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10 Bold Predictions for Sales in 2016

Max Altschuler

January 4th, 2016

Sales Predictions for 2016

Saying 2015 was a HUGE year for B2B Sales would be an understatement. The best part is, we’re only in the bottom of the 2nd inning. As SaaS continues to displace legacy technology and automate things humans were doing previously, the Sales market will only continue to get hotter.

Between that and all the new technology and data at our fingertips, it’s a great time to be in B2B Sales.

Now, before we get to the predictions for 2016, let’s look at how we did for 2015.

2015 Bold Predictions Were (see full post here):

  1. The Year of the SDR

Was a pretty good year for the SDR. I think we hit on this one.

  1. The Great Bundling of 2016

Too early to say, but this year things could heat up. I might double down on this bet.

  1. The Big VCs Will Place Bets in Sales Automation

Andreessen led a sizable Series B into ToutApp, Emergence led the Series B for Salesloft, Bessemer was into Pipedrive and SpeakEasy, Sequoia went big into EverString, not to mention Salesforce Ventures and their numerous investments into new sales technology vendors.

  1. Smarter Inboxes

Too early on this. Not sure we’re there yet even for 2016 but it needs to happen. Way too much trash coming in.

  1. Browser Extensions Galore

I think with almost every product I used, I soon realized they weren’t going to get screen space over email and Salesforce. This is why the browser extension is key to getting salespeople to use your product. Don’t make them go outside their comfort zone and relatively narrow focus. The best salespeople do a few things, but do them very well. Inch wide, mile deep.

  1. Outsourcing

It’s catching on but slower than anticipated. Works better for earlier stage companies that cast wider nets but can’t/don’t go as deep per prospect.

  1. Training

This is ramping up. Sales teams always had training, but budgets are starting to climb and people are starting to realize the value of bringing in external trainers with differing points of view.

  1. Science of Sales, Metrics, and Reporting

Mark Roberge’s book The Sales Acceleration Formula led the way on this one, but there’s a change approaching; a mindset change that needs to come from the top. And if you’re stepping on the gas without taking time to check the conditions, you’ll end up driving off the side of the road.

  1. Hiring

Lots happening here but still early in the game. It’s an old school industry that’s due for an overhaul of sorts. Although nothing beats a good rep that you trust and holds your hand through your transition, I still think there’s plenty of room for it to evolve.

  1. Extra Bold: Oracle will buy Salesforce and make Benioff CEO.

Hah, there actually was a rumor that they almost got acquired for $55 million by Microsoft, so I wasn’t too far off, eh?

Now for Our 2016 Bold Predictions

  1. The Year of the SDR, Playbook

Many companies and thought leaders are sharing SDR Playbooks after spending the last year tooling and tweaking their processes. Inside Sales leader Trish Bertuzzi will be releasing her upcoming book on this topic in 2016. There really are no silver bullets in sales, but there’s no reason there can’t be a standardized Sales Development and SLA framework. There will be quite a few in 2016, and SDR teams will be the ones benefiting greatly.

We Like: Hacking Sales

  1. Account-Based Sales Development

This one is long overdue. This trend has been gaining steam lately and it goes by different names, but it’s basically honing in on your Ideal Customer Profile, extrapolating that out to your entire Total Addressable Market,  and then creating and assigning accounts accordingly. This is how all mid-market to enterprise focused SDR teams should be set up.

It all starts with your total addressable market, which is the sum of your ideal customers based on the profiling you came up with. Then it allows you to fill in the white space in between and inside of accounts. If someone is working that account, they get the lead.

Google has something like 45 different instances of Salesforce setup. Which means, you need to sell into 45 different teams at Google to have all of the reps covered. Are you built for this kind of land and expand?

We Like: Transitioning to an Account-Based Selling Model

  1. The Great Bundling of 2016

Let’s try this again. Something has to give. There are a lot of features being passed off as products and products that aren’t validated as standalone that need to be part of a platform. These companies can’t build the platform because if they lose focus, the business will go under, so they need to be bought and bundled.

