Sales Trends 2020 - A Look at What’s Next

The sales trends of 2019 were heavily skewed towards big data and tech. With a dizzying number of tech companies redefining how we do business and sell, that theme isn’t going anywhere. 

However, in 2020 we may see new developments in business not just as a result - but as a response to it. 

So let’s take a minute to look ahead at the sales trends we expect this year, with 20/20 vision. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).


Flywheel: The Evolution of the Sales Funnel

Perhaps one of the biggest developments in Sales and Marketing is the abandonment of the traditional sales funnel, and the emergence of a new concept introduced by Hubspot - the Flywheel. The traditional top-down funnel made customers an afterthought once they converted. The Flywheel puts the customer at the center of everything. 

Negative customer experience is friction according to the flywheel model, which aims to reduce friction at any point by utilizing multiple departments to nurture the customer throughout a cyclical sales process. 

Marketing passes leads off to the sales team but nurtures them with promotional material to keep them engaged. The sales team passes off new customers to Customer Success, but they continue to look for cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. And finally, Customer Success looks for referrals and additional opportunities from existing customers to give back to Marketing.

The Flywheel uses customers to drive sales, while providing a positive user experience. It’s disruptive nature, and innovative approach to classic methodology puts it at the top of our list for sales - and marketing - trends in 2020. 

Augmented Reality and the Tenure of the Talking Bot

Augmented reality has the potential to significantly impact the way sales reps conduct demos. 

Imagine a sales demo utilizing augmented or virtual reality to construct a realistic product experience for your prospect. There’s no need to lug heavy products, or give sales demonstrations in inconvenient locations when augmented reality can provide a realistic user experience through a portable interface.

Talking bots. 

You may as well consider these cute, multi-colored, automated bots to be the top of your funnel, because they are the first interaction with your company many online customers will have. Companies like Drift get the conversation started, and do a good job qualifying leads before passing them off to the sales team. They’re available on all platforms, they’re awake whenever consumers are, and they nurture customers with valuable resources. Don’t downplay their potential impact on your sales funnel, and your bottom line in years to come.

Hyper Relevant Messaging

Gone are the days of effective mass emailing. These days your message is expected to be highly specific to your customer. We’re not talking billboard signs with broad messages. We’re talking pinpoint precision at scale. 

We predict an operation in which CDPs (Customer Data Platforms), play an integral part, creating highly personalized profiles of prospects as they move through every stage of their digital search. Talking bots assist with outward facing communication, guiding prospects in real time, informed by both the CDP and CRM data. SEPs (Sales Engagement Platforms), will tie the whole operation together, putting salespeople in front of the right prospect at the right time. The level of hyper attentive hand-holding will prevent empty shopping carts in cyberspace, and missed opportunities in real life. 

Delivering highly personalized, relevant selling strategies to prospects, will be more than the trend of yesteryear, they will be expected in 2020.

The Proliferation of Sales Operations

Unless you’re a lemonade stand, it’s official-the new foundation of business is big data. It’s the currency businesses trade, and the rationale behind every sales strategy. There has been a huge surge in platforms to capture it. Billboards advertise CRM platforms on every corner, and if you’re not utilizing data you’re definitely missing opportunities (or selling lemonade). 

So how can sales teams focus on selling when they have multiple data platforms and strategies to consider? Simple, Sales Operations

In the last few years we’ve seen sales ops teams go from optional to downright necessary in 2020. Their role is to manage the tech stack and deliver actionable sales strategies. Think of them as the mechanics who provide the most effective, finely tuned tools and strategies for your sales team.  

Sales Operations have a huge effect on a business's bottom line, and we see their relevance, and proliferation expanding well beyond 2020.

Innovations in Tech Stack Communication

CRMs, CDPs, DMPs-we’ve placed a lot of importance on data platforms in 2020. With so many numbers on the mind, it’s only natural to wonder how sales teams will manage communication between platforms. 

Certainly sales ops will be important. But could we also see SEPs evolve into a sales reps’ personal sales feed? A central, data-consolidating, notification platform? 

