It’s a whole new world for sellers and marketers. With the dawn of the digital era and the evolution of buyers, forward-thinking companies are transforming their approach to engaging customers — a transformation that begins with analysis and anticipation.
Reflecting back on a successful past first requires looking forward. Agile companies pivot their approaches based on current trends and educated predictions that will shape the business landscape. Many of these trends will be shared at TOPO Summit 2019, where 2,000 leaders (Highspot included!) will come together to discuss critical topics in revenue.
With the conference around the corner, we dove into three of today’s — and tomorrow’s — hottest topics that are impacting the modern market.
Human Empathy in the AI Revolution
Artificial intelligence (AI) is finally beginning to deliver on its potential for sales and marketing — thanks to human intelligence. Contradicting earlier industry hype that AI would supersede the human factor in sales and marketing, the reality is that human intelligence is playing an irreplaceable role in combining data and intuition to make smart business decisions. It is the combination of human empathy informed by AI that will progressively disrupt the sales and marketing industries in 2019, accelerating organizations’ ability to learn from, interact with, and delight their customers.
The digital age’s wealth of data created two extremes. At one end of the spectrum, many teams overanalyzed the minutiae, letting predictive analytics alone guide their direction and losing their way in the process. On the other end, teams shied away from the data deluge and continued to make choices based entirely on instinct and gut feelings, ignoring market signals.
Today, the lessons of these extremes are driving a convergence to humans intelligently applying AI to advance sales and marketing strategies and approaches. For example, a seller examines AI-driven content recommendations within her sales enablement tool. The seller chooses the asset that will resonate most based on a personal conversation with the buyer that provided insight into specific pain points and needs.
From semantic search to intelligent content recommendations to analytics, AI and machine learning are boosting sellers’ productivity and effectiveness and show no sign of slowing down. But while the artificial intelligence capabilities of today are more powerful than ever before, they prove most impactful when applied with human empathy.
The War for Sales Talent
A product or service may be top-notch, but it’s unlikely to fly off the shelf without top talent to sell it into the hands of buyers. Selling to the modern buyer is increasingly difficult, making top sales talent more valuable — and more challenging to attract and retain.
An important mantra for businesses looking to succeed in 2019 is, “Recruit, hire, train, and retain top talent.” Consequently, the war for sales talent is at an all-time high. CSO Insights reports that talent is a universal challenge for sales organizations with only 16% of sales leaders feeling confident that they have the talent they need to succeed. This problem is exacerbated by the demand for tech sales professionals currently exceeding the supply.
Given the fierce competition for talent, companies are investing more time and resources into developing winning teams. This has led to a shift from leaders hiring based on experience and abiding by a “sink or swim” training mentality to hiring and developing buyer-focused professionals capable of delivering the high value that today’s customer demands. Hiring profiles have been slow to change, but leaders are beginning to weigh expertise and backgrounds less heavily, instead relying more on emotional intelligence, grit, and a propensity to learn and connect with buyers.
Teams are also investing more in onboarding, training and development. Nurturing talent leads to significant wins that make an impact throughout the business, including lower churn and attrition rates and more cohesive alignment across functions driven by internal promotions. In addition, leaders are becoming increasingly mindful of sales reps’ daily routines and frustrations, investing more in technology that alleviates manual and tedious tasks and ensuring that reps can effortlessly access the information and materials they need to be their best.
Sales Enablement as a Competitive Necessity
In the race for securing new customers, there is only one winner. Strategic companies know that when competition for buyer attention is fierce and a silver medal doesn’t cut it, they need to gain a competitive edge through delivering a standout buyer experience. One of the first steps to this is leveraging the power of sales enablement — what modern sales and marketing leaders now regard as the new standard of doing business. SiriusDecisions Senior Research Director Peter Ostrow stated, “Sales enablement is a competitive necessity, providing companies with an effective way to align marketing and sales teams and provide buyers with exceptional value. Go-to-market leaders in companies of all sizes want to know what good enablement looks like so they can keep up with their competition.”
TOPO reports that 90% of sales leaders plan to invest in technologies and methodologies to help their sellers engage effectively with prospects and customers. By 2021, 15% of all sales technology investments will be applied to sales enablement technology, up from the 2017 level of 7.2%, according to Gartner’s 2018 Digital Content Management for Sales Market Guide — a growth rate of more than 208%. Organizations are also investing more heavily in growing and refining their sales enablement functions. CSO Insights reports that salespeople at companies with a formal sales enablement charter achieve 1.3 times higher quota attainment than those approaching sales enablement informally.
Sales enablement technology will create significant distance between sales innovators and laggards in the year to come. Like customer relationship management and marketing automation before it, sales enablement is primed to define the next evolution of buyer engagement. As organizations in every industry prioritize the customer experience to satiate increasingly demanding buyers, sales enablement is simply becoming the way to modern selling.
What’s Next for Sales and Marketing in 2019?
The above three trends are just the beginning of the forces that will continue to influence modern sales and marketing. Additional emerging themes include the importance of alignment, customer engagement, and the role that data plays in driving scale.
Stop by our Booth 14 at TOPO Summit to explore what these trends mean for your organization and how you can analyze, predict, and proactively pursue success in the year ahead.