As the holidays get busier and the year comes to a close, we are looking forward to a new year of sales evolution. 2013 was an exciting year for sales: we saw bigger emphasis on the buyer experience, more interest in sales metrics analysis, and an increase in mobile information consumption by customers. There are 4 emerging sales trends that stand out to us for 2014, and the challenge will be adopting these trends without interrupting selling – after all, your reps still have to make their numbers.
So without further ado, here are the 4 biggest sales trends to keep an eye out for in 2014.
Trend #1: Giving away free insight
More and more sales executives are coaching their reps to be subject-matter experts who offer potential buyers intellectual value during sales conversations. As this becomes the norm in 2014, the bar for sales reps will be set higher than ever. Buyers enter sales conversations after doing a lot of online research, so your reps need to offer them new ideas and perspectives on business solutions and the marketplace to stay competitive. Are your sales reps offering insight your buyer personas would be willing to pay money for? If not, make it a goal for the New Year.
Where can your sales reps find content catered to your company’s buyer personas? That’s right, your marketing team. In 2013, content marketing became more than just a trend – it became a huge competitive advantage. Companies that aren’t producing free, engaging content in the form of blogs, eBooks, and webinars will lose their edge in 2014. If your marketing team is not yet producing original content, though, don’t wait up – have your sales reps subscribe to great sales blogs (like this one!). Make continuing education a priority for your team in 2014.
Trend #2: Inside Sales
Inside Sales is the fastest-growing sector of sales and shows no signs of slowing in 2014. A Businessweek article from 2013 states, “for every 1 person hired today for an outside sales role, 10 are being brought on for inside sales.” Virtual meeting software and social media have become standard sales tools to cut costs and drive business. An online buying process is not only acceptable – nowadays, it is expected.
Your challenge for the upcoming year will be honing best practices for your Inside Sales team. These include building a scalable team, implementing a formal and well-defined sales process, and coaching your Inside Sales reps based on data-driven performance metrics. Learn in detail about building and maintaining a successful Inside Sales team here.
Trend #3: Gamification & business transparency
With the help of tech development and apps like our Sales Leaderboard App on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange, more sales managers are turning to gamification to inspire and motivate their sales teams. Gamification means exactly what it sounds like: applying gaming principles to sales and business. One of the four main types is quarterly marathons, where managers track their reps’ performance metrics on a leaderboard visible to the whole company and reward the top performers at the end of the quarter.
The gamification trend will ride on the back of a much broader trend that extends beyond sales: radical transparency in business. In 2014, we expect more companies to make previously uncommon amounts of information available to all their employees. This includes sales metrics (like the number and value of deals closed-won last month), financials, Board meeting slides, and so on.
Our friends at HubSpot say it best: “Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.”
Trend #4: Phasing out spreadsheets for sales reports
In the 1990s, CRM solutions were developed and sales reps no longer had to rely on spreadsheets to track sales activities and other metrics. Today, although most sales teams track their numbers and activities using their CRM, sales reports are still created by data exported from CRM. And it takes forever!
A lot of people hate using spreadsheets, and for good reason, too. They chew up time, they aren’t secure, and they aren’t easily variable. We’ve seen friends at other companies pull all-nighters before Board meetings creating sales reports. Our executives at InsightSquared don’t have that problem because, well, we use InsightSquared. We think building sales reports sucks, which is precisely why we developed a product that generates beautiful ones for you and updates automatically. For that reason, this trend is particularly exciting for us.
These sales trends are coming no matter what – if not in 2014, then soon after. Embrace them early and often to stay ahead of the curve. What other sales trends are you looking out for in 2014?