Sales Hacker’s Top Sales Trends & Predictions You MUST Be Aware Of In 2018

top sales trends and predictions 2018

UPDATE: Check out my 2019 Sales Trends & Predictions

It’s that time of year again. The race to the 2017 finish line is in full throttle – While last-minute closed deals are still trickling in, B2B organizations are researching how to shape next year’s sales strategy to align with the top sales trends that are expected to emerge in 2018.

2017 was a YUGE year in the world of sales, and we’re predicting that 2018 will be even bigger.

Regarding our 2017 sales predictions, here’s a quick reflection:

What we were RIGHT about:

  • Powerful partnerships and mergers e.g. Salesforce & Google
  • Spike in acquisition purchasing power – validated via Tomasz Tunguz
  • Powerful buyer influence of software review sites like G2Crowd & Capterra.
  • The continued increase of content noise = more difficult to stand out.
  • The evolution of Sales & Marketing into Revenue Ops & Customer Ops.
  • YoY Increase in CAC leading to increased reliance on channel partnerships.

What we’re still UNSURE about:

  • How will enterprise giants like Microsoft react to partnerships like Salesforce & Google?
  • Impact of net neutrality – will likely affect content publishers in a big way.
  • Unification of the tech stack – this is getting harder to do, how will it happen?
  • Acquisition speculation – are there more possibilities that could impact SaaS in 2018?
  • Full impact of new GDPR regulations and compliance laws – likely to hurt many outbound focused businesses who fail to comply.
  • The role of text messaging and other unconventional communication channels in sales prospecting and customer success.

Top 2018 Sales Trends & Predictions – Strategic Headlines

This is the greatest time ever in history to be a sales rep. There’s more knowledge available to you right now as a sales professional than you can probably handle.

Sales tools and automation capabilities are more advanced than ever before.

And with advancement, comes clutter. This graphic below depicts just how ridiculously crowded the SaaS sales landscape has become.

smart selling tools landscape 2017

In fact, in 2017 alone, we reported that a whopping 700 new SaaS sales technologies have been released.

Despite all the AI fear mongering, we dug deep to find out what really matters next year – so aside from our own analysis, we asked sales leaders, experts, and high performing sales reps to predict the top sales trends of 2018.

Top Sales Trends & Predictions of 2018:

  1. Buyer Side Technology Continues to Disrupt Sales Development & Demand Generation.
  2. Review Sites Continue to Influence Decision Makers in a Powerful Way.
  3. Outbound Gets Tougher With GDPR Regulations: SaaS Goes Channel Sales For The Win!
  4. Facing the Reality of A.I. – It’s Here to Augment, NOT Replace.
  5. Increased Importance of Customer Experience, Personalization & Innovation.
  6. Making Sense of Systems: The Desperate Need to Unify & Consolidate Modern Sales Stacks.
  7. Executive Changes: Re-Thinking Key C-Level Roles.
  8. Re-Thinking the Role of the SDR.
  9. The Continued Rise and Impact of the Millennial Workforce.
  10. Increased Importance of Personal Branding & Career Development to Create Your Own Sales Opportunities.
  11. Growth of Omni-Channel Sales Strategies & Social Selling.
  12. The Account Based Movement Is Here To Stay (And Only Getting Stronger)
  13. The Continued Emphasis on Alignment of Sales & Marketing.
  14. The Impact of Search Snippets, Structured Data, and Content Formatting.

Have you noticed that every year the same sport teams compete for the championship; Mercedes (F1), Manchester United, New England Patriots, and San Antonio Spurs.

Regardless of the talent they have? How can that be?

Because they have a system. The system is more important than the individuals who operate in it, and as a result their success spans decades and beyond the lifetime of a single superstar.

In 2018 we will experience that modern sales leaders who embrace a systematic approach will pull ahead in a highly competitive market! Below are the key elements of a System. To hit your growth targets every month you will need to make your system operate like a well oiled machine.

Jacco van der Kooij, Founder, Winning By Design

elements of a sales system

• Pre-call research and THEN-prep – The trend is to know how you can help, NOT just delivering your boring deck.

• Ditch your pitch – Bring new ideas to the sales meeting, be creative and think on your toes.

• Podcast to the world – The trend is to broadcast messages others consider valuable enough to subscribe to.

