4 Sales Trends to Follow in 2016

The only constant in sales and marketing is change. In just the past few years, companies have embraced the rise of CRM, marketing automation, and a myriad of software focused on sales productivity. While the flurry of apps and new approaches to selling are likely to continue to grow, here are the trends experts believe will influence selling in the next 12 months.

Competition for Tech-Savvy Salespeople Will Increase

Just 12 percent of buyers want to meet salespeople in person, which presents a serious challenge. It's a problem that can be solved with the right technology and process—provided, of course, salespeople are willing to adapt to the new and ever-changing technology landscape.

Companies need more tech-savvy sales staff, which means candidates with experience using a variety of technologies will become a hot commodity. "There will always be new tools added to the sales process which will affect how salespeople do their jobs six, twelve or twenty-four months from now," says Ben Ledo, director of ecommerce at customer review site Angie's List. "We need to look for people who can adopt and adapt. And I think there's going to be a lot of competition for those folks."

Sales leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve can also ensure they hire candidates who are comfortable using a variety of technologies, and can learn new technologies quickly.

Prescriptive Tech Will Trump Predictive Intelligence

The push for more predictive processes, apps, and approaches has led to a growing number of new analytics technologies that purport to provide insight into forecasting. But sales leaders may find more value in prescriptive tech, which goes a step beyond predictive analytics by suggesting ways to take advantage of future outcomes. Such technology makes it easier for salespeople to offer the right solutions to prospects at the right time.

Bob Marsh, CEO of sales performance platform LevelEleven, believes prescriptive tech can save salespeople valuable time. "The more prescriptive recommendations a salesperson can access, the better they can invest their time in the right prospects," he said.

Sales Technologies Will Become More Unified

Sales technology has become a rapidly growing market of apps and tools, leaving sales leaders with a rapidly growing tech stack to manage and optimize. Furthermore, companies are using an average of nearly 400 cloud apps—a reality that leaves sales teams wading through underused or unused solutions everyday.

Companies looking to streamline the sales process may find themselves faced with a number of point solutions to solve their challenge; but sales needs a single platform in lieu of a plethora of apps. Choosing a unified platform also provides a more holistic view of the customer journey, enabling sales to deliver the experience customers expect and the process sales leadership need to drive growth.

"Everyone is overwhelmed with what I call "SaaS overload," said Steve Richard, CRO of ExecVision.io. Understanding the customer experience is critical, Richard believes, but "at the same time, this proliferation of point solutions is killing everyone." Companies that standardize on a single platform or choose to invest in a tightly integrated, small group of solutions can increase productivity and improve customer experience.

Data Will Become the Unifier Between Sales and Marketing

The buyer is the center of the sales cycle, and in a world filled with constant messages and distractions, crafting a satisfying and engaging customer experience is more important than ever. This makes sales-marketing alignment an imperative. Therefore, a sales and marketing team that uses the data they already have to understand buyer needs will be able to create the ideal customer experience.

Sean Brady, president of the Americas for marketing company Emarsys, said customer intelligence will become the unifier between sales and marketing. "But it has to be part of the platform," Brady said. "Technology should help you predict where you need to spend your revenue rather than customizing things over and over to fit certain industries." Sales and marketing teams can spend time on personalizing customer experiences, which in turn increases engagement.

The challenges sales leaders face will continue to evolve over time, but technology can offer answers to many of the problems their teams face. The key, as always, will be choosing the right technology, leveraging the right data, and choosing the right people to create the best buyer relationships.

David Kerr is chief operating officer for sales productivity pioneer TinderBox. He brings more than 20 years of experience in executive management, business development, marketing and sales.

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