10 Ways Sales Has Evolved

The only real constant is change. That's true in life and in business as well. With all the new technology and business intelligence tools coming to market over the past decade, the pace of change has accelerated, especially in the sales sector. Need proof? Take a look at the following 10 significant changes in the sales industry that have taken place over the last decade.

Reaching a prospect on the phone has become much more difficult. Thanks to caller ID, fewer business land lines, and more gatekeepers, it's increasingly tough for salespeople to reach a prospect by phone for a direct conversation. Today, the average ratio of dialing attempts to conversations is 22:1. Ten years ago, it was 8:1.

RFPs are more important than ever. Requests for proposals (RFPs) have always been an important component of the business development process, but today, people have a tendency to make decisions by committee, and these decisions often turn on the RFP. A professional RFP team is a must these days.

Decision-makers can do more research via the Internet. A positive online image is critical today, since business decision-makers tend to do their own research online before they ever meet with a sales professional.

Customers are more wary of having their names used in case studies. With the visibility of social channels, customers manage their image and guard their competitive secrets more closely than ever. They'll often be happy to serve as a reference, but they're less likely to allow the use of their name on printed or online materials.

Networking is an even bigger deal. Sales is still all about relationships, so a network of contacts remains vitally important. Social networking tools have replaced the Rolodex, but the personal touch is still crucial. A large online social circle isn't valuable unless it reflects real relationships.

Sales and marketing teams work more closely together. Thanks to better metrics, sales and marketing teams tend to collaborate more today than they did 10 years ago. They work together to hone messaging, test strategies, and adjust campaigns to drive higher sales.

Better data sheds more light on campaign performance. Before sophisticated data analytics tools became widely available, it was difficult for sales and marketing teams to quantify the impact of campaign components such as direct mail, online advertising, and calls. Now it's possible to pinpoint results with much greater accuracy.

Improved direct mail targeting leads to superior results. When digital advertising came on the scene, many predicted the end of direct mail. Instead, sales and marketing teams now use analytics and data to more accurately target direct mail outreach, generating positive ROI.

Sales pipeline management is much more sophisticated. Pipeline management has always been important, but today there are more tools and data available to quantify opportunities, track contacts and activities, and manage leads.

Salespeople add more value. Thanks to automated tools that enable more efficient prospecting and better data to enhance targeting, sales professionals can focus on more strategic tasks, such as serving as trusted advisors and building relationships.

The changes that have transformed the way we do business over the past decade have challenged sales professionals to stay ahead of the curve. In some ways, a greater reliance on technology has made it more difficult for salespeople to get in front of customers or to control their company's image. But in other important ways, technology and data are emerging as indispensable lead-generation tools. The companies that recognize the potential of emerging technology and those who put data to work for their businesses have the greatest chance to succeed over the next 10 years.

Lee Sing is the vice president of sales at Salesgenie Enterprise.

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