We Like: Sales Automation: A Race to the Bottom

  1. Data Becomes More and More Actionable

Wouldn’t it be cool if your CRM came with the data your company needed? The exact right leads to contact? Why hasn’t this happened yet? The data is there and the functionality is built. So why can’t a piece of software judge what my company does and deliver qualified leads to me? According to Daniel Barber (Sr. Director, Pipeline & Advisor to Node.io), sales strategy should start with data. That said, data without relevancy is information and information doesn’t create customers. Context is king, and 2016 will bring data to life. Finding your next customer is the challenge of every sales team, thus technology that surfaces the right person at the right time, and with the right message will change the life of the modern salesperson.  

E.g. my company’s value prop is  X, Avg deal size is X dollars, we sell into X industries, etc. Once it has that info, it should be able to generate my ideal customer profile, serve me prospects that fit that profile, use open source info to pre-qualify those leads, and even tell me the best way to connect with them. It can all be automated. This makes data actionable. This will happen soon. This year. Look out for Node.io, Proleads, Spiderbook, Datafox, Growbots, among others trying to solve at the top of the funnel.

We Like: Why Data Beats Talent in Sales Development

  1. Sales Process Training

There’s plenty of day-to-day sales training out there. Here’s what the SDR does and here’s what they can do to improve. Here’s what the AE does and here’s what they can do to improve.

There’s a million companies doing this, but what about sales process and implementation training? I think we’ll see more funnel optimization training, ideal customer profile refinement, account-based sales models, and consulting and training opportunities in that realm. Which leads me to number 7…

We Like: Using Process to Create a Competitive Advantage

  1. The Rise of Sales Ops

I think you’ll start to see Sales Ops playing a much bigger role in organizations. Similar to how Demand Gen has played out after the Marketing Automation boom which gave us Marketo, ExactTarget, Hubspot, Pardot, Responsys, and more. The Demand Gen role became one of the most critical roles to nail at a B2B sales org as it was responsible for all inbound leads. Now that the sales boom is happening, Sales Ops is the role that becomes critical to building the well-oiled sales machine. Which leads me to number 8…

We Like: Sales Stack Session Recordings

  1. The Sales and Market Tech Decision Maker Shift

I think we’re shifting to an era where the end users and implementers will be the key decision-makers. This means Demand Gen and Sales Ops when selling to Sales and Marketing respectively. The end users being the marketing manager and the sales reps/managers are the ones it really hits. The VP/CXO of Sales/Marketing will be signing off on the budget and signing the deal, but by the time it gets to them it will likely be more of a final discount push/sign off.

I think the job of the VP of Sales and VP of Marketing has expanded so much that it’s hard to ask them to also manage the technology. This is often outside of their specialties, anyway. The more they can focus on the bigger goal, and delegate the tech stuff to people who know best, the better off they’ll be.

We Like: When You Should NOT Sell to the C-Suite

  1. Customer Success

Customer Success is sales. The metric of Revenue Per Lead is an extremely important one, and there’s a lot of money that can come from a rockstar success team. That’s why in 2016 we’re going to be producing more high quality content in this area. I think you’ll start to see this in more areas than just Sales Hacker. I predict that more companies that build for sales teams will build for success teams as well. The big winners are really paying attention to customer success metrics, and it’s not just churn.

We Like: Customer Success as a Growth Engine: Ideal Customers, Advocates, and Upsells

  1. Rule of Thirds Dinners

Yea that’s right, dinner. You heard of it? If you’re not doing customer dinners, why? The right recipe is 1/3 really happy customers, 1/3 almost signed/big deals in the pipeline, 1/3 completely new but qualified prospects. If you’re a prospect, it should be a good year full of steak dinners.

If you’re a rep, tell your company to stop being cheap and pony up to treat your customers and potential customers. There’s almost no way it doesn’t pay for itself, unless the product sucks or the sales team can’t cut it. Either way, you’ve got bigger problems.

We Like: How to Build a Referral Engine With These 6 Quick Tips

  1. Slack Takes Over Internal (And Some External) Sales Communications

The application Slack is being widely used by teams to communicate internally. I think we’ll see more adoption there as apps start to build on top of Slack. They just released an app store and $80 million vc fund to support it. I think Sales teams will benefit greatly from this, especially Inbound and Customer Success teams. We even launched a highly engaging and active community on it for sales people that will be huge in 2016.

