Top 10 sales trends for 2013: An insiders perspective.

I read a great article recently in the Harvard Business Review covering the top 10 sales trends for 2013. I wanted to provide an insiders perspective to these trends with a focus on enterprise software sales. I aimed to cover just the most salient points.

1. Sales Force Behavior “Modeling” Models are verbal descriptions and visual representations of how systems work and processes flow. Models enable repeatable and predictable experiences. More organizations will study their top salespeople in 2013 to understand how they formulate their winning account strategies based upon customer politics, evaluator psychology, and the human nature of executive decision makers that are unique to winning every account.

It absolutely makes sense to adapt models based on current success but I’d argue to start from scratch or provide no guidelines for strategy is insane. “Waiting” for the sales force to determine in todays rapid climate will leave you too far behind to catch up.

Models for qualifying and forecasting sales have been baked for years and years. I propose instead a baseline based on past lessons and success with adaption to current landscape changes. An iterative approach can be leveraged to adapt what is working, what’s not and how changes should be made. A great example of a change that will inevitably impact a sales model is the move to SaaS and self service trial based delivery models.


2. Win-Loss Analysis Studies 
All companies and their salespeople are well versed on the logical arguments for selecting their product. However, the decision to make a major purchase is also influenced by internal politics, how the decision-makers receive information along with individual biases and personal desires. Unfortunately many companies don’t perform any type of win-loss analysis so they don’t understand their customers in these regards. Because of the economy and relentless competition, 2013 will be the year that many companies have to re-discover the lost art of win-loss analysis.

As with all data be sure not to jump to conclusions. You can’t make an empirical analysis off of 1 win or 1 loss. Often times, an agenda may be the underlying reason a number, figure or metric is being conveyed (vanity metrics).

 

5. Sales Process Ineffectiveness Many companies have realized that their sales didn’t increase even after spending a great deal of money and effort implementing a sales process methodology. The reason for this is because the “black hole” of the sales process is what happens during and at the close of sales calls. Today more than ever, it’s the personal interactions with prospective customers that determines winners from losers, not the internal processes of the sales organization. In 2013 more companies will be studying and categorizing these customer interactions so they can improve sales force effectiveness.

In part due to moving the focal point away from quick iteration and execution in large orgs to a primary focus on visibility/reporting. Failure is due more to system gaming syndrome where the users of the system take the path of least resistance. In this case the path of least resistance ends up being report/pipeline fluffing vs. getting the job done. Case in point, I witnessed a pipeline grow 300% in the course of weeks with no increase in staff (actually decrease through attrition) to accommodate a recent doubling of quota. Take a guess if the closure rate increased proportionally to the pipeline increase … not even close.

 

7. No Decision as the Main Competitor For sales forces involved with large capital expenditure sales cycles, never before has the mantra “Call High or Die” been so true. Salespeople must reach C-level executive decision makers early in the sales process because the default for organizations today is to maintain the status quo and delay every major purchase.

I have seen all to often falling back on industry or current technology acronyms and mapping to products as the path of least resistance. Sales get paid to influence not perform rote memorization.

 

10. Continued Migration from Field to Phone One final trend that bears mentioning is the accelerated move from field-based sales to phone-based internet sales. Many companies have quickly transitioned the majority of their field reps to be almost exclusively phone based. Therefore, these reps must now be able to create winning relationships with their voices as opposed to how they sold in the past with their physical presence. Understanding and mastering the art of persuasion will become even more important for all salespeople in 2013.

I’d argue there is greater divergence in the delivery models: lower revenue but higher transaction products and services can now more easily be handled in automated fashions. High touch accounts without face time will inevitably lose to those who realize relationship building is about human behavior; A facet of our DNA developed over thousands of years that can’t be erased no matter how compelling the technology.

 

Stay tuned for later posts where I’ll convey operational strategies to align and help execute a revenue strategy based on the above trends.

 

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