By Lynne Zaledonis, Senior Vice President, Product Marketing, Sales Cloud 

Customer expectations are skyrocketing, and it’s changing what it means to be a successful businessperson in any role. Today, we live in an instantaneous world, but also one in which tailored, consultative experiences built on strong relationships are table stakes. How can sales reps meet these seemingly contradictory demands?

Our research team spoke to more than 2,900 sales professionals worldwide to see what the future of sales looks like and what the teams that excel in this new environment do differently. Let’s take a look at the top trends shaping the future of sales.

 

1.  The future of sales and how teams Are Falling Short of Rising Customer Expectations

A separate study found that 58% of consumers and 77% of business buyers feel that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them.

When customers demand more personalised, consultative engagement, it’s the salespeople in the front lines who carry the onus to deliver. It’s no wonder that customer satisfaction is now the most-tracked sales KPI.

This is a tall order, as sales reps are overloaded by various tasks and requirements that lead them to spend just one-third of their time selling and interacting with customers. What’s more, they’re also increasingly responsible for emerging customer success metrics, adding a detour to their quota-driven north star. It’s no wonder that 57% of sales reps expect to miss their quotas this year.

future of sales

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2. A Data-Driven Sales Playbook Is Emerging

The foundation of sales is relationships — those intangible bonds built by the soft skills a talented rep brings to the table, including the ability to listen and pay attention to detail.

But teams are increasingly amplifying the ingenuity of salespeople with data-driven insights.

The richness of data available today is leading to more effective methods of lead prioritisation and forecasting, which drives success in top sales teams.

By using data to identify the individuals or accounts with the greatest propensity to buy, reps can focus on building the value-adding relationships with the right prospects.

Today, twice as many teams primarily prioritise leads based on data analysis rather than on intuition.

future of sales

 

3. The Impact of Artificial Intelligence Is Taking Shape

We are still in the early days of AI in sales organisations, but most teams expect that it will gain ground quickly as they figure out how this new level of intelligence can boost productivity.

The same study found that a majority of reps and managers foresee substantial impacts from AI over the next five years on many of teams’ toughest tasks. Use cases range from guidance on which leads need the most attention, to knowing which emails should be answered first, to automating data entry.

Although there is often fear that AI will displace sales jobs, the data shows that even teams that are already using AI continue to expand their ranks at a faster rate than others.

The growth of AI is expected to continue as sales leaders expect their adoption of AI to grow by 155% by 2020.

future of sales

 

4. Virtual Selling Has Hit a Tipping Point

While relationships will always be fundamental to sales success, research shows that, as sales reps spend more time in front of screens, these relationships are increasingly developed virtually.

In fact, over the past three years, these virtual connections with customers have increased 3.2 times more than meeting with customers in-person. Staffing models are following suit, as teams add inside sales reps and sales development staff.

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5. Top Sales Teams Break From the “Silo Mentality”

When customers see the companies they do business with as one entity, and demand contextualisation and personalisation across their entire experience with that company, it’s time for every team to take a collaborative approach, including sales.

To enable this, teams are embracing a free and open internal flow of customer data.

Eighty-one percent of teams say a connected view of data across the customer journey is important.

Top teams are more than twice as likely than under-performers to have the integrated systems that are critical to such a view.

future of sales

Article first appeared on the Salesforce Blog.

Lava is an authorised Salesforce Partner in Malaysia and has more than a decade of experience in cloud solutions which includes marketing automation, CRM implementation, change management, and consultation. We pride ourselves in not just being a CRM partner but in also understanding the needs of our customers and taking their business to the next level.

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