Just like every year before it, 2023 will come with its unique challenges and changes — and the sales landscape isn't exempt from those kinds of shifts.
The sales game won't look the same as it does a year from now, and it can be a big help to get ahead of those transitions early on. To help you get there, we reached out to some sales leaders to hear their takes on what salespeople can expect to see in the coming year.
So without further ado, here are some of the most pressing, prominent sales trends to keep an eye out for in 2023.
Sales Trends to Watch in 2022
- Demos need to sell the problem, not the solution.
- The sales process will require more touchpoints.
- Freemium will kick-start the sales conversation.
- Existing customers will take priority over new ones.
- The hierarchical nature of sales will flatten.
- Personalization is critical for success.
- Specialization in vertical markets.
- Sales culture will become a top priority.
- Calling through your CRM.
1. Demos need to sell the problem, not the solution.
Imagine selling a book. You could recite a few stats about its weight and dimensions, but you'd probably have more success selling the story inside — and how it can improve the reader's life.
Now think of your sales demos. How much time are you dedicating to the bells and whistles of your product instead of the problems it can solve?
Dan Tyre, Inbound Fellow at HubSpot, stresses this point by telling me, "Prospects are less interested in 'seeing how it works' and more interested in making sure you understand their needs, have a comprehensive idea of their requirements, and that the product will work."
In other words, your product expertise only gets you so far. Instead, it's more about your ability to uncover what your prospects truly care about.
Robert Falcone, the author of Just F*ing Demo!, echoes this, saying, "If you know what their primary concerns are, you can show them just enough of your product that aligns with their immediate problems and get a better result."
2. The sales process will require more touchpoints.
Rarely do we make a sale at first contact with a prospect — although that would be nice. In reality, it's a process that requires multiple touchpoints. But here's the problem — the average salesperson makes only two attempts to reach a prospect.
In 2022, it’s critical to apply a multi-touch approach to build quality relationships.
According to HubSpot's 2022 Sales Strategy & Trends Report, a third of sales reps say they average 2-4 interactions with prospects in the sales process. 26% of reps report 5-7 interactions.
On top of that, 84% of sales professionals communicate with a prospect across 2-4 different channels (i.e., email, social media, text, live chat, etc.).
"The long-term trend is going to be about meaningful interaction, communication, relationship building, and problem-solving," Judson Griffin, Intercom's Senior Director of NORPAC Sales, told me.
3. Freemium will kick-start the conversation.
Have you ever tried on a pair of shoes before buying? Or took a food sample at Costco? We live in a "try before you buy" world — which might explain why so many businesses have struck gold with the freemium model.
This model splits users into either a free or premium tier. The idea is that free users will eventually burn through their limited features and upgrade to a paid account.
32% of sales professionals offer prospects freemium options, and about 90% of them say it's moderately to extremely effective at turning prospects into paying customers.
Since it eliminates the cost of having an account (at least initially), it's a fantastic way to create a natural lead nurturing process. As Tyre tells me, "Offering a free tool or widget, product trial, consultation, or services checklist can increase your visibility, awareness and opportunities for people who are early in the sales process."
Of course, not every business is fit for this model. But if you're a SaaS company — or offer tiered memberships – it can be a powerful way to acquire more customers without spending more money.
4. Existing customers will take priority over new ones.
26% of sales professionals say existing customers took priority over finding new ones this year — and we predict this trend will carry over in 2023.
Of course, it's not enough to simply react when existing customers reach out. Instead, it's about creating opportunities to grow these accounts. How can you do this? Mainly through upselling and cross-selling.
That said, it's easier to grow accounts when you maintain customer relationships after the initial point of sale. Ultimately, nurturing these relationships is the most important goal, which sets the stage for new opportunities.
5. The hierarchical nature of sales will flatten.
Help Scout's VP of Sales, Stuart Blake, believes over the next five years, we'll see a flattening of the hierarchical nature of sales organizations.
He says, "This has been happening for the last five to 10 years, but I hypothesize that it will accelerate over the next five. The main reasons why I foresee this is because more people are working from home — leading to more focus on the output of work, the leveraging of technology to get that output, and cleaner communication."
Blake adds, "There is also this larger sentiment in the air that we must simplify things, and therefore, processes. This move might end up being short-lived, but I think we'll see a shift of more doers and less managers on sales teams over the next five years."
Take this time to re-consider your existing strategy. You might determine there are more effective ways to organize your sales organization structure — enabling new opportunities for your sales rep as the industry evolves.
6. Personalization is critical for success.
The one-size-fits-all approach may work some of the time, but it's becoming more obsolete with each passing year.
In 2022, personalization is the name of the game in sales. In fact, more than a quarter of sales professionals believe personalization is the biggest change in the sales field this year.
That said, you probably don't have enough time to spend hours researching each and every prospect. So how can you strike a balance?
A good place to start is with your trusty CRM, which can put all that data to good use to help you paint a clearer, more holistic picture of your customers. It's no surprise that 22% of sales leaders want to leverage their CRM to its full potential this year.
7. Specialization in vertical markets.
In modern sales, “the riches are in the niches.” In other words, when you try to appeal to everyone, the opposite happens: you end up resonating with no one.
While targeting smaller markets doesn't seem like sound business advice, it's a surprisingly beneficial strategy. As Dan Tyre explains, "Although it's somewhat counterintuitive, the more focused your ideal customer profile the faster traction you should get."
For instance, suppose you're on a clean-eating kick. Which option are you most drawn to — a big-name grocery store or a health food store specializing in organic food?
On the sales side, targeting your audience can save you a lot of time, money, and energy from chasing the "wrong" leads.
Trish Saemann, the founder of True North, underscores this point, saying, "When you focus your energy on targeting a narrower audience, your message can be more customized. Customized messages are the ones that get the real engagement, and when that happens, there is a higher chance they will trust you to understand their needs. They will know you are a good fit for them."
In 2022, we predict sales teams will continue "niche-ing down" to appeal to specialized markets and reaping the benefits of a smaller — but more engaged — audience.
8. Sales culture becomes a top priority.
If there's one thing that never goes out of style, it's having a winning sales culture — and 2022 is no different. But what, exactly, is a good sales culture?
According to Dan Tyre, it involves "Having a solid sales rep employee persona, quality and quick recruiting process, and [a] supportive sales environment."
Building a high-performing sales team should never fall to the bottom of the priority list. After all, how much a salesperson sells, how productive they are, and how long they stay at a company are all influenced by sales culture.
And it's one thing to establish a sales culture — it's another to ensure that you sustain those values as you scale and grow. By keeping culture top of mind, you can recruit great reps, promote healthy competition and collaboration, and drive results.
9. Calling through your CRM.
On average, a sales rep spends only 28% of their day actually selling. The rest is spent on internal meetings, trainings, and prospecting.
So how can you leverage what little time you have for selling? Increasingly, the solution is a trusty CRM. Specifically, a CRM with call tracking features, which enables you to reach more leads with less effort.
Dan Tyre advised sales reps to take advantage of these tools, saying, "Most modern CRM’s allow you to call right through your technology, eliminating silos of wasted information, improving sales productivity, and allowing for review of recorded calls for training purposes."
Dean Moothart, Director of Client Solutions at LeadG2, adds, "Things like email templates, call recording functionality and calendar management links are new features that are taking sales productivity to the next level."
2023 is bound to come with a change of pace and a host of new trends and challenges. Though this list isn't exactly set in stone, it's a good place to start when hashing out what the sales landscape might look like over the next year.