As 2019 draws to a close, it makes sense to survey the landscape and take note of the ideas and innovations that are most likely to affect markets, and sales teams, in the year to come. With that in mind, here are five emerging trends we at Sandler believe sales professionals should be on the watch for in the year 2020.
1. Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to change the way sales teams work, get coached, and self-diagnose. AI is becoming more and more relevant to the world of the manager and the individual salesperson. It is emerging as a powerful resource in support of the proposition that the most effective salespeople are made, not born. When used properly, AI gives salespeople the tools they need to quickly self-diagnose, and gives managers the tools they need to become more effective coaches. Companies like Gong provide software packages that allow salespeople to identify the best phrases and tactics used by top producers within the company. These packages also enable managers to coach to very specific points within the recording of a real sales call, and to create portfolios of best practices that can easily and quickly be shared with the entire team. In 2020, AI is going to become more important as a coaching and diagnostic tool for the top-performing sales teams, enabling individual contributors to ramp up and play at the top of their game more quickly than ever before.
2. Partnerships and alliances will give some sales teams a major competitive edge. In 2020, your organization’s strategic relationships – or lack thereof – will make a huge difference in terms of how buyers respond to you. So if you haven’t done so already, start looking around to other organizations that can add value to your current client base. You won’t want to choose a direct competitor as an ally, of course, but you will want to be able to point to relationships that offer relevant, complementary products or services to your target market. Strategic partnerships and alliances allow you to expand your offerings into entirely new ecosystems, giving you a far easier way to break into new ground than approaching buyers “cold.” This vitally important competitive factor will become more and more important as the year progresses.
3. The design and execution of digital “drip” campaigns will increase in importance. Even now, market leaders are creating sequential “drip” campaigns for prospects and customers in their systems. In 2020, determining how, when, and with what content you decide to engage digitally with buyers and prospective buyers will become an even more important topic. You can choose the cadence that makes the most sense for your market and your industry, but as a general rule, you will want to send relevant digital “touches” to people who have opted in to your company’s CRM system about every two weeks. Identifying your messaging and its frequency should be a major priority. You will want to send content that engages your base of contacts by offering relevant insight, advice, and updates. These touches must cast a spotlight – not on your technical features, but on the pains that you have resolved and the customers you have kept happy. (If you simply recite your one-size-fits-all list of features and benefits, you will succeed only in alienating the intended recipient and increasing his or her “information overload.”) The goal is to enable the recipient to see and build an emotional connection with your brand by engaging with relevant content that offers different perspectives over time. Don’t let the messaging become repetitive. That’s an instant turnoff.
4. Sales teams who synchronize their efforts with their own customer support teams will enjoy a significant competitive advantage. Those who service your customers after the sale are invaluable resources in your organization’s never-ending effort to win and retain customers. The sales professionals who understand this and act accordingly will have a major advantage in 2020. Too often, the support teams are siloed apart and don’t get the chance to communicate with the sales team as often or as directly as they should. Don’t let this happen in your world! Remember that the members of the customer success team have a very different relationship with the customer than you do. As a result, they are likely to hear important things that you may not hear. Once you lay the foundation for a good relationship with your internal customer success group, meet with them regularly and celebrate their victories as though they were your own. You will find that retaining customers, and expanding your reach within their organizations, will be much easier.
5.“Technology fatigue” will offer sales teams an unexpected opportunity. Today’s buyers are bombarded by electronic messages coming from all different directions. Much of this messaging is perceived as irrelevant, and there’s a rising wave of exhaustion with the amount of data people are expected to process. Yes, today’s information technology has allowed salespeople to “touch” prospects without actually being physically present. Understand, though, what that means: buyers are being barraged with appeals from multiple salespeople! The sales professionals who stand out in 2020 will be those who understand this dynamic and respond to it intelligently. The simplest and best way to deal with this “information overload” problem is to gain a clear, direct, personal understanding of the specific business pains experienced by each distinct subsection of your market – and to then speak concisely about those pains to the people who are most likely to experience them. The more targeted your appeal to the individual’s pain, the more effective your messaging – digital and otherwise – is going to be. Bottom line: avoid relying on one-size-fits-all “blasts.” Target your communication to the specific business problems you have solved for a discrete, narrowly-defined portion of your market. The goal of making pain disappear will always be the driver that compels people to tune out noise and take action. Your competition may rely on long paragraphs about features and benefits, but you don’t have to. Stand out by getting more specific about the problems you’ve solved in a narrowly-defined segment, and the dollar implications of failing to solve those problems. If you do that, you will not only have more and better conversations than the competition, but you will close more sales.
These are the five big trends we see on the horizon for 2020. Make it a great year!