Salesforce Research has released the exciting third edition of the most pressing takeaways in the world of sales over the past year! Gathering information from just under 3,000 of the world’s leaders in sales in 2018, they examined real changes in the roles of salespeople, technology, and potential roadblocks that could pose a challenge to B2B businesses down the road. In this article, we’ll break down the biggest insights uncovered and their impacts on B2B sales processes, all from the most up-to-date data around.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself that satisfying your customer’s needs seems to be a bit more challenging that it used to be, your anguish is not an isolated incident! In fact, with the rise of technology and convenience that comes with it, customers continue to expect more from who they buy from and don’t plan to slow down anytime soon. Over half of sales teams have even reported that they expect to miss their quotas this year. The reality is that having a strong product simply isn’t the hole-in-one anymore; 82% of customers expect the same CX in a B2B setting as they would get in daily B2C purchases, per Salesforce’s findings.
To help grasp customer needs, businesses have shifted to relying on customer satisfaction (CSAT) as the leading KPI in tracking sales success. A worthy metric that reflects the importance of servicing the customer, but difficult to quantify and measure standardly. Sales leaders from the study report that they expect to see net promoter score and customer lifetime value grow in relevance by 118 and 94 percent, respectively.
Yet, as demands get higher, sales reps continue to have more on their plate that fuel a cycle of frustration for unpleased customers and stressed teams. Salesforce finds that nowadays only one-third of a rep’s time is actually being used selling. The other two-thirds? Sending emails, researching leads, manually imputing customer information, gaining approvals, and much more. There is only so much time for a rep to achieve what is becoming expected of them, and the window of opportunity for tech like AI and automation is becoming wider and wider (We’ll look into AI shortly!).
When it comes to leads, high-performing teams can be separated from low performers by how they structure and prioritize their insights. High performers were about 1.5 times more likely to rely on data analysis as opposed to intuition. Even more surprisingly, only about 33% of teams studied indicated that data-driven strategies are their default, while all others choose a more traditional route of geography, job title, etc. Quality over quantity when it comes to leads also emerges as an oncoming trend as a result of this “data-driven playbook”, as Salesforce refers to it. Better leads from relevant data save time from filtering through the masses to give way to more personalized and accurate selling efforts.
Intuition and soft-skills are still extremely relevant in effective selling. While technology and data are great at identifying timing and potential opportunities, attention to detail, listening, and industry knowledge remain crucial in satisfying the “human touch” customers desire. Most sales reps report a mix of both human skills and data-driven insights are the top factors in converting leads into customers.
With less time on their hands and pickier customers to please, AI is stepping up to be the dominant form of tech adopted by sales teams around the world. Salesforce Research predicts that AI adoption will explode by 155% in the next two years, despite just 1/5 organizations using some form of AI today. This likely is associated to the fact high-performing teams are almost 5 times more likely to use AI in prioritizing leads and timing their sales. Not to be overshadowed is the expected growth of marketing automation as well, projected to grow over 100% in that same time period. AI and automation often work better in tandem, so we can expect to see other process automation such as CRM/PRM on the rise as well.
While the thought of computers doing a lot of heavy lifting can frequently be portrayed as an imminent threat (we’re looking at you, Black Mirror), an essential finding from Salesforce’s effort is that AI is not replacing human salespeople. Customers need trust and individualized attention that is best served by friendly sales reps; AI emboldens sales teams to execute just that. In fact, over 3/4 of respondents that use AI indicated that they’ve increased their sales staff over that past three years.
As we found earlier, sales reps are spending more of their daily time performing manual tasks outside the realm of actually selling. With time cut short, more virtual meetings and screen time are being adopted as a substitute for timely in-person activities. Research has shown that reps today are using three times more of their time in the virtual world instead of face-to-face. It follows as no surprise then that the presence of inside sales roles parallels this upward digital trend, with stronger technology and more customers online making it easier to handle business remotely and behind-the-scenes.
Understanding the entire customer journey is key to providing the demanded service customers expect. Inter-department connectivity across all customer interactions emerges as the primary way business leaders are able to monitor and provide for their buyers (Think of an omnichannel approach, all of which we cover here). In order to do this effectively, sales teams are becoming increasingly collaborative and less siloed to fully understand what the customer needs and when. Per the report, 75% of high performing teams across the globe say that working alongside their other departments is essential to their success.
While being connected across all customer interactions provides a higher level of productivity, it also caters to the picky customer, who 77% of the time now expects sales reps to be aware of each of their prior service interactions. Service is often being judged and evaluated just as much as product or service, so it is crucial that all business departments rely on each other and work with the same information to provide exactly what the customer needs at any time. In other words, Salesforce really does says it best when they say “Rally Around The Customer Journey!” — it won’t let you down.
The world of Sales is so flexible that trends and patterns vary from year to year, and sometimes even month to month. Keeping up with these changes is crucial in ensuring that you generate your leads and cater to your customers in the best way possible. Don’t let resistance to change be the factor that slows you down!