• Facebook live is your new personal broadcast network – With a potential audience of 1 billion viewers, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of the immediacy that Facebook offers.

• Amazon is your new competitor – They now sell everything and dominate every product category. Their distribution centers are frighteningly omnipresent in every major metro-area – quite simply, THEY DOMINATE!

• Trade show and conference networking and selling – Places like Sales Machine and Dreamforce are ideal to make sales calls and the CEO is always there.

• Coffee shop meetings are the best neutral ground to meet – You and the customer are equal. The atmosphere is relaxed. And the coffee is cheap.

Jeffrey Gitomer, Best-Selling Author, The Little Red Book of Selling

By 2020, 70% of sales teams will be using analytics to understand their customers. Companies who are able to target potential customers with the right messages at the right time will win. With the explosion of available data on buying behaviors and preferences, along with tools and artificial intelligence to automate the process, the time is ripe for analytics to become a mainstream and seamless part of the sales cycle.

Tiffani Bova, Global – Customer Growth & Innovation Evangelist, Salesforce

Clients will stop trusting the e-mails in their inbox because of AI’s ability to customize and personalize content, so the phone is going to make a big comeback.

AI will make good sales reps great and average sales reps obsolete.

Thought leaders” are going to be scrutinized at a high level on social. There will be incredible backlash on those who pretend to be thought leaders by just sharing massive amounts of content. They aren’t thought leaders, they’re noise makers.

Slack and Facebook Groups will take over from LinkedIn Groups and become areas where sales reps can add value and find leads – Customer success will continue to be asked to take on more of a “sales” role.

John Barrows, Owner, JBarrows Sales Training

I believe the trend is going to move toward blending sales & customer success. This means focusing on acquiring customers that have the highest potential to grow and be retained.

In order to do this well, we will also see increased investment in data science and leveraging a lot more data to better predict which accounts to spend time on (both new and existing).

This rich data will also allow sales and CS to have better more personalized conversations; whether one-to-one or one-to-many. In product lead companies, adding product usage data to the data that sales & CS is using is critical to prioritizing accounts.

Emmanuelle Skala, VP of Customer Success, Toast

The role and function of the SDR (meeting based) and ISR (quota based) will continue to rise in prominence.

More companies will realize they achieve higher ROI with these roles and reduce the size of their outside sales teams as a result.

I believe technologies that bring to the forefront “buyer intent”-related signals will gain traction and dominate much of the Account Based Selling and Marketing movement in 2018.

Lars Nilsson, VP of Global Inside Sales, Cloudera

1) Buyer Side Technology Continues to Disrupt Sales Development & Demand Gen

automate efficient sales process bots

The two biggest pieces that continue to evolve are chat bots and review sites.

Chat bots are revolutionizing the sales process like never before. Technologies like Drift and Intercom are eating lead forms and decreasing sales cycles at an unprecedented rate.

Here’s what used to happen:

  • Lead comes to site and is interested.
  • They peruse the solution and product features.
  • Lead fills out a form.
  • Form is eventually routed to a rep.
  • There is a time delay from form completion to first touch.
  • Your sales cycle is now longer, because you have to set up a discovery call.
  • Buyer forgets about you because you took too long to respond.

Here’s what happens now:

With bots, you no longer need lead gen forms. You can have the discovery conversation right on the website, immediately followed by a calendar invite with a sales demo firmly locked in place. This is the now, and the future.

Ultimately, AI will scale up lead qualification and prospecting, automate repetitive tasks, make sales calls, and maybe even close deals (Gartner predicted that the majority of commercial interactions will involve a virtual agent by 2020).

Corporate versions of Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and other AI-driven digital assistants will be going mainstream. IBM already markets Watson as a powerful AI platform across industries and verticals.

Welcome to the future of sales.

2) Review Sites Continue To Influence Decision Makers

g2crowd semrush review

Review sites like G2Crowd and Capterra are also building even more steam as they amass more data points and relevant reviews.

Right now, you can check out reviews for a product you’re considering to buy, and it might help you with your decision as you can easily investigate how current customers feel via star ratings and number / quality of reviews.

However, once there are enough reviews, that’s when it gets interesting. With 50 reviews, you can’t get granular enough about the reviewer, but with 500 reviews, you can sort by people like you.

