In 2015, you have an opportunity to take some risks, change how you market and sell, as well as define your niche in your market. Here are my predictions for ideas and trends that will shape sales and business development for top performing companies in 2015.
The Role of Salespeople Will Evolve
Savvy customers don’t value old-school, pressure-based, manipulative sales methods. In fact, many executives say they’ll decide to not select a vendor because of a negative sales experience. Customers value subject matter experts (as I highlighted for 2014 Trends).
As customers increasingly value subject-matter experts, salespeople need refined consultative skills. Top companies will invest prudently in teaching those individuals how to identify and cultivate opportunities that are a great fit for your business – not old-school selling tactics. They’ll discover how customers make buying decisions and what you can do to add the most value for your customers. This will lead to better alignment between buyers and sellers and will put both parties on the same side of the table.
Tightly Integrated Sales & Marketing
According to The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing research by CEB and Google GOOGL +1.24%, the average customer is more than half-way through the purchase process (70% on the high end) before speaking with a vendor. This means that content marketing and sales strategy must be tightly integrated.
According to SiriusDecisions, B2B organizations with tightly aligned marketing and sales achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three-year period. Here’s an interesting read on it.
Increases in Weekly Business Role Play
In the past, companies would have an expert show up and hope for results. That type of one-and-done training (sales or otherwise) does not provide a lasting result. In 2015, the top performing companies know that weekly practice reinforces concepts and allows your team to execute under pressure, in the moment. In 2015, look for tools to facilitate reinforcement economically while monitoring results for management.
Divergent Customers – Price vs. Value
There are two competing initiatives in the market for 2015. The first one is increased pricing pressure for anything that appears to be a commodity. I’m probably not the only person who has scanned a bar code in a big box store to have Google show me if there is a better price elsewhere. For those selling a perceived commodity, you’ll see more and more pricing pressure eat into your margins. This means you have to do one of two things: 1) Figure out a way to deliver a commodity more efficiently than others in your market; or 2) Develop a strategy to ensure that what you sell is not seen as a commodity. Nearly every business can differentiate itself. The shame is how many unique businesses make mistakes to turn their unique offering into a commodity. Top companies in 2015 will know if they compete on value or price, and avoid the opportunities that are not a fit.
Customers Will Pay A Premium For Verified Results
For years, buyer’s worked to convince sellers that price was all that mattered. After years of disappointment from the low bidder, savvy buyers realize that results matter. Let’s face it, if you paid half price but didn’t get what you needed, it probably wasn’t a good deal. In 2015, top performing sellers will develop skills to demonstrate value and earn higher margins. Be thorough – top performing buyers will ensure they are getting superior value per invested dollar in a solution… not just lip service.
Simplicity and Portability Will Drive CRM
Customers expect each person in your organization to know their business. Sales and marketing organizations historically added so much to CRM systems that reps spent more time entering data than using it. Top performing companies will strive for a balance between data collection and ease of use. When it comes to CRM, you are better having a simple and easy platform that masterfully supports mobile devices than to have a complex system that nobody uses. Numerous products have emerged to allow for complex back-end systems with simplified front-end interfaces for reps and for mobile use.
Increased mobile adoption improves data quality as highlighted in this study published by CRM technology comparison website Software Advice.
New Marketing Strategies To Repel The Wrong Clients
Precise strategies will prevail compared to shotgun approaches. In 2015, with improved alignment between sales and marketing, top performing companies will no longer waste time and resources trying to drive “views” or “clicks.” Instead, in 2015 the top companies will develop plans to attract the best customers. The elite companies will define what Marcus Sheridan calls “anti-personas” to know which customers will likely waste your time. Look for companies to define who is NOT a fit for them, not just who IS a fit. Management will start asking “Why are we speaking with them” more than “Why don’t we speak with them?”
Recruiting With Work/Life Balance
Savvy companies will realize that people matter. Driving them into the ground is not a good long-term strategy. Companies will develop innovative ways to improve employee well-being leading to better retention and happier customers, too.
As Shelly Dutton mentioned in her article “Employees are tired of sacrificing so much of their lives for their employers. They want a better way to balance work, family, and a sense of personal purpose. In fact, 70% of workers in the U.S. – and 87% of workers worldwide – are not fully engaged and personally invested in their work.
Take a look at LT Business Dynamics, a regional accounting firm. How do they attract and retain the best of the best? “Employees often give up the ability to enrich their personal lives due to work,” said Tim Hawkins, founder of LT Business Dynamics. “We setup our sabbatical program to engage their minds. Traveling is an important part of that. We give them the time and money to make a difference in the world and their lives. They become better people. You hired great people, it makes sense to invest in them to retain them.” In addition to a great environment, they offer a paid three-week sabbatical after every three years of employment.
Content Marketing Trends/impact
According to the latest research from Content Marketing Institute, the majority of B2B firms plan to increase both their content marketing budgets and content volume in 2015. This means that you not only need to create content, but your content has to deliver greater value than others in your space. You need to be comfortable giving away your best stuff. Top performing companies will include links to content in virtually every sales interaction. This only works if you have valuable content in the eyes of your customer.
Though I do not agree with Marcus Sheridan when he says salespeople are going away, I do think the role of salespeople will evolve. The best companies will recognize that the entire organization can contribute to valuable content, and each team member plays a role in selling. Look for companies to invest in interdisciplinary workshops that bring the entire company together to gain perspective on sales, marketing, and customer experience. No longer can you thrive with silos. The top performing companies are already doing this, whether you know it or not.
I plan to monitor these trends closely in 2015 and will share ideas on how you can implement these concepts in my upcoming articles. To stay up-to-date, you can follow me on Forbes.com or sign up to receive my weekly article at GrowMyRevenue.com
Which Trend Did I Leave Out?
Please share your prediction for a 2015 trend in the comments. I’m also curious to hear if you agree or disagree with my trends.