Is it possible to predict the year’s biggest sales challenges when we’re only a few months into 2018? Companies like Richardson Sales Training and sales-i have already released research that lays out what B2B sales should be concerned about this year, and survey says we should listen up.
Here are five of the biggest sales challenges research shows will be of importance this year, and probably in the years to come.
Technology and the Sales Process
This is a pretty evident one, but overwhelmingly significant considering that has truly affected every aspect of sales. How much of our sales have we automated? How much of our daily sales process relies on technology? What about the technology available to the customer before a sale is even made?
Research from sales-i shows that only 5% of the those surveyed see automation as a threat to their way of business, but the true impact of sales AI remains to be seen. Meanwhile, 70% see e-commerce as an opportunity to benefit sales. 84% said that they plan on implementing “data-driven software and e-commerce systems…to boost sales and marketing efforts” in order to compete with giants like Amazon.
The impact of technology on customers rather than salespeople is just as powerful. Research has demonstrated that the buyer comes to the salesperson much later in their buying process because they are able to compare prices and products so easily–although not always accurately–on their own time
CEO of sales-i Paul Black accurately refers to digital innovation as a double-edged sword that “enables businesses to do better, but also increases the competition.” Salespeople must learn to engage technology in effective ways, like paying attention to social feeds to know their customers better and expedite prospecting, but they must also be wary of the risks that digitizing the sales process presents.
Price vs. Value
One-third of the respondents in the Richardson study answered that “competing with low-cost providers” is one of their most anticipated challenges. The truth is, most sales negotiations in 2018 are expected to revolve around pricing. Thus, the salesperson must take negotiation into account while still requesting a price adequate for the quality of their product.
While strategies like discounting may lead to a quick sale, they can actually be detrimental to business. SalesHub explains that while it is tempting to offer “concessions to maintain momentum” this can all too easily negatively affect revenue. Paul Black recommends alternatives to discounting, such as loyalty programs and customized product packages” in order to “differentiate and remain relevant.”
All of the studies regarding sales challenges in 2018 are very concerned with account management. Over time, sales has become an increasingly intricate process, and all of the variables at work can make it difficult to manage accounts and the limited time of sales teams.
Matthew Cook, founder of SalesHub, admits this difficulty and explains that “complex solutions to close deals need a deeper relationship between sales rep and client” in order for account management to be successful. Ben Taylor of Richardson adds that “complex sales need more follow-through,” while “keep[ing] new product solutions separate from work already implemented.
Challenges in account management can also be tackled by team selling, which is also a huge priority for sales in 2018.
Volume and Team Selling
Research from sales-i revealed a critical shortage of experienced, talented salespeople. Consequently, many companies have fewer reps than area to cover, which can result in overwhelming loads of clients that are simply not possible for a single rep to manage. So, research predicts that in 2018, team selling will become a priority in order to maintain sales momentum while minimizing burn-out.
Christina Aiello of SAVO insists that “today, a winning sale needs teamwork,” and so companies should focus on cultivating a culture of collaboration and trust. Systems must be in place to support and encourage effective team selling, which will help maintain momentum while also making the schedules of sales reps a little more flexible.
Knowledge Base and Skills Development
It is basic sales strategy for the salesperson to “know thy customer,” but often this must go beyond surface level. In the Richardson study, 22% listed “understanding the buyers’ decision-making process” as a significant challenge for this year.
The path to expanding the knowledge base and understanding the customer’s process involves the development of crucial soft skills like empathy, active listening, and asking relevant and insightful questions. It isn’t sufficient for the sales rep to merely be business-savvy, but they must also be attentive to and aware of the customers’ needs and the emotional nature of the buying process.
Research demonstrates the challenges facing sales in 2018 are many, but they are not insurmountable. Each challenge presents many opportunities to come together, strategize, and strengthen sales teams. With many months to go in the year, each day and each deal gives teams the chance to go forward with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to face the challenges that come their way and turn them into successes.