The world in which sales professionals operate is constantly changing. Underlying drivers such as market dynamics and changing customer demands, demographic shifts, globalization, and disruptive technologies are fomenting a perfect storm of trends that are changing the context of how sellers and buyers interact with one another, how they share information, and how they make decisions.
Success in Selling: Developing a World-Class Sales Ecosystem presents timely research on key trends reshaping today’s sales profession and introduces the new ATD World-Class Sales Competency Model. In particular, the ATD study identifies 12 trends shaping the industry.
Trend 1: Rise of Empowered Buyers
The convergence of mobile, social, cloud, and big data innovations has ushered in an era of buyer empowerment. Today’s tech-savvy customers, with access to a wider range of information sources, are better educated about available solutions than ever before.
Trend 2: Sales Force Verticalization
Educated and empowered customers increasingly have a low tolerance for generic product/service information. They expect sales teams to understand the dynamics of their vertical industry, including its key performance indicators and the major challenges and opportunities that they and their competitors face.
Trend 3: Shift From “FAB” to “Solution” to “Insight” Selling
Today’s buyers are looking for a credible partner who has a solid understanding of their needs and who also challenges them, provides insights, and proposes customized and contextualized solutions to help them solve tomorrow’s problems while also helping them optimize and transform their current business.
Trend 4: Blurring Lines Between Sales and Marketing
Today, resourceful and educated customers have access to the marketing messages and digital footprint of multiple solution providers. In most cases, they have begun to compare a variety of solutions before calling a sales representative. More and more, organizations are moving toward aligning and integrating their sales and marketing functions to ensure consistency in branding messages.
Trend 5: Adoption of a Hybrid Sales Model
Customers are comfortable making decisions based on a mix of both face-to-face and virtual interactions. Furthermore, an increasing number of organizations are expanding and augmenting the traditional role of their inside sales representatives, who are no longer simply engaged in task substitution for the “feet-on-the-street” sales reps.
Trend 6: On-Demand Availability
Conventional and advanced mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, and wearables) have contributed to on-demand availability and accessibility of both sellers and buyers. By providing on-demand voice, video, and text presence, this trend continues to reduce the need for exclusive in-person selling activities, while contributing to reduced cost and improved productivity of the sales force.
Trend 7: Omnipresent Social Media
Increasingly, buyers share their issues, concerns, requirements, and opinions on social media for all (including sales professionals) to see. Successful organizations and sales professionals make intelligent contributions to social communities and continually monitor their own presence on social media channels.
Trend 8: Analytics-Based Prospecting
Organizations use data mining and advanced analytics to analyze customer data at a more granular level than with traditional approaches. They use intelligence gained from this analysis to obtain insights into customers’ challenges, their past purchasing habits, what they value, and any untapped opportunities.
Trend 9: Multigenerational Sales Teams and Customer Teams
Both sales teams and the customer’s purchasing teams are becoming multigenerational, with Millennials (born 1980 to 2000) becoming the dominant force as Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) continue to retire, taking with them their experience-based wisdom.
Trend 10: Globalization of Teams and Customer Base
Continued globalization, accelerated by the interconnectedness of the world economy and by advances in virtual communication technologies, has created global sales teams and global customer purchasing teams, in which decisions are made in a distributed but unified manner, especially in global companies.
Trend 11: Use of “Win” Analytics to Gain Learner Insights
Today’s advanced CRM systems and web-analytics tools capture information in unprecedented detail on sales successes and win challenges. Once mined, this granular data offers valuable insights into the development needs of the sales team and can be used to target desired behaviors and learning needs of individuals or teams..
Trend 12: Emergence of Integrated Learning Environments as a Necessity
The concept of learning environments is not new, but it is gaining momentum as a necessity to better accommodate rapidly shifting business needs, the growing virtualization and mobility of the sales force, and the learning preferences of Millennials.
Each trend has the potential to push a sales organization off course, but together they create a perfect storm—requiring organizations to rethink their sales talent development practices. To stay on course and navigate the future, organizations need to adopt a multifaceted strategy to attract, select, engage, assess, retain, and continuously develop competent multigenerational global sales teams. The new ATD World-Class Competency Model is designed to accommodate these trends and to assist organizations in using them to their advantage.