With another exciting year of sales and sales innovation in the books, it’s time to start thinking about the future: which tech and processes we’ll be carrying forward, which we won’t, and which game-changing trends and apps we have to keep an eye on so that, next year at this time, we’re bragging about another banner year of crushed quotas.
But this year, in a way, is different from all the others. Yes, we have new tools – like predictive analytics platforms – that give us more insight than ever before into the directions and tactics we should use to grow our businesses, but this year, we’ve also experienced the beginnings of a massive shift in priorities for businesses that will change everything about how we sell next year.
I’m talking about real, true customer obsession.
With the rise of AI and our ability to hyper-personalize and target customers all the way through the funnel, more traditional business processes – lead gen, for example – are starting to fall by the wayside in favor of customer experience and account-based marketing initiatives. As more businesses buy into this model (and they already have, in droves), this is the disruptive reality we’ll be facing in 2016. I hope you’re ready for it!
Here are three of the top disruptions we’ll have to work within 2016:
The Funnel Will Be Flipped by Account-Based Marketing
2016 is the year we’ll start talking about the funnel in a way that we never have before. Instead of filling it with hoards of MQLs – most of whom are entirely uninterested in our product and just wanted a piece of premium content or a webinar – and employing BDR teams to weed them out and set meetings for the tiny group of SQL remaining, we’ll take a hard look at our current customers.
Why? Because we’re going to start targeting other customers that look exactly like them one at a time. The essence of account-based marketing is this: targeting a specific business – along with a specific set of decision-makers with buying power – and delivering ads, outreach, and content made exclusively to connect the dots between their business and your product / service. And it works.
Instead of chasing down unqualified leads and focusing on quantity, you focus on building important, quality business, creating quality closes, and implementing processes that ensure each piece of new business you acquire stays for life.
AI Will Take Networking to the Next Level
Though not traditionally thought of as a sales driver, networking offers huge opportunities for sales, customer persona and segmentation exercises, lead gen (if you’re not quite ready to make the switch to ABM), and CRM data quality. And while that’s probably reason enough to start encouraging networking among your sales staff, I’ll do you one better: reps with better networks sell better because they’re better connected with people.
This will be the year that AI-driven apps rise to meet them. So many processes in networking – keeping contacts updated, remembering to follow up, knowing who you should reach out to, which contacts are the most valuable based on any number of data points – are pieces of info that are easily glossed over when you have a headful of client and an end-of-quarter date rapidly approaching.
AI changes all that. With apps and algorithms that read things like call frequency, signals sent through social and email, and common topics from previous conversations, this will be the year that address books update themselves, CRMs learn who you should reach out to and what you should say to them, and business card scanners can self-categorize, sort, and send new connections to the CRM. Armed with them, your reps will focus on creating amazing experiences for potential clients, not getting lost in the drudgery of busywork.
Predictive Analytics Will Bring Us All Into New Markets
It’s really easy to think that we know who we should be selling to CRMs go to sales, Marketing Automation to marketers, social listening tools to our social teams, etc. But as we’ve begun to dig into our customer data over the last year or so, those lines have become blurrier than we’d imagined.
It turns out that – even if a tool was built with an audience in mind – there’s always a secondary audience, even a few tertiary ones, and new and emerging markets where our products/services have great fits. Unfortunately, the internet is a big place, and it’s next to impossible to find the data we need.
Or, rather, it was until the rise of predictive analytics. Fueled by Big Data and driven by machine learning, predictive analytics platforms leverage enormous amounts of information to estimate future actions of current audiences and customers as well as opportunities that will rise in new markets. These tools exist to understand the landscape you operate in and work to help your sales reps bring your product (or versions of your product) to every available market with relative ease.
Inevitably, we’ll see many more disruptive forces explode in the early months of 2016, but I bet my bottom dollar (and you should too) that they’ll all be about creating better customer experiences, more personalized sales and marketing processes, and refined, personalized targeting strategies. This year in sales, we’ll have the opportunity to know our customers, our contacts, and the landscape we sell in better than ever before, and it’s on us to rise to the challenge and sell.