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The Future of Sales: Five Trends to Track

Posted in:  Sales and Marketing Management

Our world is changing.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt. As we look towards the future of sales, the trends defining what, how, and where we will sell are taking shape. Armed with the latest analyst research, you can identify opportunities ripe for transformation and adjust your strategy accordingly. Here are five areas on which to focus your efforts.

1. Make Way for the Millennial Buyer

The next generation of revenue leaders is here: millennials. This cohort is coming into its own and driving business strategy. “According to Forrester Analytics Business Technographics® survey data, 48% of millennials in the US are involved in the buying process (specifically vendor evaluation and selection). As millennials and gen Zers graduate to leadership roles, their preferences and needs have greater importance in the purchase process” (The Future Of Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., May 3, 2021).

Revenue leaders must now realign their approach to sales accordingly. Digitally savvy, eternally busy millennials require content that is clear, credible, and concise and delivered in sleek, consumable formats. Additionally, the ability to meet millennials inside their comfort zones via digital salesrooms or with personalized micro-sites will help your reps stand out in our crowded virtual world.

2. Continue to Hone Virtual Sales Skills

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that humans are remarkably adaptable. Forced to pivot to remote work, thousands of employees quickly learned the ins and out of platforms like Zoom and Slack.

While the debate on where we work moving forward is still raging, it’s important not to let your virtual work skillset wither. In fact, Forrester reports, “When only 12% of knowledge workers want to return to the office, virtual engagement skills learned in the pandemic will reap sustained benefits” (The Future Of Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., May 3, 2021).

That’s because much of sales will continue to take place online — so the more adept your team becomes at navigating and elevating virtual interactions, the better. Here, consider investing in always-on learning and sales coaching tools that allow you to easily and continuously train your reps in techniques like asynchronous negotiations, digital demo dos and don’ts, and so on.

3. Sell Your Values, Not Just Your Products

Empathy has been a major theme of the past eighteen months, and it’s utterly transformed how companies do business. More than just thoughtful engagements, buyers expect empathy to be woven into all aspects of a businesses’ strategy.

According to Forrester, “Buyers expect transparency in their interactions with suppliers and expect them to do more than talk the talk. Suppliers must ensure their processes, people, and technology support their values” (The Future Of Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., May 3, 2021).

To meet these expectations, don’t just sell your products’ values, but your company’s. Don’t shy away from honesty and authenticity; think about what you stand for. Do you stand for empowering people to do their best work? Crafting a more sustainable future? Simplifying the way we communicate? Integrate that narrative into your sales engagements and messaging.

4. Double Down on Sales Excellence

If the first three trends are any indication, it’s no secret that buyers expect more than ever from salespeople. To ensure their teams land new concepts and master new skills, businesses are deepening their investment in training and coaching. In fact, “Forrester’s Q2 2020 B2B Channel And Sales Survey indicated that 30% of leaders will invest in tools that make recommendations to sellers for actions to take with a buyer or in support of a buyer, and 20% will invest in recommending coaching actions to first-line managers” (The Future Of Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., May 3, 2021).

To keep pace with your peers, evaluate your current training and coaching solution. New, innovative platforms are now making it easier than ever to implement ongoing training and guided selling experiences. Additionally, don’t forget to examine how your preferred solution will integrate into existing systems such as your CRM or your sales enablement platform; that’s key to ensuring that reps actually use it.

5. Use Your Team’s Time Wisely

Without long commutes, many workers saw their productivity explode over the past year and a half. But for reps, it can still be a challenge to carve out time for essential sales activities. Research shows that “today’s B2B sellers work a 52.3-hour week but only spend 23.3% of their time in core selling or direct engagement selling activities, according to Forrester Sales Activity Studies of more than 25,000 B2B sales professionals” (The Future Of Sales, Forrester Research, Inc., May 3, 2021).

An opportunity lies in wait here: if revenue leaders can optimize how sellers work, they stand to unlock enormous productivity gains. The key here is to understand where sellers are losing time and, importantly, what tasks they should be executing instead. One way to do this is by leveraging data from your sales enablement platform. Reports like our Play Scorecards can help leaders understand which sales activities are moving the needle and which are not.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

By capitalizing on these trends, you can prepare your salespeople to succeed in our rapidly changing world. To explore more of the latest research from Forrester, download the full report The Future of Sales: The Five P’s Of Sales That Will Power Success In The Future.