Long before the Internet appeared if you wanted to sell something, you were climbing a podium in the public market and you were loudly promoting your merchandise. Today, the podium becomes the e-commerce website, the public market has become the Internet, and the sales process is customer-centric and based on advanced customer relationship management (CRM) systems. All these differences have greatly changed not only the stylistics of the promotion and sale of products or services but also the efficiency of the sales process itself.
The typology of the vendor as a one-man-show is one of the other times. Today this vendor’s portrait only seen as an artist of words gets a few cues crafted very precisely by technology. On this background, there are several trends that can help generate business opportunities and increase sales.
1) Sales automation should become the norm
Only three years ago the topic of sales automation was completely unknown to many sales directors. Since then the situation has changed in the sense that the need for timely and accurate data is well understood, that is why, according to our in-house research, in Romania, 34% of companies have now a sales automation system and another 21% would like to implement one in the next 12 months. We expect this trend to grow in importance on the sales manager’s agenda over the next three years as well. The trend is aggravated considering the General Data Protection Regulation with regards to customers’ private data which will come into force on 25 May 2018.
2) Customer experience is king
This mantra of the past few years still weighs hugely in importance on the agenda of the sales and marketing directors. This is the trend that brings together sales and marketing in one coordinated approach to wow the customer at every touchpoint. Whether that means spending more money on customer support, product development, referral channel development, or otherwise, there are serious benefits to be had for sales and marketing leaders in organizations with this trend top of mind in 2018. The requirement here is for the two departments – sales and marketing – to work together and use the same systems to track and measure the relevant KPIs for customer experience.
3) Account-based selling gets new clothes
This is not a new selling approach. On the contrary, account-based selling is the norm in many industry sectors, especially for B2B clients. The novelty is that analytics and automation bring a new life to this old practice and couples it with personalization and lifetime value. Account-based selling allows companies to focus on the right accounts and generate repeated sales, by understanding the inner workings of the client and thus being able to deliver the value that each account finds important, rather than always fueling the sales funnel with new targets. Although account-based selling requires more work on the seller’s part, including a high degree of personalization, and takes longer. Still, it works best for strategic or complex sales that require multiple levels of buy-in.
4) Client Relationship Management is a must
The term Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was first used in the ‘90s and has significantly evolved over the years to become essential for businesses. CRMs are currently shifting from acting as a traditional database into intelligent engines. They can automatically search for customers on the Web based on your company’s profile. CRMs can automatically create contacts and accounts and prioritize them, which helps sales teams focus on the optimal prospects and reduce by 60-70% the time required for prospecting. The CRM systems now help sales reps to have a personalized approach to the customer based on social insights (find common hobbies, friends or just have an insight about the customer’s interests).
5) Predictive sales and marketing get growing interest
Machine learning is all about predicting the future. This technology is now available for the sales and marketing process too. Based on the historical and real-time data, sales directors will get via machine learning algorithms information on which companies are going to be good customers, as well as which sales team members are going to have a great quarter. These, once challenging enigmas that sales and marketing leaders had to lose many hours to solve are now being solved by artificial intelligence that uses data to forecast increasingly accurate answers to these questions. The result is a more efficient sales process and a more motivated and successful sales team. In Romania, the trend is just beginning but will soon be part of the toolbox of sales managers in banking, telecom, FMCG & retail, healthcare, consumer products.