The theme for Barrett’s 12 Sales Trends for 2012 is ‘Adapt or Perish’.
This theme is borne from the turbulent and challenging economic time we now find ourselves living in. Many of us need to rethink how we do business, how we sell and buy, how we live our lives and how we engage with the world. With the looming potential of a second GFC, we are witnessing and experiencing a major transition from the Industrial Revolution to a brave new world of the New Tech paradigm. Economic conditions are expected to remain volatile in the coming 12 months and 2012 looks set to throw up a new set of challenges.
Social, economic and political tensions bring uncertainty, with many businesses wondering what to expect and how to align their sales efforts moving forward. Barrett has indentified the 12 Sales Trends of 2012 to help guide businesses through the major transitions in how we sell and buy. Some of the trends are closely aligned however distinctive enough to stand on their own. Together they foretell major changes in the way we sell and do business.
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.
As you read these trends, think hard about those that will have the greatest impact on your sales efforts next year.
Get the Sales Trends Report for 2012 for free.
1. A seismic shift in the way we sell
If you were looking for things to settle down and a return to the good old days of selling in 2012 think again. We’re never going back, so it’s time to adapt and forge a new path to selling for your business. The way we sell and the way we do business in the 21st Century is proving to be a very different proposition from the traditions established in the 20th Century. Selling now requires a different philosophy and approach. Selling and service now go hand in hand so we all need to be much more proactive. There are now very few absolutes – everything is subject to evolution and reinvention. It’s no longer just about doing deals and all 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. 2012 is about getting your house in a new order because the world changes yet again and we need to change with it.
2. Intuitive customer centric CRM
The goal of a CRM solution is to drive growth (i.e. revenue) and maximize efficiencies (i.e. profit) in business practices, processes, and relationship management (sales). In 2012 watch closely as CRM moves away from being a contacts database and pipeline / forecast management tool to becoming the system that places customers at the core of a company’s operation. This means integrating marketing, sales, service and support to provide a single view of the customer as they move through the engagement lifecycle. In 2012 smart companies will make sure their CRM has a simple, intuitive interface easily configured for integration to finance and legacy systems presenting a single source of the truth concerning customers. Your CRM 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. In 2012, CRM goes where you go.
3. Make coaching THE priority and coach your way to sales success
Coaching has been a hot topic for some time now and the results are in – regular and effective sales coaching does make a dramatic and positive difference to sales people and their sales results. Smart sales leaders make time to invest in sales managers, making sure they are properly trained, coached and well equipped to be sales coaches in 2012. 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. So, in 2012, if you want to be at the top of your game and stay ahead of your competitors and get coaching.
4. Move over mass marketing welcome to fragmentation and segmentation
2012 will see niche sales and marketing strategies becoming the norm. Fragmentation and segmentation are well and truly taking over from mass marketing. 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. This means sales teams will need to be even more targeted in their sales planning and prospecting efforts – no more scatter gun approach. Marketing teams will need to stop producing catch-all marketing materials that ignore buyer preferences and attitudes at their peril. Leaders will need to start looking at their strategy’s evaluation measures and start measuring marketing and sales teams on those same measures. 2012 requires a distinct shift in attention from an internal company ‘me’ focus to an external buyer and seller ‘we’ focus or expect to perish.
5. The Polarisation of Selling & Buying
Watch out for polarisation of sales strategies and sales teams as the middle ground begins to disappear in 2012. We will see leaders re-think their sales force structure and go-to-market strategy as products commoditise and 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. If the former, the sales journey needs to be supported by systems and processes that make the transaction as quick and as efficient as possible. If the latter, organisation’s need highly skilled people as the primary points of contact engaging in a proactive consultative approach to selling. In 2012 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
With access to so much information, buyers have grown more sophisticated and better informed consumers, especially in the B2B (business to business) space. The savvy business person knows that many of those commodity purchases they have traditionally made face-to-face with a sales representative can now be made online thus saving them valuable time and money. 2012 will see 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 know this sacred cow is not long for this world and has already begun planning for a major transition into the blended world of online and personal selling. These leaders are choosing to invest in sales forces that educate clients on how to run a better business and achieve better results.
7. Educate and Facilitate
Smart sales professionals have always known that they need to calibrate where a prospective customer is at before they start offering up products or solutions. They know their role varies along a continuum of education to facilitation. In 2012, smart sales leaders know to recruit in and develop their sales teams to be educators and facilitators not product sales people. Their investment in their sales people will result in a whole new skill set including patience, listening, creative problem solving and dealing with ambiguity and complexity. Customers will come to value the new and improved sales approach because in 2012 the customer, not the product, will be at the heart of the sale and they know the sales person will help them make the right decisions moving forward.
8. It’s not WHAT you do but WHY & HOW you do it
Too much choice drives consumers to seek real connections and deeper meaning – a spiritual, psychological connection if you will. Restlessness is emerging among consumers about who they want to connect with and buy from – they want to simplify and make every moment count. Still many organisations struggle to explain why they exist and how they do what they do, in a way that is easily understood and generates a curiosity to know more. In 2012 if we cannot communicate our story to our employees, customers, suppliers and investors then they cannot tell others or make informed decisions. 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
The science is clear, our success resides in how we use our brains – our brains can continue to learn, grow and adapt until the day we die. 2012 will see neuroscience become the topic du jour for sales teams. Learning how to train and in many instances, retrain our brains to incorporate effective thinking and habits will see sales teams forging new neural pathways leading to greater sales success. For years, scientists and psychologists have heralded the application of neuroscience tools and processes as a pathway to wellness and success. The amount of knowledge we have discovered about the brain in the last 10 years alone surpasses anything that we knew before. Now, it’s finally and officially arrived on the doorstep of sales and marketing professionals. If you are not training your sales, marketing, service and leadership teams in neuroscience and neuropsychology you could be left behind in 2012.
10. Using scientific data to predict B2B buying behaviour
In 2012 smart organisations, large and small, will follow the lead of business-to-consumer (B2C) retailers such as Amazon.com by making smarter use of customer data to predict behavior, drive sales, and deepen relationships. Companies are now faced with an increasing availability of knowledge and an opportunity to exploit it. 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. With the advent of social media and intuitive CRM 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. 2012 is about paying attention, really listening and responding in a much more considered manner.
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. Our lives have been changed dramatically, both socially and professionally. Technology has lowered barriers to entry and significantly shortened product lifecycles. Shrinking product life cycles make it increasingly important for businesses to get innovative offerings into the customers’ quickly. In 2012 with continuous product innovation and further market fragmentation, customers will have more choices and leverage than ever before. 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 in 2012. In 2012 organisations must find fresh ways to respond to the ever changing global marketplace or perish.
12. Buyers are in the driver’s seat
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. 2012 brings with it a whole new respect for transparency and buying power. Ignore this growing force at your peril in 2012.
Which of these trends will have the greatest impact on sales next year? Go to our 12 Sales Trends in 2012 Poll to tell us which trends will be on your radar in 2012. We will publish the results of the most important Sales Trends for 2012 in January.
And remember everybody lives by selling something.