Your team is smart. They're resourceful. Put in a bind with two days left in the month, they find their way out. Again and again and again. This is why many of them got into sales to begin with. And it is why -- long after other sales teams have given up, given in, and gotten out -- yours will still be there, connecting, closing, and getting sharper every day.
Your team is smart. But the truth is smart’s not enough anymore.
We are at a breaking point in sales strategy. You may not see it all at once, but years from now, we’re going to look back at this time as when technology and artificial intelligence made sales reps bionic and took the sales industry to a whole new level. It’s been important to HubSpot to be at the forefront of these changes, and today, I’m happy to provide some more detail into our overall product direction for sales.
First, I’m going to need a sports metaphor. Cliche, I know, but it works.
In 2008, something happened to swimming. For the longest time in Olympic history, swimmers improved incrementally. Broke a record here and there. Between 1996 and 2000, there was an average of two, maybe three, world records set each year. But then out of nowhere between February 2008 and July 2009, a combined 140 world records fell in swimming. It was enough to make the world stop and ask: What the hell just happened?
Turns out, what happened was technology. More precisely, a NASA-tested Speedo LZR Racer suit designed to radically diminish friction and allow the swimmer to cut through water at a previously unseen pace.
It wasn’t that the swimmers weren’t good on their own, but these suits made them bionic. They made them superhuman -- so advanced the International Swimming Federation banned the tech-suits from future use in 2010.
Times in the men's 100m freestyle
Sales teams, we are entering LZR Racer suit time.
Machine Learning and Automation Are Sharpening Our Focus
Technology is driving two major shifts in the sales process today. Actually, let’s take a step back, because technology doesn’t drive anything on its own. Consumer expectations and changing consumer behavior are what’s driving the shift. Technology is enabling it to happen.
Customers today expect more immediacy, flexibility, and personalization than ever before. They want to be able to reach out to companies on their terms, through whatever channel they choose, at any time that works for them. Providing tailored one-to-one attention is hard enough when you’re small, but it gets nearly impossible as you scale -- unless you tap technology.
Freeing Up Cognitive Space
There's a lot of grunt work that comes with being a salesperson today. So much so we’ve come to accept it as part of the job. But researching, summarizing, scheduling -- these aren’t sales skills. They’re administrative skills. Connecting is a sales skill. Helping is a sales skill. Developing relationships and earning trust -- those are sales skills. We’ve just been steadily shrinking the time available for them. In fact research shows only ⅓ of a sales rep’s time is spent selling. We’ve overrun the rest with administration.
Today machine learning and automation are starting to help sales teams reclaim that lost time so reps can place all their focus on helping buyers. That’s why we’re introducing Sales Professional, HubSpot’s answer in the fight against unruly administration. Sales Professional, which we plan to roll out in November, will add team management and advanced CRM functionality -- including workflow automation and predictive lead scoring -- to help teams minimize the amount of time they spend keeping their operations going.
Preview of HubSpot Sales Professional - Final product screens may look different.
So yes, salespeople, we’re going to finally get over that whole can’t clone myself limitation.
Sales is and has always been about connection. Purchase decisions have as much to do with trust and connection as practical requirements. But that’s the great irony. Because good relationships take time, and time is the main pressure-cooker of sales. Who can develop the greatest number of trusting relationships in a month?
Earlier this year, HubSpot acquired Kemvi, a company using machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence to help software better understand the world. Kemvi’s primary product, DeepGraph, uses machine reading to help salespeople stay updated on what is happening with their prospects and craft personalized messages that reflect each prospect’s individual context. HubSpot is now setting our sights on building DeepGraph-like functionality into the HubSpot CRM and Sales Hub so that no matter how many conversations sales reps have, relevant context will always be at the heart of them.
Making Your Business Always Available
According to a study commissioned by Inside Sales, the odds of successfully contacting a lead decrease by over 10 times in the first hour after the lead submits a request. And after 20 hours every additional dial your salespeople make actually hurts your ability to make contact to qualify a lead. This is not news. But historically, we’ve been limited by our oh-so-annoying inability to be in two places at once. So inquiries that come in while we’re busy, sleeping, or talking to other opportunities suffer a delay.
In the last few years, companies -- including HubSpot -- have addressed the need for immediacy with onsite live chat. But live chat that is tied to the website doesn’t quite go far enough.
Today, consumers communicate across platforms. They kick off a conversation in person or over the phone, they follow up with a text message and then take it online to Facebook, email, or Slack. These conversations are fluid and portable. They move across channels and mediums and we never miss a beat.
So how can we manage to have these kinds of natural, fluid conversations with prospects and customers at scale?
Today HubSpot introduced Conversations -- the next evolution of one-to-one conversations that go where the customer goes and scale with demand. Conversations allows you to talk with prospective buyers anywhere -- on your site, through Facebook messenger, social, or any other messaging channel -- and organize your responses in a shared multi-channel inbox. You will be able to respond yourself in the moment, tap in colleagues where needed, and leverage bots to help you scale when you’re not available. HubSpot will be rolling Conversations out for free over the coming year in the free CRM.
Preview of HubSpot Conversations - Final product may look different.
AI, conversational UI, machine learning, and automation -- these are not small changes or rinky-dink sales enablement tools. They are the growing business’s equivalent of NASA-tested swimsuits. I’ve laid out our vision of how we’re going to start leveraging them inside the HubSpot Growth Stack. The truth is, as an industry, we’ve only just begun to tap the potential here.
For one reason or another, sales has always felt like a power struggle. Who controls the conversation? Who is being led by whom? Nobody wants that -- not the salesperson, not the buyer -- but it has been efficient. At last, through the amplification of technology, it seems like we’re entering a stage in which both the sales rep and the buyer can be aligned. We know more and can react faster than we ever could before, and as our capacity to adapt improves, so does the customer experience. We couldn’t be more excited.
Originally published Sep 27, 2017 6:30:00 AM, updated June 15 2021