Technological change impacts every profession -- but its impact on the sales world has been particularly dramatic. Modern sellers behave almost nothing like their predecessors. They have new tools, new techniques, and new resources at their disposal -- and of course, they face new challenges.
1) The Ability to Find, Qualify, and Connect With Buyers Around the Globe
These days, salespeople don’t need to take prospects to the golf course or a steak dinner to form a relationship. Social media makes it easy to find, qualify, and connect with buyers -- whether they’re in the next town over or across the world.
Effective social sellers build trust and rapport with their prospects before a sales conversation ever begins. These reps have an instant advantage over non-social sellers because they’ve already established themselves as trusted advisors by the time buyers decide they’re interested in that solution type. That means modern sellers can jump immediately into giving recommendations and showing their prospects the value of their product.
2) The Ability to Create a Data-Backed Sales Process
Sales used to be like the Wild West: Every rep operated on their own. This lack of clarity meant there was no way for sales leaders to replicate their top rep or for those who were dominating the leaderboard to teach their less successful peers.
It was also possible to have 10 different people on the same team selling the same offering 10 different ways. Without a common model for success, it was nearly impossible to tell which strategies were working, which weren’t, where prospects were slipping out of the funnel, and how reps could shorten the sales cycle and close more deals.
Fortunately, technology has made it much easier to unify a sales team and adopt common processes. With a CRM, anyone in the company can see specific accounts, leads, and their contact history. CRM software helps managers and salespeople identify the most effective communication strategies to use with their prospects. Data on how every salesperson is doing increases internal accountability and enables knowledge-sharing.
3) The Ability to Discover Almost Any Piece of Information
Before the rise of the internet -- followed shortly by the rise of smartphones -- researching buyers, sellers, and products was time-consuming and inefficient. If a salesperson wanted to learn more about their buyer’s vertical, industry, or business, they’d have to call an expert, read a relevant book or publication, or visit that prospect’s company. If a prospect wanted to research a salesperson’s product, they had to go through that salesperson to learn about features and pricing.
Nowadays, finding this information is as easy as pressing “Search,” and it means that the balance of power has flipped significantly in buyers’ favor. Prospects can educate themselves about a product without ever speaking to a salesperson. This means that to remain relevant, reps can’t merely recite facts and figures. They have to provide tailored advice based on a prospect’s specific situation and act as consultants.
This change isn’t without advantages for salespeople, however. Reps can learn about their prospects by reading their company websites, checking out their press releases and news mentions, browsing their social media profiles, looking at third-party reviews, and more. These insights help salespeople contextualize their messaging and skip the basic fact-finding stage of discovery.
In addition, reps can better qualify their prospects. Online research reveals fairly quickly how closely a buyer matches their ideal customer.
Finally, having so much information at their fingertips gives reps the chance to become subject-matter experts faster than before. No longer do you need to spend 10 years within an industry to have a qualified opinion. The sheer number of resources on the internet accelerates the learning process.
4) The Ability to Sell Wherever You Go
Now that salespeople can accomplish key selling tasks on their phones, everything happens more quickly. Imagine a rep who meets a prospect at a conference. Twenty years ago, she would have gotten his business card, flown home from the conference, and mailed him a brochure when she got back to the office.
In this day and age, that rep can connect with her prospect on LinkedIn a mere 30 seconds after they’ve met. She can send him resources via email that night -- and have a call arranged the very next day. It’s possible her prospect will be halfway to the close before her flight has taken off.
5) The Ability to Align Sales With the Larger Organization
Aligning sales and marketing is an age-old conundrum, and 20 years ago there wasn’t an effective way of doing so. With no unified communication systems or ability to track what happened to leads between marketing and sales, the two teams couldn’t develop joint practices that would lead to more closed deals.
Today, companies are increasingly condensing their complex applications and multiple systems into digestible experiences for mobile use. This enables sales and marketing alignment by providing visibility into the marketing funnel for salespeople, and into deal management for marketers. Mobile makes it easier to view and prioritize large amounts of information, so it’s easy for sale and marketing leaders to sift through each team’s metrics and see how they fit into the context of the larger organization.
Ben Lawlor, digital marketing specialist at Sponge-Jet, describes the benefits of using HubSpot’s marketing and sales mobile app: “Since Sponge-Jet moved to the HubSpot CRM, our Sales and Marketing teams have had more communication than ever. Marketing can see the progress of leads as they move through the buyer’s journey. Sales is now better supported with inbound marketing efforts based on the unique characteristics assigned to a lead’s CRM profile.”
These five changes are just the beginning. As technology grows more sophisticated, so does the buying and selling relationship. Sales will probably look completely different in another 20 or 30 years.