It’s not far fetched, in fact it’s very realistic. Blueconic has already achieved something similar with CDPs, and Badger Maps makes CRM data available for reps in the field. 

That’s why we predict an evolution of third party integration software that will not only manage, backup, and streamline data within a tech stack, but showcase findings within a single, user friendly interface-the sales team equivalent of Hootsuite.

Backlash from Omnichannel Selling

LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat... These days everyone is on everything. And customers are buying on everything. The modern buyer’s journey may start with a Google search, lead to an Instagram account, a customer review, a Twitter post, and end at a physical or online store. 

Staying in front of your customer is key for brand awareness and sales. Over the last few years we’ve seen companies developing strategies for every platform and social channel. While staying relevant on social platforms will see continued importance, we might see a backlash from the social trend. 

On one hand, we will see continued use of alternative messaging like chatbots. But on the other, we might see a return to personal videos, direct mail, and messaging services. 

A mix of new and old methods that cut through the social noise, setting your product apart in 2020.

B2B: Officially a Buyers Market

Just as we saw the B2C industry shift to a buyers market in the last decade, B2B has been edging towards it in the last few years. In 2020 we see B2B take a definitive seat at the buyers market table. 

There are more solutions on the market than ever before, customer reviews and free trials are the new norm, and buyers are more informed about products and their use. In fact, some studies show that 90% of B2B customers do 60% of their research online. These consumers need a salesperson to guide them towards a purchase, not push.

So how do you convert consumers who have already done their research?

It’s no longer enough to promote features - everyone has features. You can’t sell a lifestyle (unless you’re in B2C). So players in the B2B industry will have to focus on how their solution solves problems specific to their prospect

Reps will have to be perceptive enough to know what their prospects problems are, and why they need a solution now

Creating urgency, and communicating value over features, will be at the core of every successful B2B sales strategy in 2020.

Personal Relationships are Valued Again

With all the talk of technology, automation, A.I., social selling - let’s take a look at a secondary effect it has on the sales atmosphere. 

A return, or a renewed appreciation, for good old human relationships. 

Not so many years ago, if you knew someone, you’d buy from them. Loyalty and trust dictated sales. That all changed with the proliferation of buying options. Suddenly, loyalty was dictated by lowest cost. Nowadays, most purchases are made without ever seeing a human being, and costs between competitors are relatively stable. 

That’s why many businesses are betting on their unique customer experience to give them an edge. 

The deciding factor for many buyers in 2020 may be the ways in which their buying experience was special. There will be a renewed emphasis on trust and relationships. Similarly, personal communication may have newfound impact amidst the sea of social selling. 

We may be heading towards the gilded age of technology in sales, but people still appreciate humans in 2020.

Sales Coaching on the Rise

There’s no doubt technology has made functions easier for sales teams. Basic admin work is automated, prospecting can be done on-the-fly, and communication can be broadcast en masse. But there’s still no excuse for poor quality pitches. 

In the new year we can expect companies to ensure the quality of their outbound messaging by digging internally to optimize their poorest performing reps. Sales coaching and ongoing training could see enhanced focus. We may even see a more social environment across sales teams if high performers are called upon to train poor performing reps. 

Team selling may not be the most popular amongst reps, but if sales managers enlist their best reps as coaches to improve quality, we may see exactly that in 2020.

Increased Crossover Between Sales and Marketing

Tech is having an interesting effect on the traditional roles of Marketing and Sales organizations. More and more, departments are using the same channels to promote awareness and qualify leads. Many marketing teams are following customers journeys from start to finish through the traditional sales funnel. And the emergence of the previously mentioned Flywheel brings the two departments inextricably together. 

This is leading to a high level of crossover between the two organizations, and the rise of hybrid roles. The increasing proximity of the two departments has other positive effects - streamlined, customer focused sales funnels, and accelerated sales cycles. 

We expect to see even more hybrid marketing-sales roles in years to come as crossovers and Flywheels become more commonplace.

Conclusion 

In 2020, as technology continues to advance selling practices and redefine the marketplace, we may see the businesses who put customers at the center of their funnel, leverage new technologies, and provide a unique personal experience, have the upperhand.

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