2017’s Top 4 Sales Trends

“Sell more. Sell faster.” Surely you heard some variation of that directive during 2017 sales kickoff season. The question is, how? Through constant innovation, companies test, shift and change their approaches to sales, with the ongoing mission of accomplishing those twin goals.

In assessing the evolution of the sales process over the past year, we have identified a number of emerging trends that innovative companies are leveraging today to drive sales. Let’s take a look at some of the leading trends in sales, which transcend broad industries and to affect companies of all sizes.

#1: The cleaner the data, the more actionable it can be

The data inside of your CRM can often feel like that old closet in the back bedroom of your house. You know the one: piled high with random items that have accumulated out of a combination of laziness and a desire not to have to decide what to do with it. In short, that closet is a mess. If you’re like most companies, so is the data in your CRM. The promise of Big Data hinges upon having data so clean that you could eat off of it.

For many companies, the data in their CRM system is far from clean. Why? Because it’s a hassle to keep up to date, especially when there are dozens of other things that a sales rep needs to track, organize, remember, and follow up on. No matter what CRM you use, your sales team would rather be out selling than updating data in it. That includes Salesforce, which, while incredibly powerful, requires you to click back and forth to update data like close dates, opportunity value and the like. Thus, while it may seem costly to spend for yet another solution on top of you CRM to make it more usable, many organizations have come to realize the importance of making data accuracy easy.

#2: Deeper partnership selling approaches to close more deals

People everywhere are increasingly intolerant of having a sales-y experience. A consultative or partnership sales approach has worked well in recent years. This approach, used by many successful enterprise sales teams, is expanding across other tiers of business. While it certainly doesn’t work for every industry, the enterprise approach, aka “partnership selling,” is a trend that will continue to grow in 2017 and beyond.

The techniques involve listening to the problem identified by your prospect and preparing for a series of calls. Ironically, this preparation, which can take some time, has proven to help accelerate the sales cycle. It’s all about actions like preparing for your calls, setting a tailored agenda for each interaction with the prospect, and mapping actions to your sales process.

Companies that follow a well-defined sales process are 33 percent more likely to be high performers, according to an Altify report. The trend we’ll see more of is turning that partnership selling approach into a more formalized process, with specific tasks, customized to each individual prospect.

At the core of this partnership approach is a view that you must relate to your B2B prospects as people first, and as a company second. The more the sales rep acts as a true partner to the prospect, the greater the opportunity to stand out and close the deal.

#3: Automation to increase productivity in sales teams

Rather famously, Salesforce pointed out that 68 percent of a sales rep’s time is spent not selling. Sit back and ponder that for a moment. In an eight-hour day, that means nearly five and half hours are spent doing things that don’t directly drive revenue (and many of them don’t even indirectly drive revenue).

The CMO Council found that on average, 40 percent of a salesperson’s time is spent either looking for content created by marketing or creating their own content because they can’t find an asset that is fit for their purpose.

Combine these two realities, and it’s clear: empowering the sales team to save time is a good idea. And automation is the answer— making their non-selling activities easier means they can sell more and sell faster. According to McKinsey & Company, “Optimizing sales operations with automated tools or dedicated back-office units for specific tasks can improve revenues by 10 to 25 percent and reduce back-office costs by 20 to 30 percent.”

That’s great news. There’s a huge opportunity to increase efficiency for the sales organization in 2017. Adding just one more sales hour every weekday would be 250 hours of hardcore selling time this coming year. That’s per rep. How many deals would your team close with that?

#4: High ROI sales training

In-field sales training quadrupled productivity from 22 percent to 88 percent, according to that Altify report. While sales training can be highly beneficial, it’s the opportunity for reps to hear and learn precisely what they should be doing, and the coaching to do it, that makes an even greater difference in their productivity. This kind of sales coaching is an increasingly popular tool for getting the most out of teams.

Enterprises in particular are seeing the value of in-field sales coaching. We’ll likely see a shift in focus this year in the approach that all companies take towards the training of their sales teams. Take a moment again to think about what your sales numbers will look like at year’s end, when you act early (which means now!) to give your sales reps ways to increase their productivity. Sales coaching may be more expensive than sending them to a free webinar; however, the results can make a meaningful difference in your company’s bottom line.

While the trends listed here are broad, we’ll see plenty of variations on these depending on industry and company size, types of targets and geographies. The focus on “sell more, sell faster,” however, will remain. When you take advantage of these trends now, you can look forward to sitting pretty by the end of 2017.

Kate Kirby is a senior manager of content strategy at Conga, an application provider for companies looking to automate and enhance their business productivity. Conga develops its suite of enterprise-grade applications to help businesses using the Salesforce Sales Cloud optimize their CRM investments.

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