While sales organisations live or die based on present day results, it is also important for them to keep one eye on the future. Doing so allows them to evolve their practices, keep pace with their competitors and ensure they are not caught completely off guard by industry changes, which can occur suddenly.
At the Elevate Conference 2017, Byron Matthews, the President and CEO of Miller Heiman Group, gave a speech in which he covered future sales and service training trends. In this post, we take a closer look at what was said in the speech, and which areas sales organisations should be paying attention to in the coming years.
Sales is Becoming More of a Science
During his opening speech at the Elevate Conference 2017, Byron Matthews asked those in attendance a simple question: is sales more of an art or a science? Although the room was divided, a significant majority raised their hand to indicate they believed it was more of a science.
“The first time I ever asked this question was in 2010 and, no question about it, it was the opposite,” Byron Matthews said. “The majority of the people in the room felt like it was art. Maybe science was around 20 percent. Imagine if I asked this question 40 years ago…do you think that a single person in the room would have said it was science?”
This is a trend that Matthews is convinced will continue over the course of decades to come, with the science of selling increasing in importance thanks to new technology, new metrics and new analytics software.
“Selling will always be part art and part science, and the path to success is to excel at both. There will always be some mix of each,” Matthews explains. “But here’s what we know for certain: the science of selling is accelerating and that will require new ways of thinking and execution, and we just have to embrace that.”
Transparency Is Going to Increase
One of these new ways of thinking is likely to involve increased transparency, more monitoring of staff and a greater ability to track sales processes in real-time.
“The amount of transparency in the future is going to increase,” Matthews says. “Every salesperson’s movements, behaviour, activities will be stored, analysed and understood. Imagine the impact of that.”
Matthews revealed that Miller Heiman Group have been working with a large tech brand in Asia, which has come up with the idea of what Matthews refers to as a “sales Fit-Bit” – essentially a sales performance tracker.
“You wear this device, and it tracks everything you do,” explains Matthews. “It syncs up with your calendar, so it knows where you should be and what environment you’re in, and it monitors your stress level, your heart rate, your activity, records what you say, and it gives you a score.”
As Matthews points out, this indicates that leading technology companies are already thinking about ways to make sales more transparent. As wearable technology and similar capabilities continue to advance in the future, this trend will only grow, with sales organisations collecting more data and using it to inform employee development.
Content Will Be More Personalised
Sales experts unanimously agree that selling is getting harder. More people are involved in the process, from sales reps, to sales consulting experts, to executives. Buyers are now more informed and have greater expectations, and as pointed out in the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, companies can no longer rely on their products or services alone to give them a sustainable competitive advantage.
In future, this is likely to lead companies to attempt to introduce much more personalisation, in order to gain an edge. Essentially, this will mean that alignment between sales and marketing messages will no longer suffice. Instead, alignment will occur lower down the sales funnel, matching moments with what reps need in that moment.
“Content will be ultimately personalised,” Matthews predicts. “Tomorrow it’s going to be even more about: when that sales rep is in that specific situation, with that specific client, what is the exact content needed in the moment? That’s where the alignment will happen, much, much further down on the ground.”
New Talent and Knowledge Required
Of course, these various changes to the sales environment will require salespeople or sales consulting staff to possess different skills and abilities, in order to achieve day-to-day success. The things that are considered important for salespeople today could decrease in importance, while different attributes become more desired.
“There’s going to be new talent required,” says Matthews. “New skills, new capabilities, new knowledge. Salespeople will look more like scientists than ever before.”
This, in turn, will have a huge impact on employee development efforts, making the entire process of training salespeople more technical, more accurate, more relevant to individuals and more timely in its nature.
“Training will be different, I think it’ll be more precise. I think you’ll be able to reinforce someone’s behaviour quicker,” Matthews suggests. “Coaching and sales leadership will be different, because now you have more to coach from. You could provide training specific to their needs [in] real-time.”
Voice recognition software also opens up the possibility that advice can be given to reps while they are carrying out sales conversations. For example, the technology may be able to analyse conversations as they happen, and identify gaps in conversations with prospects, before steering the salesperson’s pitch in the right direction.
It is important that sales organisations are constantly open to change, especially when those changes can benefit their overall sales performance. Moving forward, the biggest change in sales is going to be increased transparency, meaning that training will be backed up by more data and evidence, and can be delivered more quickly.
Byron Matthews comments were made during a speech at the Elevate Conference 2017. To find out more information about future events, including the 2018 Elevate Conference, click here.