Businesses also need to be aware of negative customer reviews and how to handle them properly.

The true power of review sites is in the ability to filter / sort based on reviews that are most relevant. For example, if you’re buying a sales acceleration tool that specializes in outbound emailing, you may only want to hear reviews from others that sell to your market/segment, have the amount of reps that you do, or use a similar tech stack as your org. Being able to filter like that really takes it to the next level.

Max Altschuler, CEO of Sales Hacker

Social proof is no longer an option – Ratings and online review posts now dominate the world, and the decision-maker’s choices.

Jeffrey Gitomer, Best-Selling Author, The Little Red Book of Selling

3) Outbound Gets Tougher With GDPR Regulations: SaaS Goes Channel Sales For The Win

rising cac tomasz tunguz

Channel sales are making a big comeback but in a different form.

There are two (for now) big reasons here.

Reason #1 – There are so many SaaS companies out there with very little differentiation. That means companies and buyers are getting bombarded with offers, calls, and emails for the same types of vendors left and right, and it’s only getting harder to cut through all the noise.

Reason #2 – GDPR. It’s a regulation in Europe that is happening that will make it harder to contact people in an unsolicited manner, making outbound very tough. It might not make it’s way over to the U.S. in its current form, but things will only start to get harder through regulation over time, not easier.

Customer acquisition costs are spiking at tremendous rates. So what will you do about it? Sell through trusted partner channels. I don’t mean traditional channel sales like re-sellers and OEMs.

I’m talking about selling through communities, consultants, conferences, and people/companies that have built a trusted relationship with your buyer already.

channel sales are growing faster

I’m a trillion percent sure that if any random sales vendor stole our Sales Hacker subscriber list and sent everyone a cold email offer from their own domain, they’d have zero success. They don’t know you. They don’t trust you. They won’t buy from you. But they know and trust us – that’s the real difference maker. That’s the benefit of having a partner like Sales Hacker in your corner.

Max Altschuler, CEO of Sales Hacker

4) Facing the Reality of A.I. – It’s Here to Augment, NOT Replace

prepare future sales artificial intelligence

WOW did people get carried away with the whole AI thing?

AI isn’t here to replace reps, it’s here to augment reps and support automation of manual tasks.

Rob Jeppsen said it best at our Sales Hacker Lounge (took place during Dreamforce):

“A fool with a tool is still a fool.”

To go even further, that fool is only going to magnify their foolishness.

Conversational Intelligence like Gong, Chorus, ExecVision and Sales Coaching tech like Xvoyant are interesting because they don’t just tell you what needs fixing, they tell you how to fix it based on historical data points.

For example, if you lose deals at an accelerated rate every time a rep brings up discounting or pricing in the first half of the call, wouldn’t you like to know that so you can coach your team on it?

AI makes good reps great, great reps exceptional, and crappy reps even worse. It’s a magnifying glass. But it’s still going to be very hard to fix bad reps, or use AI to replace reps altogether. That’s the reality that will set in for 2018.

Max Altschuler, CEO of Sales Hacker

2018 is the year sales leaders figure out that Artificial Intelligence, if implemented properly, is a great tool to move your sales process forward but not in the way that most think.

Love what Doug Landis of Emergent Capital says….

“The real value of AI isn’t to replace actions/people instead it is to coach reps when they need it most. SaaS was the end of forms based software. AI is the backbone of dynamic coaching.”

Don’t just think bot. Think how do I empower my sales rep with tools that will assist them in becoming a more trusted advisor to our buyers. Let’s make this happen people!!

Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist, The Bridge Group, Inc.

My prediction is that AI will be your best friend if you are not an average sales professional. AI technology will provide an immense amount of insights and triggers that will help sales professionals as they go throughout the sales cycle.

The sales industry as a whole will begin to rely on these triggers to become more proficient at prospecting and generate more pipeline. Data will be held to a higher standard within organizations to streamline tools that use AI, so your sales team will produce more results.

As Jarvis helps Tony Stark be the best Iron Man, AI will help the most successful sales professionals become rock stars.

Morgan J Ingram, Director of Sales Execution & Evolution, JBarrows Sales Training Host, The SDR Chronicles

Organizations will take sales coaching very seriously and leverage AI.

