Did you know NASA plans to build houses on the moon by 2040? This means that in 17 years, you might be selling space voyages.
Of course, when we talk about the future of sales, it's less about the products we might sell (flying cars, anyone?) and more about how we'll sell them. This is largely influenced by the changing expectations of buyers, which have seen considerable shifts in the past few years.
5 Predictions on the Future of Sales
- AI will level out the playing field.
- Sales professionals need to become influencers — kind of.
- Personalization will become the new normal.
- The future is self-service, and salespeople must adapt.
- More buyers will want to try before they buy.
1. AI will level out the playing field.
53% of sales reps say AI has made it easier to compete with other businesses in their industry.
Pascal Weinberger, CEO of Bardeen.ai, believes AI is helping sales teams work smarter, not harder.
"With AI for the sales process, our team is no longer burdened with the tedious process of manually searching for leads on various websites and manually transferring them into our CRM," he told me. "Furthermore, they are freed from the hassle of scouring multiple websites to gather buyer information and then manually summarizing it."
He adds, "By entrusting these labor-intensive administrative tasks to AI, our team members are more motivated and engaged, as they can now devote their energy to the most interesting and impactful aspects of their roles – closing deals and driving business growth — instead of being bogged down by repetitive tasks."
Besides saving time, AI is also helping sales professionals become sharper and more effective in their roles.
As James Mensforth, Sales Director UKI at Aircall, told me, "As a sales leader, I use AI to get a better sense of how my team is performing, how we can improve our metrics, and even how to freshen up our sales scripts and prospect communications. It’s been a game changer in how my team operates on a day-to-day basis."
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2. Sales professionals need to become influencers — kind of.
Before you panic, this isn't to suggest you need to become the next big social media influencer. However, having a presence on social media is no longer a nice-to-have, it's becoming essential. Here's why:
The traditional way of building trust with prospects was relatively straightforward. Build a nice-looking website. Have professional branding. Publish case studies on a blog. These elements are important, of course, but not unique. Every forward-thinking business has them.
So, the question now becomes: how can I build credibility further?
One way is building influence in online spaces. Consider this: nearly half (45%) of sales professionals get leads on social media, more than any other channel. When asked which channel offers the highest-quality leads, social media and referrals were tied for first place.
But would prospects rather connect with someone without a profile picture and who rarely posts, or someone who's active and posts helpful content?
As Dan Tyre, Sales Director at HubSpot, explains, "Salespeople have the opportunity and the responsibility to amplify good information to help prospects gain a better understanding of solutions. Because social media is critical to finding potential solutions in the attract-phase, publishing helpful information is a big differentiator."
He adds, "Frequent posting can help educate the audience and be invaluable in moving a prospect from education to consideration while building trust and credibility in your knowledge of the subject matter."
- 8 Social Selling Mistakes Your Team Should Avoid
- 17 Best LinkedIn Summary & Bio Examples [+ How to Write Your Own]
- 50 Social Selling Statistics You Need to Know in 2023
3. Personalization will become the new normal.
It's no surprise that 53% of sales professionals believe personalizing the buying process to each prospect will become more important in the future.
But personalization isn't just benefiting the prospect; it also enables sales reps to have a deeper understanding of their prospects. As Hayes points out, "Beyond the impact on the prospect, taking the time to personalize outreach emails and sales scripts increases your knowledge of the prospect, making you more prepared and giving you more context during the conversation."
How can you motivate your sales team to do the extra legwork? Hayes has a suggestion:
"For sales organizations looking to get ahead of an increasingly competitive landscape, I recommend building personalization into your OKRs and KPIs to motivate your team members to go the extra mile with every prospect," he told me.
While personalization takes some homework, AI is making it a little easier — especially at scale.
Weinberger told me, "At Bardeen.ai, we utilize AI for buyer research to enhance our outreach efforts on a larger scale. Through conducting comprehensive research on our prospects, we can create personalized messages that truly resonate with them."
However, he also cautions against too much personalization.
"While it can greatly improve the effectiveness of our outreach, going overboard with personalization can have diminishing returns," he told me. "It is crucial to find the right level of personalization that captures attention without overwhelming the recipient or overspending resources on research and personalization."
4. The future is self-service, and salespeople must adapt.
83% of sales professionals say that when they speak to prospects for the first time, they are already "very" to "somewhat" knowledgeable about their product or service.
How can salespeople provide value beyond what a prospect can find on their own? Tyre believes sales professionals will need to move into a more consultive role in the future.
He told me, "Salespeople need to truly understand the problem their prospects want to solve and provide insight and experience from similar companies and industries that have solved similar problems to identify potential potholes."
He adds, "You can also introduce additional add-on products or integrations that can help accomplish their goals more quickly, as well as introducing potential partners that have a specific area of expertise."
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- Relationship Selling: 11 Tips to Sell Better and Close More Sales
- Consultative Selling: 7 Ways to Win Deals With Consultative Sales
5. More buyers will want to try before they buy.
Have you ever driven a car before buying it? Or toured a gym before signing up for a membership? We live in a try-before-you-buy world, and buyers have become accustomed to testing products and services before making an investment.
Tyre echos this sentiment, telling me, "Everyone likes free in B2C and B2B. 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."
Among sales reps who offer freemium options, a staggering 90% say it's "very effective" at turning prospects into paying customers.
50% say free trials are the most effective freemium option, followed by free consultations (46%), free tools (39%), and free templates (33%).
That said, not every business will work with a freemium model, but for those it does, it can be a powerful acquisition play with little to no cost.
- Freemium Pricing: How to Leverage It & 4 Popular Models
- The Ultimate Guide to Sales Demos That Close Prospects
Back to You
Whatever the future of sales might hold, one certainty is clear: adaptability will be key for salespeople navigating these shifts. And while these shifts may appear daunting to some, they present an exciting opportunity to innovate, embrace new challenges, and redefine the entire art of selling.