B2B sales is quickly transforming, and the main driver of that change is the growing amount of information sales people have at their fingertips. Last year we predicted changes for the year 2016, and now we will do the same for 2017.
During the last couple of years, we've seen a rise in the number of new digital sales models and processes. Both the sales process and the buying process are more digital now. That development, alongside with new technologies, have increased the amount of data and insights sales organizations have about their prospects and customers. Most of the trends we see in 2017 are either directly or indirectly linked to this megatrend.
1. Artificial intelligence
In 2017, it's difficult to find a new business application that is not using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Sales and marketing technology is no exception, and all companies from big corporations to small startups are betting on it. The competition in the CRM field is heating up. Salesforce launched Einstein at Dreamforce and Microsoft won the bidding war for LinkedIn and will start integrating it with their current Dynamics and Office 365 offerings. At the same time, new products and applications are being introduced within and around these large sales ecosystems. And there's one thing in common for all these applications: they are all "powered by AI". Although still most often just a buzzword, the trend is very real here.
2. The rise of the tech-savvy sales person
There is a completely new generation of sales people joining the job market these days. More and more companies will find out individuals and teams whose ability to use new technology is exceptionally good. In 2017, these people won't only be found from progressive industries, but also from the more traditional ones. These individuals will lead by example and spark many development projects in the area of sales automation. In many cases, sales automation simply means a group of simple and clever actions such as setting up notifications for certain sales related trigger events or using analytics and email tracking when sharing materials and proposals with prospects.
3. Microsegments will become mainstream
Account based marketing lifted its head already in the current year. In its simplest form, ABM is a marketing approach in which an organization considers an individual target company as a market of one. Each of these microsegments will get their own nurturing program. In 2017, account based approaches will be everywhere. There will be account based sales, account based business development and account based everything. The key thing here is to understand that sales and marketing teams can create more creative and better defined target groups without losing the scalability of their sales and marketing efforts. The companies who get this right will be able to increase their hit rates and conversion rates significantly.
4. Content marketing continues to evolve
There's very little novelty in content marketing as a trend. While some companies are still setting up a blog for their homepage and tuning up their buyer profiles, the pioneers are moving away from text-driven content marketing that used to be tailored mainly for the top of the sales funnel. In 2017, we will see more videos and more interactive content. Some marketing organizations will begin to build their own news studios so that their teams can jump into live streaming whenever it is needed, even several times in a day. On top of the MQL and SQL metrics, companies will use KPIs for measuring the impact of content marketing at later stages of the sales funnel, too. Some sales organizations will allocate weekly time slots for content production. Companies will also learn how to use their own products and services as a resource for new content pieces. Business benefits calculators, online tests and freemium applications are good examples of that development.
5. Social selling will be incorporated into standard sales processes
No one has been able to avoid the term social selling. However, very often is still seen as a separate method outside the official documented sales process. In 2017, a number of organizations will begin to bundle it into their other sales routines. Engagement and social influence will evolve to a more systematic and measurable form. These terms can be found from many official sales methodology documents alongside with new sales automation workflow buzzwords such as sequence and cadence. In many companies social selling tactics will part of these sales sequences just like phone calls, emails and in-person meetings are.
6. Value and usage-based pricing is gaining momentum
The pricing revolution continues as companies are implementing a pricing system that is based on the usage of the service or the value perceived by the user. The more you use the product and benefit from it, the more you pay. At the same time, price erosion is affecting many products and services and some of them will eventually be available free of charge. This has already happened in the media and entertainment business and other industries should be prepared for it, too. One good example of a relevant innovation workshop is to think about ways how your company can build value and charge customers five years from now assuming that all or the vast majority of your current offering will be free or almost free of charge.
Companies should prepare for these trends carefully, but also remember that the traditional sales rules still often apply. The best sales people have always been working more systematically than others. Exploring new trends is smart for sure, but in order to build sustainable competitive advantage the new processes need to be standardized and bundled into daily and weekly routines. To help you standardize and systematically analyze your sales pipeline, download our Mathematics for B2B Sales eBook here!