Making a sale was once an open-and-shut transaction with a customer. Not any longer.
Customers are now driving the process. Closing a deal is becoming just one part of a larger relationship. And sales managers are beginning to realize that being successful in sales means meeting the needs of customers across different departments.
In other words, sales is more customer-centric than ever before — and that means that sales is changing in some big ways.
But don't just take our word for it. We decided to reach out to experts on the topic — those who have a personal connection with sales and could provide predictions about the top trends they believe will affect sales this year. We asked two simple questions:
- What do you believe is the top theme/trend for sales in 2019?
- How will this trend affect sales managers, and how should they respond?
We have provided their answers below, along with actionable ways to help you plan and implement the right strategies for your team in the coming year.
1. B2B growth is slowing down
After several years of sizable economic growth, I believe B2B growth will slow in 2019. It will be harder to win deals in 2019 than it was in 2018. Slower growth (in conjunction with an overall degradation in commercial velocity brought about by GDPR) will lead to the need to retrain and up-skill the sales workforce.
Sales managers will need to prioritize training and development in 2019 and use more sophisticated sales tools with AI that act as a sales rep performance early-warning system.
2. Become a trusted adviser
A top trend that will continue through 2019 is sales professionals acting as trusted advisers first and as sales reps second.
Being a trusted adviser means offering consultation, education, support, and other services that help build prospects up, as well as create a relationship. With this effort, you can get your prospect closer to a point where they are ready to buy and also ensure that they will be more likely to buy from you.
For sales managers, this reframing of the relationship requires a deliberate effort. Instead of aiming to close the deal as quickly as possible (a quantitative measure), look at how you can best help your prospect (a qualitative measure).
3. Create a personal brand
Brand is going to be key in 2019 — both for organizations and individuals. The sales professionals that are going to thrive and take the lunch of their competition will be "searchable" and more creditable in an ever-noisier marketplace.
Sales managers should be encouraging their sales teams to engage with their buyers on LinkedIn or wherever their customers are spending time. Internally, managers need to be hounding their marketing counterparts to build public profiles on their top sales performers and be capturing the customer-success stories of these individuals so they can be shared with the rest of the sales team.
4. Provide more value to prospects
Overall, I think there will be a stronger emphasis on providing more value to prospects right up front. This means that the pressure is on for sales managers to enable and equip their teams with the tools and resources they need to provide that value to prospects in engaging and informative ways.
For example, relationship-driven sales processes, like using 1:1 video, will really start impacting results in 2019. I think sales teams are going to start incorporating video into their workflows more often. I also believe that people will begin to find certain videos work better for prospecting, nurturing leads, or even managing accounts.
5. Use a product-led growth strategy
The SaaS companies I currently admire the most are those that have implemented the product-led growth strategy. In 2019, it will be a given that business users expect consumer-grade experiences. Focusing on first-run product experience, ensuring customers get value quickly, and then leveraging this pool of "leads" is the best way to drive an effective sales cycle in 2019.
Get users into free trials based on the product, then drive adoption and expansion with sales and account management.
6. Focus on current customers and prospects
Companies are realizing that their biggest sales opportunity comes from existing customers or a known set of prospects. This “account-based” approach to sales and marketing favors a tight integration between everyone working with customers.
The move to the “subscription economy” means that fewer sales are “one and done”— much of the economic value comes from retention, expansion, and upsell after the initial transactions. Also, most “new leads” are in fact junk—most companies already know the 1,000 companies or even the 10,000 companies that are truly qualified to buy their product or service. They are already in the lead database.
Providing customers with better support and having one conversation with customers across departments are ways sales managers can stay up with this trend.
7. Align sales, marketing, and product
I've recently noticed a closer alignment between sales, marketing, and product. I hope this is the dominant sales trend of 2019.
Content, planned or not, creates a set of expectations for the sales process and the product experience. A great content experience creates a natural segue to a demo or free trial. Sales and product teams can and should weigh in on what topics are covered and whether or not that content sets up sales and product adoption for success.
As you can see, there are a number of trends that will influence the customer relationship and overall sales this coming year. What do you predict will be the top sales trends of 2019? Let us know in the comments below!