November 18th saw the release of Mercuri International Research’s much anticipated report, ‘The Future State of Sales’, timed to coincide with their annual event, The Sales Conference.
The report was wide-reaching and ambitious in its scope, compiled from interviews with 1000 leading executives in a range of industries across 30 countries and detailed the 10 most important trends in the sales world today.
But what role does technology play in the Future State of Sales? From the acceleration of innovation, to the rise of remote selling techniques, to the increased use of sales automation – we take a closer look at the technological trends playing a key role in the evolution of sales.
“All successful companies know that it is very windy at the top. In recent years, however, the wind has increased and quickly reached near-hurricane strength”Henrik Larsson-Broman, Mercuri International Research
Creating and retaining a leading position in a hypercompetitive world has forced companies to constantly innovate new offerings adapted to new customer needs. And key to this adaptation is smarter use of the emerging technologies available. In 2005, companies in the Global Innovation 1,000 (those that spend most on R&D) invested 360 billion US dollars – by 2017 that figure had risen to 782 billion, an increase of 117% in just 13 years.
This shows that the companies are responding – with their wallets – to the demands of the market and rising customer expectations. Consumers expect advanced, engaging experiences, particularly in the online world, and the companies that will thrive are those that can offer these experiences. This is why 75% of the executives interviewed stated that the trend of technological innovation – and the provision of new products and services – is critical to the future success of their business.
But choosing which technological path to go down is not a straightforward matter. In 2021, there were over 1,100 sales tech applications available in the market – and that figure just keeps on growing. These tools cover the entire sales-value chain; sales intelligence and CRM, lead handling and prospecting, analytics and reporting, marketing automation, knowledge assistants, proposal management, and content management. Choosing which tools to adopt – and training a salesforce to get the most out of them – can be a tricky process, but the companies who understand their value and equip their sales teams with the right tools and the right skills will be the winners of the future.
“Remote selling occurs when buyers and sellers interact in different physical locations. From a historical perspective this is nothing new, but with the COVID-19 outbreak this way of selling has increased dramatically and is now one of the top three trends that respondents rate as critical to future success.”Henrik Larsson-Broman, Mercuri International Research
As a trend, remote selling has been gaining in prominence, with the increasing sophistication of digital technologies greatly simplifying online interaction. However, over the past couple of years, the necessity of social distancing has created an explosion in use – and sales has adapted and in some cases thrived.
68% of executives interviewed now say that remote selling is critical for their future competitiveness – it has become in many cases not just a necessary alternative to face-to-face, but actually a preference for customers. A 2020 McKinsey survey 70-80 percent of B2B decision makers stated that they preferred remote human interaction or digital self-service, citing ease of scheduling, savings on travel expenses and safety as their top 3 reasons.
But remote selling is not without its challenges. 57% of respondents said that it’s harder to build trust as customer interactions become increasingly remote. No matter how quickly technology evolves and digital experiences become more sophisticated, we are still a species that values and relates to physical interactions – it’s easier to ‘read the room’ and form personal relationships.
We do, however, have to accept that these challenges are here to stay – which is why smart sales organizations are restructuring the balance of inside versus outside sales teams, with 50% of respondents stating that they will increase inside sales reps either slightly or significantly over the next three years.
The age of salesomation
“Our research suggests that the future of sales will be highly automated. Not that it will replace salespeople, but rather complement the sales team so they can focus less on admin and more on selling.”Henrik Larsson-Broman, Mercuri International Research
Replacing people with machines is nothing new. From innovative arable production methods, to the explosion of technology of the industrial revolution, we have always been searching for ways to automate laborious, repetitive, time consuming tasks. But in the world of sales, this is about to be taken to the next level. According to a recent World Economic Forum reportroughly 85 million jobs across 26 countries will be replaced by automation technologies by 2025.
But the companies that succeed in the future will be those that embrace the possibilities – at its best, sales automation has the power to augment and complement existing sales teams, giving them tools to do their jobs better, rather than replacing the jobs themselves. This is why 60% of respondents believe that sales automation is a critical priority for their future success.
However, many companies are simply not there yet. 37% of executives are concerned that their organizations lack the skills necessary to automate time consuming sales tasks. Only 1 in 4 companies has automated at least one sales process – even though the benefits are demonstrably there; McKinsey research has shown that early adopters of sales automation consistently report increases in customer-facing time, higher customer satisfaction, efficiency improvements of 10 to 15 percent, and sales uplift potential of up to 10 percent.
As ever, those companies who will be competitive in the future are those that can take note of these trends and take action – today.