The Universally Informed Buyer
Buyers have all the information now. They can research your products and services, they can compare prices, and they can understand your offerings in depth all while you’re giving your pitch. Notice how when you bring up a company or product to a friend they immediately Google it? All the buyers are too. “Relationship selling” becomes less important when buyers trust their own research more than reps.
The Death of the Old School
Old school sales techniques no longer work. Old sales (wolf of Wall Street, Glenn Gary Glenn Ross, straight line selling) relied upon asymmetrical information between buyers and sellers. Sellers were more informed than buyers, strove to be industry experts, and shared their “secrets” with buyers about what they knew. In a world of information abundance, this doesn’t work anymore.
Technology Powered Selling
Sales has adapted to this trend. We have seen the birth of inside sales as web demos and crm systems reduced the advantages that outside sales reps with huge Rolodexes had over 22 year olds with MacBooks and headsets. The latter can now compete with the former at a much lower cost. Tools that make reps faster at these tasks are important (dialers, schedulers, etc.) but they’re really just riding the crm wave and not powering any major shifts.
There used to be sales people. Sure there were senior salesmen and junior salesman but the job was essentially the same. We now have highly diversified sales people. Aaron Ross has done an excellent job describing the power of a BDR team, and further insights can be gleaned from enterprise vs smb specialization (eloqua vs hubspot, Dropbox vs box, zenefits vs others). Segmentation and segment specialization is becoming increasingly important in sales for all businesses.
The birth of the CRO shows a major insight into a business trend affecting all markets. Simply looking at a single part of the funnel doesn’t help understanding what holistically contributes revenue to the business. If a company closes top funnel deals of type A at 80% but renews them at 20%, yet closes top funnel deals of type B at 50% and renews them at 50%, type B is better for the business. Without a full funnel analysis of the sales operation, it is likely sales teams would focus on type A while account management teams focus on B, leading to both a loss of revenue and conflict internally. This is before even complicating things with marketing and all the segmentations there.
Where Are We Going Next?
I think all the trends above indicate that the future of sales will be very different than it is now.
The Technical Sales Person
We will begin to see the rise of increasingly technical sales reps as hard skills become more valuable than soft skills and Rolodexes. When buyers can do all the research on their own, you need to have a greater technical understanding of the product than the buyer does and serve as more of a shepherd in their buying process and less of a cattle herder.
The Rise of Sales Operations
Being a sales person is going to become really complicated. As sales systems become more complex, intelligent and analytical architects will become essential to growing organizations. Right now the sales ops person is often misunderstood as someone who builds reports and analyses, but they will soon become the most important in the organization. They will be internal pms, use data to direct sales activities, and organize sales reps in the most cohesive and effective arrangements to drive revenue.
The Death of The “Sales Rep”
Sales will eat marketing. Sales will eat account management. Sales will eat client services. Sales will eat itself. There will be no such thing as “sales” just revenue generating activities. Managing marketing, sales, client services, support, account management, etc under different segments scatters the business and fails to look at revenue as a holistic function of all business activities.