We Like: Sales Stack Slack Team: Join Here

Bonus: Salesforce Makes Another Big Bet

Timing wise, it’s about time they make a large purchase in the Sales cloud. I’d put my money on an Apttus or FinancialForce. CPQ or ERP. Something unsexy but a big business. Dreamforce will revolve around it.

Edit: About 3 days after I wrote this, rumors started swirling that they will acquire SteelBrick. That’s why you spend big at Dreamforce!

Double Bonus: LinkedIn Goes into CRM

I mean, they’re almost there already. I still can’t believe they get people to willingly fill out their data the way they do. It’s being turned around and sold immediately. And you know what? It’s worth it. If only they’d stop fucking with the user experience and deleting key functions like being able to check messages that came with connections after the connection has been accepted.

Close but didn’t make the cut:

  • Contextual Selling – We’ll see more sales teams ditch old territories and let reps work deals in which they are a value-add by knowing someone who can connect them to the buyers and decision-makers.
  • Coaching – This space is heating up. If you have a rep A that is doing 200% of quota and rep B that is doing 80%, how do you clone rep A? Teams need to be as effective and efficient as possible, and good coaching helps execs get the most out of their reps. Technology like SalesHood, Guru, and ExecVision is helping.
  • Mentorship – Mentorship also rolls up into coaching, but is not exclusively internal. Since more millennials are joining the sales force lately, they need people in the space to look up to–people outside of their companies. Maybe this is more of a wish than a prediction, but we need to find ways to provide these young up-and-comers with proven mentors that can help them succeed. Sales Hacker will continue to be proactive in pairing mentors and mentees in 2016.

That’s it for 2015. What a year. Really excited to show you what we have in store for the next one. Most importantly, we really enjoy providing as much value as possible to this amazing and rapidly growing community.

See you in 2016,

Max

About the author

Max Altschuler

Max Altschuler is the founder, organizer, and editor for Saleshacker.com and the Sales Hacker Conferences. Previously he led BD at Attorneyfee (acquired by Legalzoom) and built the supply side of Udemy as their first sales hire.

  • Thanks Max. Great ideas and tips to start off 2016!

  • Great post @MaxAlts! Totally agree with you on most of your points…I completely agree with sales ops taking a larger role within orgs, but I think the long-term trend is that those roles will be phased out by automation.

    We’ll still need “sales opps” people, i.e. implementations, configuring the instances, but once everything is set up, it’ll all be automated –or should be at least. Companies like Cloud Elements are already tackling a small piece of this with their bundled categorized (CRM, Service, Marketing, etc) one to many APIs, but we’re not fully there yet.

    Shouldn’t your entire #salesstack be integrated before you buy with a one click purchase like Amazon? The integrations should be pre-built –it’s a bold prediction, but I think that’s where the future is heading, hence less sales opps needed.

    What’s more important, is a centralized place, one stop shop, for sales resources –like you provide. With actionable, easy to understand, advice, that even my 71 year old mom (she’s awesome!) could implement.

    Outsourcing much of the SDR and top of funnel functions will continue, and the focus on the alignment of sales (bizdev) and marketing, to your point, will continue to be a focal point for organizations. I won’t go into all of the reasoning here, but there’s a compelling case that the entire SDR department, or top of funnel department (this includes marketing), will be completely outsourced in years to come.

    “…companies should focus on their core competence and outsource everything else.” –Bill Gates (and I’m sure many others!)

    Check out my 2016 predictions in my post next Thursday @ beastmodeprospecting.com/blog

    Keep up the great work Max! I absolutely love what you and SH are doing for the sales community–I interact with your content/site on almost a daily basis. Good job.

  • Judah Ross

    Great article. Someone will make billions if they can figure out how to outsource sales. Speak to an offshore CS call center and you’ll see it’s quite a challenge.

  • Hey @MaxAlts, thanks for mentioning Growbots!
    Good summary of 2015, and great that a lot of your predictions were fulfilled. Can’t wait to see the results of the 2016 forecast!
    As you said, data is a key issue in sales, as it brings value to both parties. In an ideal world, sales connects two organisations and brings value to them: one offers the product and earns money, while the other has a need fulfilled. We think the key issue is to connect the right people and avoid spamming those who are not interested. If we contact perfectly fitting companies at the right moment at the right place, the interaction is easy and pleasant.

  • ManDudeBro

    Thank you Max!

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