In 2014, will companies hire more salespeople? What can companies do to be different from their competitors? What will happen to CRM systems? What will be the impact of the economy on business growth? These are the questions I am asked most often when I speak to audiences all over the globe. These are my predictions about the trends and ideas that will impact sales and business development in 2014.
1. Evolution of Subject Matter Experts
Your website now allows buyers to access almost all information about your company, products, and services. They don’t have the best practices, trends, or creative applications to help them decide if the product is suitable for their situation. Buyers will continue valuing subject matter experts.
To find out if you are capable of meeting this standard, you need to ask yourself whether your ideal clients would be willing to pay for a meeting with your team. If you answered yes, then you may already be there. If you are not there, you can set a goal for 2014.
2. Content is Emperor
People said last year that content was king. Content will be the key to building value and standing out above the noise in 2014. According to Marcus Sheridan, TheSalesLion.com, buyers (and Google) are attracted to the best teachers. Companies used to be afraid of sharing their best content on their websites. Your ability to stand out in the crowd is dependent on whether you are answering the most critical questions about your ideal customer. You might get run over if you keep your head down and don’t see the bigger picture.
3. Continued Shift to Vertical vs. Geographic Focus
The shift from a vertical to a geographic focus is often done in cycles. Geography becomes less critical with the development of video-based communication technologies and collaborative technologies. The increased importance of subject matter expertise will make 2014 a year for vertical markets.
4. Selling and Collaborative Sourcing
In the last five years, buyers have been focusing on weaker suppliers. The buyer’s short-term goal was to reduce costs. However, this unintended result was the destruction of many suppliers and companies that either had no competitive advantage or were unable to recognize their sales and negotiation skills before it was too late. Buyers lost a significant portion of their supply chains. Buyers who are more experienced will look for sellers with whom they can collaborate to achieve the best value. Buyers know that the lowest price is not always the best value if the vendor can’t deliver what they need.
While collaborative selling will be rewarded for results and outcomes, it will continue to penalize those who sell commodities.
5. The shift to project-based services engagements
Buyers have found that charging by the hour is a deterrent to innovation and efficiency. The vendor will earn more the longer they wait. For the client, however, the quicker they can get a solution, it is more profitable. The hourly vendor that delivers the best value for money makes the least amount of money. The top-performing professional service organizations will shift up to 30% of their billing to outcome-based or project-based pricing in 2014. This is with assumptions to protect them. Buyers expect results and will pay for them. The savvy customer will not sign a blank check and spend hours without knowing what the outcome will be.
6. Don’t wait for the economy to collapse – Create your own!
Economists predict that the economy will continue to grow in 2014. Companies with great stories and innovative businesses will put their capital reserves to use to build their own economies. Businesses grow the economy. People with creativity and high value will grow tired of waiting for the economy to improve, and they will create their own ecosystem that will allow them to flourish. This will lead to a strong 2015 through accelerated growth in 2014’s second half.
7. 2014. The Hiring Trend
Recognize the need for subject matter specialists. Businesses should be looking for ways to cross-train their subject matter specialists on how to manage a sale process. Sales managers and sales professionals who hire will be more dependent on specialist recruiters to make sure their next hire is the right person. Many companies have failed to hire people just looking for work. Many times, hiring companies found that these people were not working for a reason. Although there are many ways to find gems without hiring a recruiter or a consultant, recruiters are still the best way for companies to hire superstars.
8. Simplified CRM Solutions
Companies realized years ago that they needed more than a spreadsheet or napkin to keep track of their business activities. CRM solutions were created to improve communication, automate forecasting and maintain knowledge. The CRM solutions took on a life of their own over time. Many organizations didn’t enforce compliance because data entry requirements were so burdensome. This was mainly due to the fact that the most productive reps filled out the majority of the fields. Companies will begin to identify the top 8 (or 3) pieces of information that they require to determine if a deal has been legitimate. They will expect reps to keep fewer pieces of information but require compliance.
9. Improved Qualification for Efficient Pipelines
In the past, if a company wanted to make $5 million in revenue, it would look for a pipeline that was $8-10 million. Companies often have a three- to the five-time multiplier. They will pursue opportunities worth $15 million to $25,000,000 for $5 million. Sharp companies have begun to track the costs associated with pursuing unfavorable deals. Instead of trying to chase everything, companies define what constitutes a successful pursuit and which arrangements should be abandoned upon arrival. This definition keeps the company focused and allows them to pursue the right opportunities. Companies should be able to qualify based upon the relative importance and impact of solving the problem to the customer, not the desire to sell anything.
10. Honesty is a virtue
Buyers will be rewarded for recognizing their limitations, despite all the hype and old-school tactics. It will be difficult to believe that you can claim to know everything when the buyer can find the truth. 2014 will see candor and humility be in high demand.
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