For many years, almost 50% of organizations said that their sales coaching approach would be left up to their managers.

In 2017, for the first time, this group is decreasing to one-third, and organizations begin to care more about their sales coaching approach.

Based on our data, only formal and dynamic approaches show a significant business impact (improvements up to 27.6% year by year) on KPIs like win rates for deal forecasting and quota attainment.

Sales leaders will shift their enablement investments between individual contributors and their managers to take advantage of the enormous performance potential of robust coaching approaches that equally leverage coaching skills, process, and AI-empowered technology to make coaching time as effective as possible.

Tamara Schenk, Research Director, CSO Insights

5) Increased Importance of Customer Experience, Personalization & Innovation

think like sales, act like marketing, react like customer success

To set the tone for this subject – I thought it’d be worth revisiting this eye-opening piece titled, What Happened to Relationship Selling by Emmanuelle Skala, which was published on Sales Hacker earlier this year.

It drives home the challenges that come along with being a sales professional in an automation-crazed era.

On the executive side, ops and retention metrics like customer happiness and new executive roles such as chief customer experience officer (CCEO) have become entrenched business concepts whose importance can hardly be disputed.

Businesses have a big responsibility in 2018 – not only to make the full-funnel customer experience easier but also more compelling. It has to be completely mobile friendly and mobile optimized too.

Actionable Tip: Don’t think it’s all about outbound and growth. Focus time, budget, and other resources on fostering customer relationships, support, and retention. Establish an engagement framework where experiences can be hyper-personalized for each client. Go beyond lead generation and explore channels for cross-selling, up-sells and referrals.

Generic e-mail sequence approaches will get less and less effective. Mass e-mails will be further identified by Google and other e-mail providers and not allowed through (open rates will be sub 2% on generic mass e-mails because these e-mail platforms will be able to identify them with more accuracy).

John Barrows, Owner, JBarrows Sales Training

2018 will be the return to basics in sales. While everyone will be touting AI, the AI is only going to be as good as the data its able to measure. This means reps will need to be better at truly qualifying their conversations between relevant, meaningful, and compelling opportunities.

If a rep has a lot of relevant conversations they will end up with a pipeline full of nothing. If they have meaningful conversations they will have a pipeline that continually has pushed deals from one cycle to the next. If they have compelling conversations they will have qualified opportunities with confirmed next steps and end game in sight.

Tools like, Gong, and ExecVision will enable greater clarity into the real pipeline. But it still goes back to having compelling conversations – without that, the tools will just be measuring junk.

Richard Harris, Owner, The Harris Consulting Group and Dir. of Sales Training & Consulting, Sales Hacker

We are going to start hearing a lot more about “innovation” within companies. Innovation is becoming increasingly formalized and a multifaceted process of management driven “top-down” initiatives, and employee driven “bottom-up” initiatives are being adopted to generate new ideas and stay competitive.

This requires a cultural shift and presents many challenges. For example, how do companies open collaboration channels, nurture their collective talent and insight, optimize the continuous feedback loop, and who owns these new processes? How does this relate to sales?

Customer-driven innovation is gleaned by salespeople, so the 2018 sales professional must ask customers the relevant business-critical questions to drive innovation within their company. It’s a deeper conversation than selling a product.

Lee Bartlett, Author, The No.1 Best Seller

6) Making Sense of Systems: The Desperate Need to Unify & Consolidate Modern Sales Stacks

sales tech landscape 2017

Yeah, sales SaaS got out of hand in 2017. In case you missed it, we reported over 700+ systems.

If you’re using a CRM in 2018 – congratulations, you’ve done the bare minimum. That doesn’t mean you have a “tech stack.”

But what happens when you have inbound leads flowing in from SEO, and your SDRs are using tools like LeadIQ to scrape prospects from LinkedIn?

How do you score all those leads and prioritize them in your CRM? Already, you can begin to see how this can get messy.

Suddenly, you have all these lead sources that need to be organized and unified.

Building a tech stack is hard, optimizing it is even harder.

Technology is always an enabler, but with the explosion of sales SaaS in 2017, systems are becoming more complex and increasingly difficult to integrate into a finely orchestrated tech stack.

