top 6 B2B sales trends of 2016:
1. Science of Sales:
More than ever, sales organizations are embracing the science of sales. According to the CSO Sales Management Optimization Study, training investments are increasing on a year-over-year basis, with sales process training ranked at the top. The study indicated that more training resulted in better sales management performance. In addition, it was found that businesses whose sales force adopted a sales methodology noticeably had better sales performances. Undoubtedly, it is evident that businesses are taking note of the direct link between the science of sales and a sales force’s success and quickly jumping on the trend. In 2016, organizations will allocate resources to the implementation of sales methodologies and sales leader training of the scientific processes of sales.
2. Big Data and Tools:
Over the past few years, big data has played a major role in the evolution of B2B sales. While there has been an explosion of powerful tools to support other functional areas in companies, the sales function hasn’t had the same evolution in tools – until now. New sophisticated and powerful tools for analyzing data, prospecting, networking, and supporting sales have emerged. In fact, the Peak Sales Recruiting Sales Tools Survey found that many new tools are emerging and are expected to play a more prominent role in 2016. For instance, the survey determined that social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly becoming a more relied upon tool in a B2B sales manager’s toolbox – Twitter even landed in the top 5 most used sales management tools of 2015. Other CRM tools such as Oracle, MicrosoftDyn and Hubspot are becoming more relied upon by B2B businesses.
Furthermore, with salespeople actively traveling or conducting meetings outside the office, efficient mobile access to sales systems is becoming a requirement to remain competitive in 2016. HubSpot named Evernote, Keynote and LinkedIn among their top mobile applications to optimize time on the go. This adoption of new management tools will grow by leaps and bounds in 2016 since companies now have access to an unprecedented amount of information on customers and can attribute new revenue to specific channels and selling activities. There will be an increased premium on tracking conversion rates along every step in the sales process, including responses to marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL). As a result, sales executives will be able to acquire new insights into the selling behaviours, methods, and approaches that deliver the highest return-on-investment (ROI) and build their sales force with talent that can successfully execute these new discoveries.
3. Social Selling Will Become Part of Your Sales Force’s DNA:
For far too long, business leaders, particularly those in the B2B space, have ignored the benefits that social media channels offer to sales teams. With traditional buyers being replaced by a digitally minded and social media obsessed workforce, it will be critical for CEO’s and CSO’s to embrace these new channels in their sales strategies. According to Salesforce.com, 73% of salespeople using social selling this year outperformed their peers, 43% of B2B businesses gained a new client from Facebook and 65% did the same through LinkedIn. Social selling offers a unique opportunity to research clients, find out their likes and dislikes, listen to honest feedback and communicate with them on an intimate basis. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest are all expected see increased presence of B2B sellers in 2016.
4. A New Found Focus on Your Company’s Online Reputation:
A recent publication by The Vision Council found that the number of digital device users has increased from 45% of American adults in 2012, to nearly 70% in 2015. As a result, access to information has never been easier to acquire and this is impacting the buyer-seller relationship. Prospective customers can now conduct in-depth research and evaluate product and service offerings without engaging in formal discussions with sales reps. For companies that have a poor online reputation, the introduction of these new touch points decreases the likelihood of acquiring a new customer. In 2016, companies and sales leaders will devote more and more resources to enhancing their brand’s online reputation.
5. Hiring and Selling to Millennials:
With 83 million members, Millennials now make up the largest sector of the U.S. population, and by 2025, they will make up 75% of the workforce. The bottom line is that companies that do not hire and sell to these ‘lazy’, tech-savvy, narcissistic, social media ‘brats’ will not be able to compete in today’s global economy. When recruiting Millennials, it is key to offer them a career and not just a job, embrace new innovation and technology, embrace diversity, offer tuition reimbursement and international assignments, and have a compressive philanthropic practice in place. The hiring of Millennials also has the added benefit of helping them sell to one another, which is critical since Millennials have $1.3 trillion in annual buying power. Your new Generation Y employee can easily tap into their vast network to generate sales from day 1. And, as outlined above, with social selling on the rise, Millennials can help cultivate this channel and educate senior staff on usage and best practices.
6. Embracing diversity:
America in 2016 is comprised of the most diverse generation in the history of the country – 42% of Millennials are minorities, while more women are working than any other generation. Diversity in the work place is no longer about optics, it is critically important to both short and long-term success. By hiring more women and people from different backgrounds, business and sales leaders will get innovation, fresh ideas and valuable contrasting perspectives that will lead to more sales in 2016 and beyond.
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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