Sales Predictions: What’s in Store for Your Sales Organization in 2018?
Sales teams around the globe are dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s as they wrap up 2017 and dive into the new year. Meanwhile, sales trainers are looking back on whether their sales organizations performed as expected or failed to deliver. They’re closely evaluating what worked and what didn’t in the past 12 months as they craft their training strategies for the coming year. Here are the top four trends we’re predicting will affect sales performance in the year ahead:
Trend #1: Process automation and augmented intelligence will continue to change the role of the sales rep. In the coming year, automation, predictive analytics and AI will continue to mature, bringing notable changes to sales reps’ roles. For example, certain repetitive tasks will be off-loaded to automated tools, freeing up reps so they can spend more time delivering value to prospects and customers. Beyond that, Aragon Research CEO and lead analyst Jim Lundy predicts chatbots will become quite prevalent by 2021, and anticipates that internal teams will begin building their own custom chatbots to quickly serve up and deliver customized info to prospects.
Overall, as we enter 2018, we can expect that AI will augment and support the role of the sales rep; not replace it. Savvy sales teams will learn how to leverage the power of AI and predictive analytics to provide the most relevant and timely content to their sales reps – content that is not only tailored to the prospect’s specific industry and position in the sales funnel, but that, eventually, is specific to the rep’s individual learning style and knowledge gaps as well.
Trend #2: Selling as a team sport replaces “lone wolf” activity. In 2018, sales organizations will begin to undergo a cultural shift from the current “lone wolf” mentality prevalent on many sales teams to recognizing the importance of approaching selling as a collaborative endeavor. This change will be largely driven by new technologies, which are enabling more peer-to-peer collaboration and resource sharing, even for remote teams. Additionally, for teams using these new training and collaboration tools, a natural next step will be a strategic shift in monetary reward structures, where sales organizations will begin to base compensation not only on individual performance, but also on an individual’s contributions to the advancement of team goals.
For the company as a whole, the business does well when the team performs well. With a more strategic rewards system, compensation structures will not only drive improved performance for individuals, but will also promote peer collaboration, knowledge and information sharing, and more friendly competition to reach shared goals.
Trend #3: Sales learning will become distinct from corporate training. Sales organizations are realizing that a Learning Management System (LMS) can’t meet their unique needs and are seeking out their own learning solutions — and using their own budget to pay for them as well. The fact is that corporate-focused LMSs simply can’t deliver the type of training that sales teams require, such as just-in-time knowledge delivery, peer-generated video insights, and practice and coaching opportunities. 2018 will be the year of the sales training platform, where more and more teams adopt modern training tools as a way to share peer-generated content, video-based mentoring and training, and on-the-go access to deal-specific messaging and materials.
Simply put, sales teams are recognizing the benefit of tailored solutions and the value and ROI they bring to the company’s bottom line.
Trend #4. Microlearning will become mainstream – delivering learning the way reps actually want to learn. No one seriously wants to devour lengthy PowerPoint decks or dense training materials. In 2018, traditional learning delivery methods such as these will continue to fade, being replaced by microlearning and reinforcement techniques, which will become the most common way sales reps absorb and internalize new information. Small bite-sized pieces of information, delivered through a dedicated sales training platform, will be used to extend and expand upon the skill and knowledge taught during onboarding and sales kickoffs, allowing reps to brush up on information on a daily basis. Microlearning enables sales pros to fit learning into their busy schedules when – and where — it works best for them, and has been proven to be a more effective way for reps to learn and retain information.
When delivered in a quiz-based format, like mobile flash cards, microlearning can also provide sales managers with insight into reps’ knowledge gaps and overall understanding of key topics, helping them to further refine their sales training techniques.
Technologies and trends such as AI and microlearning will become more tangible in 2018, further helping reps to becoming consultative sellers. The sales rep as the order-taker is quickly becoming a thing of the past, being replaced by the more knowledgeable rep who is empowered by modern sales tools and training techniques that deliver for both the customer and the company.