The most successful companies operate a full and integrated technology stack that empowers them to perform at peak capacity in all aspects of their operations and in every stage of the sales process.

Actionable Tip: Sign up for competitors offers and learn what they’re using. Prioritize your tech needs based on potential revenue impact versus cost and ease of implementation.

Smart Selling Tools & Adobe were recently featured on a Sales Hacker webinar to explain how to build a unified tech stack in 2018.

I think sales, marketing, and operations leaders will continue to be overwhelmed and confused by all the technology/tools choices they have to make. I hope the consolidation of sales & marketing 2.0 vendors begins in earnest I want another CRM vendor to challenge SFDC, which in turn will deliver more competitive pricing and accelerate innovation in the market.

Lars Nilsson, VP of Global Inside Sales, Cloudera

The hottest sales topic for 2018 SHOULD be Customer Conversation Cockpits. Salespeople can be in communication with hundreds of contacts at any given time. It’s nearly impossible to not lose track of a few (or a lot of) key conversations. Salespeople need to know if a REAL opportunity exists to move a conversation forward.

Now that conversations take place on Social Platforms, Email, within CRM systems, within platforms like Chat (think Slack) and Sales Enablement (think Highspot), it will become all the more difficult to keep up – which can only translate into lost opportunities.

Further compounding the problem is the trend toward higher productivity (fewer salespeople bringing in more dollars) which means salespeople will need to manage even more conversations. We’ll reach a breaking point when salespeople simply cannot keep up.

AI, machine-learning, and predictive analytics can all be applied to solve this problem. Conversations build relationships and deal momentum.  We can’t have them spread out all over the place. We need one conversation cockpit that feeds into and pulls from all the other platforms.

Nancy Nardin, Founder & President, Smart Selling Tools

7) Executive Changes: Re-Thinking Key C-Level Roles

objection handling examples scripts

There’s been a remarkable shift in traditional executive leadership to more growth focused, consumer-centric leadership.

In short, executives can no longer sit from the command center and delegate orders to the switch board operator.

The data below also suggests that CMO and VP of Sales job tenures are trending downward.

Here are 7 headlines that forecast where the c-level is going:

#1: Why CIOs Will Be the New Executive Leaders

#2: In 2018, The Entire C-Suite Must Be Data-Savvy

#3: Chief marketing officers will have to ‘grow or go’ as Fortune 100 companies switch to ‘chief growth officer’ roles.

#4: There Are 4 Futures for CMOs: Some Better Than Others

#5: If CMOs don’t stand for growth, they stand for nothing.

#6: Why CMOs Never Last

#7: The Number One Reason Sales Leaders Miss Their Number Today

cmo churn ratevp sales tenure

Because of the high turnover endemic to the VP of Sales role at high-growth companies, I am predicting the growth of more outsourced and interim CRO consulting practices to help companies scale before they’re ready to make a full-time commitment.

Outsourcing elements of the strategic sales function will help companies run a more sophisticated playbook early, build the right infrastructure without incurring cultural and technical debt in their sales org, and develop key internal team members without having to create layers of management.

Companies that embrace strategic outsourcing will grow more quickly, more cost effectively and with better culture then those that do not.

In summary, the continued evolution of “Sales as a Service” for companies that want the best sales and go-to-market resources but can’t or shouldn’t spend $500K on a CRO.

Sam Jacobs, Former CRO, The Muse

Sales enablement turns into customer enablement and becomes relevant for the Chief Customer Experience Officer.

Sales enablement as a discipline is fast-growing and becomes more mature and strategic. With the entire customer’s journey as the ideal primary design point, sales enablement equips all customer-facing professionals and their managers to be relevant, valuable and differentiating in every interaction.

Sales enablement will soon turn into customer enablement or buyer enablement. The trend in sales enablement’s reporting structure currently shows that three-quarters report to the senior executive sales leadership.

World-class performers will soon have their enablement discipline report to a C-level role, ideally to the Chief Customer Experience Officer.

Tamara Schenk, Research Director, CSO Insights

8) Re-Thinking the Role of the SDR

sales characteristics successful salespeople

With the rise of quota expectations, decline of quota attainment rates, and the proposed notion to compensate SDRs based on how much pipeline they generate – it’s fair to say that the role of the SDR is changing rapidly, and only becoming more difficult.

