At the beginning of a new year I’m often asked my opinion on the latest sales tools and at the same time seem to be bombarded with news articles and posts on social media alluding to new technology, trends or machines which will see the death of the traditional sales process. 2017 will be the year of Artificial Intelligence, the year of Machine learning, cold calling/ emailing are dead etc, etc.
My view is that people will always buy from people. Every year we hear that cold calling is dead, direct marketing is over and that consultative/social selling are the only ways to succeed. At the same time, we see countless companies create huge revenues using these, so called, outdated techniques and not just traditional (old fashioned) companies, how about uber or twitter? These businesses rely on it to drive revenues, they have sales reps dialling numbers day in and day out. I agree you can’t work the phones like its 1987 and if you’re doing it like that, you will fail.
Society tends to over hype anything new and especially technology. We always have an expectation that something will change everything.
All over the world entrepreneurs are still building big businesses using in house or out sourced sales teams, with the same set of tools and hustle that we’ve always had. So why do we care about the latest sales trends that will dominate blog posts and news sites and eventually pass with a whisper?
Unfortunately, its not that simple. In 2017 being an effective sales person means you have to establish yourself as valuable and a resource for information. Ignoring changes or even potential changes that sales teams need to use In order to be most effective would be foolish. Potential buyers are more informed than ever and using out dated sales techniques is a losing battle. As a profession we need to realise that high customer turnover is as bad as low customer acquisition – we should only be selling to qualified prospects.
Sales processes and techniques have changed, the principal hasn’t. I firmly believe that people buy from people and that skills in influence and persuasion are essential, if you are to thrive aa a sales person. I honestly can’t see a chat bot built on top of an artificial learning machine being able to fully automate sales anytime soon.
All of these distractions cause sales teams and managers to chase a magical new tool instead of working on the key skills that make us better sales people.
Technology can be a costly distraction; focus on being better communicators, better sales people.
When sales growth stagnates or drops, we tend to look for the latest trend that will automatically solve the problem and double our growth.
Don’t get me wrong – I do it!. I start free trials left, right and centre. The point is that these new tools and trends cause us to become obsessed with software or technology being the answer and it rarely is. Look at all those sites that have a widget that pops up as soon as you land on the page -just
annoying, right? But these companies must believe that this annoying pop up is the answer to increased conversion.
All this attention does is distract us from what we should be doing, and that’s focusing on the development of yourself and your team as sales people and getting better at our profession.
It’s Not Cool to be Old School, profitable, but not Cool.
Many of the companies we consult with are start ups and many of the CEO’s come from engineering or technical backgrounds. Their prospective on the sales process tends to be science based, they want to automate etc. This means that they have usually spent a great deal of time and energy doing just that – automating the sales process. In reality, they should have spent more time training the sales staff to be better salespeople, communicators and influencers. These are the people who will close the deal and make the sale.
My point is that fantastic salespeople are made. It’s the best way to protect your company and yourself from the trends that will invariably come and go. Build a team that can sell. There’s always value there with the rise of buyers having unlimited access to information. A great salesperson will always help them cut through it and help them make the right choice.
Sales Trends For 2017
OK, so what should we avoid in 2017 that will let you focus on developing your salespeople instead?
Complex algorithm that answers the question “why didn’t they buy?” It’s a question asked by thousands of sales managers in every imaginable industry and a magic algorithm that answers this questions sounds great, right? I promise you, you don’t need an algorithm to tell you.
Its pretty straightforward. The most likely reasons your prospect didn’t close are:
– They weren’t qualified before they entered the sales funnel.
– You didn’t persuade/convince them. (assuming they were qualified)
Focus on your people, train and develop them and help them get better at qualifying and persuading.
Way too much time gets wasted on A/B testing especially when prospecting. I’m not saying it’s not essential, it is. However, taking action is more important. Just do it. You’ll start to get a feel for the sorts of things that work and if you are going to use them again. If you are going to use again, then that’s when to A/B test.
AI Chat Bots
This technology simply isn’t ready. Until it can answer specific questions about your service or product, there’s no need to put a chat bot in front of your prospects- its just annoying. Its easy to imagine that people will seek out sites with real agents who can answer questions and give informed opinion – at the detriment of chat bot sites.
A bit weird putting this on here, given that we provide an outsource service for sales, marketing and lead generation….. it did raise a few eyebrows in the office!
Its important that outsourcing sales compliments what you are doing in house and isn’t a replacement. In the case of outsourced sales it can be used really effectively whilst you recruit, expand, replace team members. It shouldn’t be considered a long term permanent solution. The sales team are just far too important to be a fully outsourced commodity. Lead generation can also be outsourced successfully, however, it relies on good in house salespeople to convert. Training and development are crucial in building a high-performance sales team.
The last Word
Sales isn’t easier now because of technology. I don’t think it will be any time soon.
Feel free to disagree with me, However, the next time you find yourself willing to spend time researching new sales widgets, please consider spending that time helping your salespeople become better. It will reward you quickly and sustainably. Focus on what will never change: the eternal truths of human interaction. Influence and persuasion are the most important skills any sales person could learn now and for the past 2000 years.
If you would like me to help you develop your sales team click here.