I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
The New Year is only days away, and already the anxiety and excitement are building. As many seek refuge from the seemingly never-ending barrage of economic negativity in the media, others look ahead to new beginnings. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The fact is, we are moving toward a pre-boom economy—one in which selling professionals and managers will need to be more efficient and productive than ever in order to succeed. Here are some of the areas that will be affected in the new year:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>1. Lead generation.</b> The issue of lead generation has predominated over the last two years. While technology has helped in the gathering leads, the conversion factor has not increased. Selling professionals and marketing departments must collaborate for better target market optimization. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Simply put, leads must be converted and the will be increased attention focused on closing more business.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>2. Customer service.</b> Some 45 percent of every client interaction involves customer service, yet paradoxically, my own research demonstrates customer service has actually decreased in many organizations. Since customer-to-customer influences have become vital to success, it is increasingly important that selling professionals focus more on their most vital asset: the client.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>3. Better hiring.</b> The days of placing butts in seats to fill a void are gone. Sales managers must find talent that will become immediately productive. The use of Onboarding programs and the discovery of proper talent will be an imperative focus for sales managers. More pressure will be placed on finding the right people in the right positions to help increase margins.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>4. Preparation.</b> The last five years have provided significant tools and technology to sales professionals. From CRM systems to better search methodology in Google, selling professionals are more prepared then ever…or are they? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Customers have access to as much information as the sales professionals do. It's thus vital all sellers are prepared for every client interaction. Reading annual reports, watching the news, and having a prepared list of value questions will aid every call. Salespeople must have more information then their client.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>5. Value.</b> We are in a knowledge economy. Selling professionals must stop providing information to clients and provide value. Selling professionals must convert the information that have into knowledge that the client can immediately use to become more competitive, innovative, etc.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>6. Process.</b> Amazingly, 92 percent of selling professionals (and this includes entrepreneurs) do not have a process for building relationships and closing business. With 2010 looking to be a year of increased productivity, it is necessary for sellers to gain the knowledge necessary to build trust and close business more efficiently. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Sales professionals must be better prepared and better educated. The days of "anyone can sell" have ended.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>7. Training.</b> Gone are the days of sitting in a classroom for eight hours expecting a return on investment. Managers and business professionals do not have the time and, frankly, event-based training fails. Selling is a process; therefore sales training will alter to a more succinct, process-oriented approach. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Secondly, with the movement to establish selling as a respected vocation with educational prerequisites gaining ground, companies will remove themselves from education and desire that individuals take ownership of their profession. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In summary, innovative concepts begin during times of dramatic change. 2010 will provide interesting opportunities to the selling community not experienced since the 1980s. The year will be challenging, yet exciting.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Those ahead of the curve will thrive. Innovation occurs at the beginning of the curve, competition at the end. First mover advantage is always easier.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Drew Stevens, Ph.D., is the author of "Split Second Selling" and the soon-to-be released "Ultimate Business Bible—12 Strategies for Ultimate Success." He can be contacted at <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.</i>