The big headline: SDRs are the first touch with your potential customers, and therefore need to be customer-oriented problem solvers, rather than pipeline fillers.

We need SDR’s that can incite customers into recognizing an opportunity or wanting to solve a problem. We need SDR’s that can recognize the difficulty customer have in organizing themselves to figure out how to solve the problem and provide leadership to help them move forward, rather than just progressing a deal to a certain pipeline stage.

David Brock, CEO, Partners in Excellence

The inbound SDR role is going to be further automated and reduced by chat bots with AI and/or higher level customer service type reps instead of being the entry level sales role.

The BDR/AE relationship with start to wind down and we’ll go back to full cycle sales reps who focus more on the customer experience instead of the scalability of the sales team

John Barrows, Owner, JBarrows Sales Training

Decreased/ Changed use of SDRs: This might not happen in 2018, but it will by 2019. There will be a decrease in use of SDRs in more transactional sales (where they frankly do not belong), and an increase of sophistication in the SDR role in the more complex enterprise role.

Hiring Trends: I think there is going to be much more focus on understanding and finding the right hiring profile. Today, recruiting is disconnected from ramp performance, and I see that changing. If we can decrease hiring mistakes, we will be able to drastically decrease costs and increase revenue.

– Misha McPherson, CEO, HumbleGrit

9) The Continued Rise of the Millennial Workforce

Millennials are officially the largest generational segment in the U.S. labor force.

millennial workforce data

Organizations need to build and implement a comprehensive strategy that squarely addresses millennial challenges, considers their preferences, and optimizes their unique strengths.”

Max Altschuler, CEO of Sales Hacker

6 Steps to Formulate a Millennial-Driven Sales Strategy

Learn more about each step of this millennial-focused sales strategy via Quotable.

  1. Design a talent management program that resonates with the millennial mindset.
  2. Adopt a millennial-focused incentives and promotions scheme.
  3. Assign millennials to specific sales functions with which they have a strong affinity and set expectations around promotion paths.
  4. Re-think and reinforce your learning and development (L&D) program.
  5. Keep your sales enablement tools up to date.
  6. Foster feedback and collaboration.

Millennials are the new face of sales – They are in and on every sales team. Sometimes the majority.

Jeffrey Gitomer, Best-Selling Author, The Little Red Book of Selling

Actionable Tip: Understand what drives millennials and what keeps them motivated. This generation is probably the most studied so far in human history – it won’t be difficult to learn what they want and how to give it to them.

10) Increased Importance of Personal Branding & Career Development to Create Your Own Sales Opportunities

how to create viral content on linkedin

This probably isn’t the most scalable concept in the world, especially for SDRs who are just breaking into the world of sales, or large teams of SDRs.

That said, the power of building your personal brand (especially on LinkedIn <<<— phenomenal article from Jack Kosakowski) is pretty undeniable at this point.

There are plenty of sales reps who are slowly but steadily building their personal brand, and it’s not going unnoticed.

One example that immediately comes to mind is Morgan J Ingram’s SDR Chronicles. Morgan launched a YouTube series with the goal of educating, motivating and inspiring fellow SDRs.

Just by consistently sharing knowledge, being helpful and documenting his daily processes – he’s enabled himself to earn sales conversations without the same friction that an unknown rep might encounter.

Build an impressive online reputation – No longer an option or a trend. When someone Googles you, you become completely exposed for who you are or who you are not. Get impressive.

Jeffrey Gitomer, Best-Selling Author, The Little Red Book of Selling

As the noise of B2B email, phone and content re-targeting gets ever higher, sales professionals who find a way to break through the spam will get a disproportionately higher level of attention from buyers than their competitors.

In 2018 (and forever onward) buyers will buy from those that can get and keep their attention, as they’re too busy to research anyone else. It’s cliche, but those sales professionals that are known, liked, trusted AND top of mind will dominate the market.

Will Baron, Host/Founder, The Salesman Podcast

Collaboration and continuous learning as key trends heading in to 2108. Today’s successful sellers are seeking more ways to connect, collaborate and learn from one another in effort to simply be better.

This intentional effort is creating a new approach to professional development leveraging what I would characterize as conscious learning streams.

