It’s no secret that the sales industry is experiencing serious changes.
Buyers are more sophisticated and harder to reach.
Sales teams are inundated with marketing leads without knowing which ones are legitimate opportunities.
We’re all being asked to do more with less.
Let’s take a look at nine sales trends that are shaping the industry right now.
1. Inside sales
The inside sales industry really took off after the 2008 market crash.
Companies started looking for a more efficient and cost-effective way to sell. They discovered that they could hire inside sales reps for a fraction of the cost of expensive outside reps.
And they often achieved better results because the inside reps could make more calls and do more demos from the office than traveling reps ever dreamed of doing on the road.
Salesforce.com achieved significant growth thanks to an inside sales team that booked appointments and closed deals over the phone and Internet.
Field sales has become a hybrid of inside and outside sales techniques, with field reps spending half of their day selling remotely.
It’s important to note that inside sales is not telemarketing.
Telemarketing is the call you get at dinnertime that uses a scripted, single-call close. A telemarketer won’t let you hang up until you’ve said no seven times.
Inside sales is professional sales done remotely. Inside sales teams use technology to contact the right prospects at the right time with the right message. This approach provides a better experience for both the seller and the buyer.
That’s why inside sales is growing fast and tends to balance outside sales as part of the sales organization, according to the State of Sales 2017 study (the mix is trending towards 50/50 for inside/outside sales).
Many of the hottest companies in the world right now are SaaS (software-as-a-service) businesses, including Zenefits, Dropbox and Cloudera. Cloud computing is quickly replacing on-premise software because it involves less financial risk and is often easier to deploy.
Salesforce plowed the deep snow with its cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) technology. XANT enabled users to plug its sales productivity tools, powered by predictive analytics, into the Salesforce CRM and quickly established itself as the leader in sales acceleration technology.
Many sales organizations use their CRM as a conveyor belt to keep their sales process organized, and rely on XANT’s sales acceleration technology to speed up the assembly line.
3. Immediate response
We tested Google leads versus cold calls and found that Google leads were 8 times more likely to convert into a sale.
We started to notice that the best way to close a Google lead was to respond quickly. We asked around the industry, and nobody seemed to know how fast was fast enough.
In 2007, we teamed up with Dr. James Oldroyd and conducted some groundbreaking research on immediate response. Nearly 400,000 companies have accessed this research. We continue to update it, and you can find the latest report here. We’ve also created a compelling infographic that tells you everything you need to know about the science of lead response management.
The research revealed a profound correlation between speed and success.
You are 100 times more likely to contact a lead and 21 times more likely to see that lead enter the sales cycle if you call within 5 minutes.
But the average response time is 44 hours.
XANT also pioneered a method to test a company’s response to web leads. We’ve performed thousands of these “secret shopper” tests, called ResponseAudits, for companies of all sizes.
- How fast you respond to web leads
- How many times you call back
- Whether you left a voicemail
- Whether you sent an email
You can request your own ResponseAudit here.
Chuck Coonradt wrote an insightful book on employee motivation called “The Game of Work.”
He showed how companies can keep workers engaged through gamification:
- Establish clear rules
- Record stats on individual players
- Keep score
- Display scores publicly
XANT has incorporated these elements into its sales acceleration platform. The predictive sales engine not only tells you what’s your best next sales move– it makes selling visual, competitive and fun.
5. Predictive analytics
Billy Beane changed the game of baseball – and all professional sports – when he used data science to help the Oakland A’s outplay teams with much larger payrolls.
The movie “Moneyball” demonstrated how the scrappy and efficient 2002 Oakland A’s competed against larger market teams like the New York Yankees. The Yankees payroll of $125 million dwarfed the A’s payroll of $41 million.
Beane knew he had to think differently. So he used math to pick his players, focusing on on-base percentage. He hired underrated – and underpaid – players who were good at getting on base because he discovered this was a key predictor of team success.
Sales acceleration technology now incorporates predictive analytics to help sales teams hire the right reps for the right roles – and to identify the best leads to call, when to contact them, and the right message to share.
Sales teams that use predictive analytics gain an advantage over their competitors because they spend more time talking to prospects who are likely to buy and their sales forecasts are more accurate and actionable.
6. Big data
Technology allows us to collect and store more data than ever before. Venture capitalists are investing billions of dollars into companies that can turn data into actionable insights.
XANT has amassed more than 80 billion sales interactions, and counting, in its predictive and prescriptive self-learning engine, Neuralytics.
Sales teams can leverage this data to prospect more efficiently, improve sales forecasting accuracy, hire the right reps, speed up sales cycles, and close more deals.
7. Sales acceleration
In 2014, we released a research report, “The Sales Acceleration Market Size Study,” showing that North American companies were already spending $12.8 billion per year on sales acceleration technology.
Sales acceleration bridges the gap between the well-known technology categories of marketing automation and CRM.
Here is a list of technologies that fall within the sales acceleration technology category:
Sales Communications: XANT
Texting: Screen Magic
In addition to offering breakthrough innovations in predictive sales communications, XANT uses predictive analytics to address the following sales challenges:
- Email and engagement tracking
- Sales pipeline management
- Sales forecasting
- Sales rep motivation
- Sales hiring
8. Systems consulting
Harvard professor Clayton Christensen wrote an article for Harvard Business Review called “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption.” It talks about how consulting is facing major disruption, just like the steel and publishing industries.
Consultants must find new models for providing value, Christensen argues, including using technology and big data to solve problems more quickly and efficiently.
What’s needed is a consulting model that delivers a proven system for increasing revenue, rather than just leaving the client with a PowerPoint presentation and hoping they can find a way to execute.
XANT offers a consulting division, known as the Momentum Strategy Team, to drive real business results.
9. Predictive hiring
Recruiting and hiring the right talent is one of the biggest challenges today’s sales leaders face.
Dr. James Siebach, senior research fellow at XANT, has discovered a strong correlation between sales success and the following four factors:
Ambition: an intense urge to be successful in life.
Resilience: the ability to handle and overcome adversity.
Empathy: the ability to put yourself in your client’s position or to feel what somebody else feels.
Openness: curiosity about the world in which we ﬁnd ourselves.
Our research also reveals that good salespeople are usually expressive and dominant.
Predictive hiring technology shows you which candidates are best suited for specific roles based on the assessment of character traits and dispositions.
Tying it all together
As we were finishing our $35 million Series B round of funding, we got a call from a venture capital firm who said they regretted not investing in us.
They wanted to share some research they had done.
“A good company rides one trend, a great company rides two, and our research shows you’re riding seven and leading three — and we’ve never seen that before,” they said.
Here’s to one crazy ride.
Free Inside Sales Industry Research
Gain access to additional inside sales industry research, including the original Lead Response Management study.
Image credit: Les Chatfield