In 2019, millions of social media users took to their Facebook and Instagram profiles to post their 10-year challenge photos consisting of side-by-side shots of themselves in 2009 and 2019.
The challenge was a fun way to reflect on personal growth over the decade, and to document how we’ve grown out our bad haircuts from the previous decade.
Now, it’s time to do the 10-year challenge with your sales strategy. Let’s take a look at what a successful sales approach looked like 10 years ago, and review some necessary updates in order for your company to remain competitive.
2010 Sales Strategies
At the start of the last decade, the world of business was an entirely different place. The economy was still reeling from the global financial crisis, 4G mobile networks were introduced for the first time, and Instagram launched as a simple photo-sharing app designed to share mobile phone snaps taken at the moment.
Oh, how things have changed.
These events, along with many others, led to some of the fastest changes in consumer behavior. Let’s take a look back at some of the common sales strategies that ruled the last decade.
1. Survival of the fittest.
With consumers and businesses navigating a challenging economy and sobering job market, many companies were focused on staying afloat. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2008 to 2010 consumer spending decreased in the areas of food, housing, entertainment, personal insurance, pensions, apparel, and services. The only industries that saw an increase in consumer spending were healthcare and transportation.
These spending habits led to a competitive environment for sales reps, who were tasked with achieving quota to keep much-needed cash coming in for their companies by winning over prospects who were tightly holding onto their own resources. With this in mind, many reps shifted their focus from merely selling to building genuine relationships with their customers by providing value and exhibiting strong business acumen.
2. Beginning to embrace technology.
Increased reliance on technology over the past decade changed how buyers buy, and how sales reps sell.
In 2010, 7.2% of retail purchases were made online, with 1.3% of online sales made on a mobile phone. In 2019, online purchases accounted for 16% of retail spending, and 44.9% of online transactions took place on mobile devices.
How have sales teams adapted? By embracing technology throughout the sales process.
Though the original concept for the CRM was introduced in the late 1980s, this valuable software did not become a staple for businesses until the 2010s. Shortly before the start of the last decade, 12% of businesses in the US used a cloud-based CRM solution — by 2019 87% of businesses relied on cloud-based CRM software.
3. Pinpointing the right prospects.
With an increase in the use of technology came an increase in the amount of data sales teams had available to help them close more deals.
Traditionally, sales was a numbers game. Reps would try to cover as much ground as possible, constantly reaching out to potential customers because the more people they reached out to, the more potential sales they could land. But in the internet age, this strategy became increasingly ineffective.
With buyers facing increased product choices and ways to buy, reps could no longer spread their message with reckless abandon in hopes that they could get in front of enough people who would want to buy. Instead, reps needed to focus on getting in front of the right people to streamline their efforts and allow for a smoother sales process.
4. Identifying KPIs.
While the ultimate measure of success in sales relates to the bottom line, in the 2010s sales teams began paying more attention to other metrics that indicate the health of their business. KPIs including sales efficiency, product performance, and pipeline management became increasingly important in competitive sales environments.
Beginning to closely track this data allowed sales teams to start working smarter, and has set the stage for more refined sales strategies.
2020 Sales Strategies
Over the past decade, digital marketing has changed the way consumers make buying decisions. To succeed in 2020 and beyond, your sales approach needs to make similar strides.
1. Use technology to personalize the sales experience.
As we mentioned above, during the last decade we saw both consumers and businesses alike adopt new technology. Moving forward, businesses will be tasked with using technology to create a personalized experience for their customers.
63% of consumers value personalization as a standard of service and want to be recognized as an individual when engaging with brands. Additionally, 54% of consumers are willing to exchange personal information for a personalized experience with a brand. In other words, buyers don’t want to engage in a pre-packaged sales process — they want brands to engage with them on a personal level, and want to feel sure the products they buy truly suit their needs.
2. Emphasize relationship-building.
In addition to using data to build a personal experience with customers, sales reps should focus on building genuine relationships with those they are selling to. That doesn’t mean you have to get up close and personal with all of your prospects, however, it does mean you should focus on connecting with prospects on a human level.
For example, if you are preparing to deliver a sales pitch, a more relationship-focused approach would be to prepare a conversational pitch that allows plenty of time and space for prospects to ask questions. This is a stark contrast from delivering a one-sided pitch where you are talking at your prospect and are too busy listing all the selling points of your product to have a two-way conversation with them.
As you focus on building genuine relationships with your prospects throughout the sales process, consider implementing soft selling techniques for a smoother approach.
3. Develop sales strategies driven by data.
Above, we discussed the increasing importance of strong sales KPIs in the 2010s. Now that we are well into 2020, data is only going to become more and more important.
Sales teams should emphasize the regular measuring and reporting of key data to create well-informed sales strategies, along with analysis to drive continuous improvement from their reporting. Continuing to run numbers isn’t enough. To remain competitive, sales teams need to understand what their metrics are telling them about the performance of their business, and they must be able to efficiently implement necessary changes to drive growth and success.
4. Invest in sales enablement.
Sales enablement is an increasingly hot topic in the field. With the plethora of tools available to sales teams in 2020, there is no reason reps should still be spending the majority of their time performing manual tasks — and companies are willing to invest in tools and resources to free up their sales reps to sell.
Having a robust sales stack — or suite of sales tools — can make all the difference for companies looking to increase sales and boost revenue. With the right tools in place, sales reps can target the ideal prospects for their business in less time.
Utilizing the right suite of tools can also help alleviate remedial tasks for reps, giving them more time to focus on the tasks that can’t be outsourced to technology — relationship-building and closing the deal. A well-rounded sales stack can include:
- Email sequence software
- Live chat
- Scheduling tools
- Demo software
- Electronic signature gathering
5. Cross-functional collaboration.
For ages, sales and marketing teams worked in silos. Marketing created material to attract new leads, passed the leads onto sales, and sales proceeded to take those leads through the sales process.
In 2020 and beyond, that arrangement isn’t going to cut it because these days, each buyer can follow their own unique journey that leads them to the sale.
You may have a prospect who has a specific problem they are looking to solve, and through doing independent online research, come to find your product as a solution. Or you may have another prospect who found your product through repeated targeted social media ads. Or you may even have a prospect who first engages with you based off of something you posted on LinkedIn, then decides to check out your product website and is now interested in buying.
There are several different ways a buyer can find your product and each time you come in contact with a buyer they very well could be at a different point in their decision-making journey — this is why alignment between your sales and marketing teams is so important. Effective collaboration between sales and marketing organizations ensures prospects are adequately communicated with each time they come in contact with your brand. If you as a sales rep provide contradicting information to what a potential customer sees on your company’s blog, that sets the stage for a poor experience that could result in lost sales.
Work with your marketing team to identify key tasks and strategies that should be implemented in tandem across functions to reduce friction, and provide a more positive experience for all.
At this point, you’re probably sick of all of the references to technology, but tech will only become more relevant as time goes on. For some time, there have been warnings that artificial intelligence could replace the jobs of sales reps. While there is no evidence of this happening quite yet, there is no denying the role technology will continue to play in changing the way salespeople sell.
As remedial tasks continue to be automated and outsourced, the human touch provided by sales reps will likely become more and more valuable for consumers, and ideally, sales reps will have more bandwidth to deliver.
Regardless of whether your company needs a major overhaul from the sales strategies of yesterday, or you’re already on track to crush it in the 2020s, you can’t go wrong by keeping your customer at the center of your sales practices. Check out this post for actionable customer-centric sales strategies.