Everywhere I look, sellers are coming together in groups, organically forming online and in-person communities to help each other improve as marketers, sellers, enablers, managers and leaders.

I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of the sales industry.

– Sean Sheppard, Founding Partner, GrowthX

11) Growth of Omni-Channel Sales Strategies & Social Selling

social selling on facebook

No, you can’t just engage prospects over a single channel indefinitely.

Your prospects are everywhere these days – identifying and establishing a presence on the channels they spend time in is critical.

Follow the omnichannel approaches of a lead of retailers in the B2C market: they’re on the web, on email inboxes, on social media, and on the mobile apps of their customers.

Stop Hating On Social Selling!

Yes, it does work and yes reps are actually crushing it on social media.

Don’t believe us, just talk to Dylan Hey who wrote this monster tactical breakdown of social selling on Sales Hacker – he diligently explains how it all works and how you can do it too.

Daniel Disney is an example of someone who leverages writing blog articles to gain his prospect’s attention and get conversations started.

Here’s another bit of advice from Tony Hughes:

I asked Tony Hughes, one of the top B2B sales influencers and social sellers in the world, for his best advice on Social Selling.

He told me to approach it like a content-driven inbound marketing campaign.

Tony published one long form, comprehensive article on LinkedIn – every single day for 7 months straight.

Most people don’t have that kind of commitment ability for even the most simple tasks. I can’t imagine writing 1,000 word articles every single day. But that’s why Tony is Tony. And his results speak for themselves.

Gaetano DiNardi, VP of Marketing, Sales Hacker

Social Selling Stats To Consider

Here are some stats from Entrepreneur that prove we’re not just blowing smoke:

  • Leads developed through employees’ social media activities convert 7 times more frequently than other leads.
  • Sales reps who use social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78 percent of their peers.
  • Ninety-two percent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands.
  • Marketers, who prioritize blogging, are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
  • Consistency is key. It takes five to seven impressions for someone to remember a brand.

Actionable Tip: Go well beyond LinkedIn to connect with and engage prospects. Events and conferences are still great places to be. Learn how to maximize your networking ROI for social selling to get results.

I predict that the usage of LinkedIn Sales Navigator by Sales Teams will increase considerably, enabling them both to zero in on their target prospects with extreme precision and also to delve deeper into Social Selling.

The key here is to focus on providing value, build trust and develop solid professional relationships with target prospects that will ultimately improve sales figures.

Great emphasis will also be placed on the way we present ourselves as Sales Professionals on the LinkedIn platform since with such fierce competition, now more than ever, we need to not only stand out in our professional field but also to engage in actions that will significantly increase our visibility on the LinkedIn platform.

Dennis Koutoudis, Founder & CEO, LinkedIn SuperPowers

12) The Account-Based Movement Is Here To Stay (And Only Getting Stronger)

growth of ABMABM has been around for quite a while, but what makes it more powerful today is the fact that technology has taken the movement to the next level.

Using jazzed up CRM systems or specialized ABM enablement software (such as Datanyze, Terminus, or Engagio), account-based marketing can help generate better quality prospects, quicken deal velocity, and uplift customer loyalty.

The main concept to grasp in ABM / ABS is that the traditional funnel has been flipped inversely to focus on quality and personalization rather than casting a wide net.

traditional funnel vs abm funnel

Source: Intercom – Demystifying Account Based Marketing

A major challenge B2B organizations are facing right now when it comes to ABM is deciding WHEN and HOW to make the transition.

I think there’s a huge lack of reliable case studies out there validating the ROI of ABM. We know it “works” but we need to see more nuts and bolts, less fluff.

It’s a huge buzz topic and everyone’s beating it to death, but there’s very few (if any) tactical step by step breakdowns that explain the challenges, steps taken and the outcomes for companies that have successfully transitioned to ABM. 

Gaetano DiNardi, VP of Marketing, Sales Hacker

5 Actionable Steps For Getting Started With ABM

Step #1: Choose your target accounts based on your ICP – Conduct thorough research and involve cross-functional leaders to identify the customer profiles that will generate the most value. Study your target account profiles thoroughly until you have an accurate picture of their pain points, goals and desires.

Step #2: Identify a list of influencers – For each target account, identify the key decision-makers involved in making a purchase decision, and learn everything you can about them (in a professional way).

