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The Top Sales Trends of 2018

2018 is just around the corner. And if history repeats itself, just like 2017 we’ll see major developments in the sales world.

You can let these changes happen to you -- or you can prepare for and take advantage of them. I’m guessing you’d rather do the latter.

To find out what’s coming, I asked sales leaders, experts, and reps to predict the top sales trends of 2018.

1) Video prospecting

When I consulted sales experts, managers, and trainers, this answer came up again and again.

“The hardest thing to do when prospecting for new business is to stand out in a sea of salespeople who are constantly calling and emailing decision makers. Video is a great way to stand out and frankly an easier way to articulate an offering or service,” explains HubSpot senior inbound growth specialist Mary Burbridge. “I've been using Vidyard and have seen incredible results.”

In fact, Midaxo’s sales team started using Vidyard after seeing its product firsthand.

“In the last year, I've personally responded to one of hundreds of cold outreach emails that hit my inbox,” says Jennifer Linehan, VP of Sales at Midaxo. “It was an email from a sales rep at Vidyard that included a video with an uber-personalized message. Today we use their service.”

Want to jump on this train now? It’s not hard. Just sign up for a free video and recording platform like GoVideo (Vidyard’s product), Soapbox, or Loom, create a few practice videos, then send your first video prospecting email.

2) More front-line training

The SDR role used to be pretty unglamorous. Your manager handed you a massive list of potential leads, which you proceeded to blast with emails, calls, and voicemails until they finally A) responded or B) asked you to stop contacting them from now until forever.

You did this mind-numbing work every day for 12 to 18 months, at which point you were promoted to a closing role where you could finally start selling -- for real.

There wasn’t a lot of training, there wasn’t a lot of creativity or originality, and there wasn’t a lot of glory. And because of that, there was little passion.

Fortunately, the SDR role is undergoing a shift.

“As companies demand higher success rates and competition intensifies, I believe we will see more sales training and empowerment for SDRs,” says Roy Weissman, VP of Sales at SendPulse and sales consultant. “The goal will be better lead qualification and higher ROI. SDRs with limited or poor training are costing companies lost sales. The stronger the front lines the higher the ROI and closing rates.”

Stop treating the sales development role like a stepping stone to better things. Give your SDRs training, respect, and support, and they’ll generate great results.

3) Messaging

Messaging apps are becoming more popular than traditional social networks. In other words: Your prospects are probably using Messenger or WhatsApp more frequently than Facebook or Twitter.

For salespeople, that means learning how to communicate with messages. Your prospects are increasingly less likely to pick up the phone when they have a product or pricing question -- instead, they’ll head to your website and look for a live chat option.

Want to quickly confirm a meeting or remind them about something? Rather than emailing or calling them, shoot them a text. Not only does it match their communication preferences, it’s fast, easy, and convenient.

As HubSpot channel account manager Jill Fratianne says, “SMS all the way.”

4) Sales automation

By the time December 2018 rolls around, the entire sales process will be automated from beginning to end. Bots will handle everything -- from identifying leads and qualifying them to creating customized proposals and negotiating with buyers. Real, live, human reps will be eliminated.

Not so fast. While the number of sales automation tools keeps growing, salespeople are still critical.

In fact, Sales Success Stories Podcast host Scott Ingram believes we’ll see less automation next year … not more.

“After a couple of years of more automation and scale, I think the pendulum is going to start to swing back toward more human interactions based on relevant insights and value,” he comments.”

That doesn’t mean you should throw out your sales stack. It means making sure you’re balancing automation and efficiency with personalized selling. For example, when you’re sending a templated email to a prospect, take a few extra seconds to add a detail from your previous conversation or a highlight from their website. In other words: Maximize your unique value.

5) Selling to the end user

Appcues director of sales John Sherer points out the companies growing at record-breaking speed -- like Trello, Slack, and Digital Ocean -- are running the same playbook.

And it really works.

They treat the sales process like they’re B2C, not B2B.

“These companies engage from the bottom up by selling to the end user,” Sherer explains.

“Calling high” has worked for the history of sales -- and it still does. However, if you sell to a challenging demographic (like developers or engineers) and/or have a great “land and expand” product, try offering a freemium version and turning your biggest advocates into buyers.

Think about reaching out to a CMO or CTO with zero context. Now think about reaching out to them when half of their team is already active on your platform.

Which deal do you think has a better chance of closing (and in less time)?

6) Middle-of-the-funnel focus

Most sales professionals fixate on lead quantity and quality -- the top of the funnel -- and percentage deals closed -- the bottom of the funnel.

Sonja Jacob, director of marketing at DocSend, says “sales teams have tolerated murkiness in the middle of the funnel for far too long.”

“With the rise of account-based marketing -- and the work it requires upfront -- eyes will be on sales to make the most of leads that get handed off,” she continues.

Start by analyzing your middle of the funnel stats. How many touches does it require on average to move an opportunity from one stage to the next? Which stages are the leakiest? What differentiates prospects who make it to a demo from the ones who don’t?

Diagnosing, then addressing mid-funnel issues will have a serious impact on your results.

7) Account-based selling

Account-based selling is a growing trend that many believe will only get more popular.

HubSpot channel account manager Keith Grehan is in that camp.

“I’m seeing my leading partners (digital marketing agencies in the U.K. and Ireland) use ABS to great effect,” he notes.

Grehan says that once you identify your highest-value sectors, “it's just a question of identifying the decision makers, mapping them to personas, and then targeting them with highly relevant content and retargeted ads.”

Not only does this approach reduce pay-per-click (PPC) costs, its ROI is also relatively simple to track.

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