This is already the third time we’ve put the crystal ball on the table to predict the future of B2B sales. In the past, we have accurately predicted the rise of sales automation, artificial intelligence and several other things. There are also trends that we have missed and predictions that didn't quite happen (yet?). Most sales organizations still have their hands full dealing with previous trends, but we're still very excited to announce our six new trend predictions. These are the trends we believe will shape the world of B2B sales in the coming year.
B2B Sales Trends in 2018:
1. Millennials take over
Members of Generation Y have finished their studies and entered the job market a while ago. In 2018, they are not just in junior roles, but many of them are getting promoted into more senior positions. Many sales teams and organisations are led by these young people. And these people know how to leverage technology, they value work-life balance and they want to know why things are done the way they are.
What they lack in experience they make up for with enthusiasm, technical know-how and creativity. Many organizations will rely on them when they renew their old sales processes and bring them to a modern digitalised world. If you want to succeed in 2018, the odds are you need to know how to collaborate, manage and be managed by millennials.
2. Account-based sales becomes the norm
During the last couple of years, account-based marketing has made a comeback. And in 2018, it's time for account-based sales to grab the spotlight. With modern technology, identifying highly defined ideal customer profiles is easier than ever before and sales leaders want to make the most out of this.
In 2018, salespeople will start approaching these "most wanted" accounts in creative ways. Emails and ads are more personalized, and more scalable content creation processes allow salespeople to target new accounts with value-added content from day one.
3. Video is commonplace
There's nothing new with videos, you might say. But if you really think about it, most of the communication between salespeople and buyers is still happening by email, phone and chat. We expect to see a change here. A modern sales tech stack includes tools and applications that allow salespeople to place a quick, personalized video in several customer touchpoints. Don't be surprised if you see a quick video message from a salesperson popping up when you start reviewing a proposal or while waiting for a follow up email from a vendor.
Some people will go as far as captioning their own videos. They know that many videos are watched without sound, and they want to maximize their impact either way.
4. Context-based intelligence flashes its potential (bot, customer journey, signals)
The best salespeople have always had good social antennae. Next year, technology will make this easier for larger groups of sales professionals. Everyone knows that timing is critical in sales, and now technology will help sales teams answer the WHEN, HOW and WHAT more easily than before.
It might be a chatbot that seems smarter than expected. Perhaps it’s that handy white paper download link that pops up in your Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp right on time. Or maybe it's that tailored viewing experience when a vendor provides you with a demo with their brand new VR headsets.
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These are the 6 B2B sales trends to watch in 2018. #B2Bsales
5. Simplification at the heart of the sales process
If you are like most ambitious sales leaders, you're always exploring the latest trends in sales. And there has definitely not been a lack of them over the last couple of years. Big Data, Social Selling, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Account-Based-Everything — the list goes on. With all these tech buzzwords, it's no wonder people feel overwhelmed.
In 2018, the winning sales teams are putting simplicity at the heart of their sales and marketing processes. They know they don't have to implement all the shiny new methodologies, but instead focus on systematically executing a well defined sales playbook. Because of this trend, we anticipate more and more companies will establish a professional SalesOps team to oversee the efficiency of their current workflow.
6. Less predictive, more prescriptive
Even though most companies are still figuring out how to get their predictive lead scoring models in place, the frontrunners are already moving from predictive to prescriptive models. At the end of the day, salespeople are not that interested in all those positive and negative attributes in the predictive models. They just want to know what to do next to move their cases along the funnel toward a sale.
Technology brings a lot more insight to salespeople's fingertips, and these insights can be used to formulate relevant suggested actions that are, based on data, most likely to lead to the best possible outcome. And this can be scaled when machine learning models are automatically collecting feedback and adjusting these suggestions accordingly.
Bonus trend: GDPR
Especially in Europe, we'll see huge amounts of blog posts about General Data Protection Regulation coming into force in May 25th, 2018. Some experts will paint it as a doomsday for all marketing and salespeople. And then in June, we will realize that the world did not end and sales and marketing people still have their jobs and deliver good results. What you need to do is to make sure you're prepared and understand what consent, opt-in, right to be forgotten, sensitive personal data and other key terms are all about.