Step #3: Personalize your content – Build relevant, personalized and compelling content, resources and experiences for target stakeholders. For example, you might write an industry-specific white paper with unique best practices. It doesn’t have to be a research document either; a well written, thought-provoking, a hyper-relevant blog post can get the job done too.

Step #4: Engage targets diligently across the sales cycle. Quality matters more than quantity here, as your goal is to build relationships. For instance, send relevant, helpful information rather than transactional, spammy sales messages.

Step #5: Set metrics and review your progress regularly – Measure your progress based on the metrics you have set, and think about iterating on your processes at least once a week. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see success right away. ABM focuses on quality and precision, rather than volume and scale.

13) Continued Emphasis on Alignment of Sales & Marketing

sales meeting improvement

Misaligned metrics, disparate technologies, separate knowledge bases, and disjointed goals spell doom for both departments as well as the single organization they serve.

Actionable Tip:  Integrate. Consolidate. Collaborate. Align on goals from the BEGINNING. Change the culture from one of detachment to one of deep involvement. Overhaul tech, strategy, and whatever else that needs updating to achieve true consolidation.

Recommended Read: 7 Problems With Sales & Marketing Alignment (And How To Fix Them)

In 2018 we’re going to see sales and marketing more intertwined than ever before, not just because of shared revenue goals (which is a good thing), but because our buyers will demand it.

Our buyers expect one fluid experience, and any interruption, hiccup or inconsistency in the marketing to sales process will have a negative impact on the buyer’s trust and confidence.

Company tone and brand voice have to carry through from the moment your buyer first meets you, through the entire sales process and customer experience.

The way to ensure success is to have a clear vision and voice for the company, to have company-wide goals and initiatives (and the will to say no to great ideas that don’t help achieve those goals), and then a dedicated focus on sales enablement to tie marketing and sales strategy together at a tactical level.

Jen Spencer, VP of Sales and Marketing, SmartBug Media

14) The Impact of Search Snippets, Structured Data, and Content Formatting

This is quietly starting to make headlines in niche online communities like SEO, but it’s definitely got legs to hit software review sites and software providers.

The image below is a Google search for “best CRM apps” and you can see the carousel at the top of the results – you better believe that searchers are going to click right into those carousel tiles, thus taking away traffic from other results.

best crm apps

Another example can be demonstrated with a search for “best sales books”

best sales books featured snippet

What Can You Do About It?

You can structure and format your sales content in a way that is favorable to obtaining search snippets. Here’s an example of how we did it for “best sales tools”

best sales tools snippet

Actionable Tip: Look for existing snippets in Google that are relevant to your business and try to get mentioned in that content.

For example, HubSpot owns the snippet for “best sales blogs” – so if you have a really good sales blog that is worth being included in that list, you should ask them to include you!

best sales blogs

Actionable Tip: Use the “people also ask” widget in Google to mine relevant content opportunities that align to specific stages of your buyer’s journey.

sales pipeline featured snippet

Putting These Sales Trends & Predictions Into Action

Even with all the ridiculous amounts of information readily accessible on the web, people can quickly get tired of the same pitches, same sales scripts, same regurgitated articles, etc. Fortunately, times are changing.

Data analytics now provide a crispier insight into how different customer segments in different contexts and engagement scenarios behave towards a particular brand.

Advanced streaming technologies allow resource-hungry content formats such as videos to easily reach consumers.

People — including the decision-makers and influencers in your target organizations — spend a lot of time on social networks.

Agile organizations who deftly input these realities into their sales strategy are the ones more likely to succeed.

Technology and consumer behavior are shifting.

Can sales teams really afford to stay the same? Doubt it.

Sales Hacker is leading the efforts to driving the future of sales.

We’re spreading modern insights to sales leaders globally.

Join us today. Let’s grow together.

Also published on Medium.

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    • Super excited to see the development of “Smarketing” as a profession. Thanks for the insightful read Max!

    • Nice Article! Finding prospects for your business and then nurturing them into leads are the building blocks of a sales cycle. Without prospects, there would be no leads, and without leads coming in at the top of your sales pipeline, you can’t expect sales at the bottom. I have use a tool called AeroLeads and it’s really helped a lot for my business growth.

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