12 sales trends you can’t ignore in 2012

sales team making decisions

Social, economic and political tensions bring uncertainty, with many businesses wondering what to expect and how to align their sales efforts moving forward. Today’s business and sales leaders will need to examine their go-to-market strategies and sales force structures as well as demonstrate courageous leadership as they navigate these unchartered waters.

Barrett has indentified 12 sales trends of 2012 to help guide businesses through the major transitions in how we sell and buy.

1. A seismic shift in the way we sell

Selling now requires a different philosophy and approach. It’s about developing strong relationships that go beyond great products, great service and great design. In the 21st century business is more about questions than answers; more about thinking than action; more about people than capital.

2. CEM – Customer Experience Management

Buyers begin to demand being treated as individuals and as sales organisations commence harnessing a combination of intelligent buyer data and clearly defined roles for their sales, service and marketing teams need to fulfill that expectation. Smart companies will make sure their CRM has a simple, intuitive interface easily configured for integration and will also easily embed social media to aggregate all content concerning a customer. As for employee productivity it also needs to be mobile to give staff flexibility to access and update information efficiently while they’re on the move.

3. Coaching

Leaders need to make sure their sales managers can get time in the field and offline to develop their sales people and coach them to sales success rather than being continuously caught up in meetings and with administrative tasks. Sales managers are already seeing merit in coach training for team engagement and improved bottom line. If you want to be at the top of your game and stay ahead of your competitors, you need coaching.

4. Markets of one

Sales and marketing teams will need to work together even more closely and take their listening skills to a whole new level. Smart companies will tune in to where buyers are electing to spend time and money. Ready or not, new consumer markets will emerge demanding different ways of doing business. Companies need to shift their attention from an internal company ‘me’ focus to an external buyer and seller ‘we’ focus or expect to perish.

5. The polarisation of selling and buying

Real margin value shifts to ideas, education, innovation and results. In the 21st Century a sales-driven organisation needs to focus on helping the buyer successfully navigate and complete their journey. In the modern world, buyers needs are polarising between being completing simple transactions and navigating complex arrangements. Sales and business leaders will need to make brave decisions about how they structure their sales efforts if they are to thrive and prosper.

6. Field sales team numbers to halve

We are seeing the beginning of a massive restructure of transactional sales forces as clients go online, and ditch the ‘order taker’ who adds no value. Smart sales leaders have begun planning for a major transition into the blended world of online and personal selling, choosing to invest in sales forces that educate clients on how to run a better business and achieve better results.

7. Educate and facilitate

Every sales person starts as an educator. Smart sales leaders know to recruit and develop their sales teams to be educators and facilitators not product sales people. Now the customer, not the product, will be at the heart of the sale and customers know the sales person will help them make the right decisions moving forward.

8. It’s not WHAT you do but WHY and HOW you do it

WHY you do what you do and HOW you make a difference will be front and centre in the people’s minds. In the wake of consumer disquiet at corporate greed, business’ cost management obsession, outsourcing and the move away from product as the focal point, what you do is not enough anymore. With consumer and professional now better educated, techno-savvy and better connected than ever before, the need to articulate WHY you do what you do and HOW you do what you do is critical for differentiating your business in 2012 and beyond.

9. The Sales Brain – using neuroscience to sell

For years, scientists and psychologists have heralded the application of neuroscience tools and processes as a pathway to wellness and success. Now, it’s finally and officially arrived on the doorstep of sales and marketing professionals. Make sure you are training your sales, marketing, service and leadership teams in neuroscience and neuropsychology so you are not left behind.

10. Using scientific data to predict B2B buying behaviour

As available data grows around buyers’ preferences and habits, emerging trends, new values sets and ways of living, businesses will find new ways to understand their customers and new metrics to access. We now have the science of behavioural economics where business can selectively target, connect and communicate with the worker, buyer, supplier and communities with much greater accuracy, relevance and meaning.

11. Shrinking product life cycles

The scale of change in the last 100 years is vast. We have gone from the horse to the space shuttle. Shrinking product life cycles make it increasingly important for businesses to get innovative offerings into the customers’ quickly We will see customers become more demanding, insisting on both off-the-shelf products and more complex, customised solutions all requiring different levels of sales support

12. A new respect for transparency and buying power

The new generation of educated, techno-savvy, connected consumers will be purchasing products customised to their needs and lifestyles. Corporate customers are seeking individualised value propositions and customised offerings that accelerate their business results. Empowered and informed by the internet and influenced by their peers, these customers have come to expect control of their buying experiences. If you are accustomed to selling products and walking away, your business will be forced to prove how you add real value. So don’t for a minute take your customers for granted, patronise them or treat them like idiots or you will hear about it via Twitter and Facebook or other social media channels where your reputation will be hung out to dry.

Remember  everybody lives by selling something.