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How To Build a Winning Sales Plan in 3 Steps

Watch the replay of this important #SalesChats with Amy Franko on “How To Build a Winning Sales Plan in 3 Steps”

00:00 Introduction

04:30 Step 1 – Key Goals & Milestones

12:10 Step 2 – Key Verticals

18:02 Step 3 – Ideal Target Customers

25:36 Recap

27:21 Power Tip

Now more than ever, companies are having to re-address their sales plans and even look at pivoting into adjacent or completely new markets. The issue is clear but the challenge is how to build a plan that clearly identifies the market, the target buyer and a sales strategy to go after both. And if these challenges are not enough, the timeframes have dramatically decreased given the uncertainty of the times we live in so this sales chat will also address how you plan for much shorter windows than ever. Amy Franko joined host John Golden to answer these important questions.

John Golden Talks About Being The Best You!

John Golden spoke at the Sales POP! & Pipeliner CRM Power Breakfast in Vienna on October 2nd 2018.

John Golden talked about how to prepare for any professional engagement whether sales-related or other. What to do when you actually engage, plus what pitfalls to look out for and how to ensure you leave a positive, lasting impression. These 5 ways are simple and easy to implement and will lead to more successful, productive and valuable engagements.

John Golden, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer (CSMO) with Pipeliner is the best selling author of two books “Social Upheaval: How to Win @ Social Selling” & “Winning the Battle for Sales”. An acknowledged thought leader and speaker on sales and business strategy, he is the former CEO of Huthwaite (SPIN Selling) and Omega Performance, both global consulting companies and Focused Revenue Results, a management consultancy group. John has spoken to audiences across the globe on various business topics and continues to write prolifically for Sales POP! magazine.

Streamlining your eCommerce Business: 5 Tips for Entrepreneurs

Streamlining your eCommerce Business: 5 Tips for Entrepreneurs

If you haven’t heard, eCommerce sales are simply booming. Just five years ago, eCommerce sales totaled $194.3 billion, and while that number isn’t bad, things have come a long way since then. By the end of the year, the renowned research firm, eMarketer estimates that eCommerce will bring around $1.9 trillion. Not only that but, while the sales are expected to slow over the next couple of years, the firm still predicts that by 2020, sales will surpass $27 trillion.

It seems like most consumers have enthusiastically embraced the convenience of online shopping, which you can’t say was unexpected. People can find basically anything they want or need and order it with just a few keystrokes on their PCs, laptops or smartphones. With the growth in the industry, online merchants can expect to see their sales plummet, but this growth also attracts competition. So in today’s climate, how can you differentiate yourself and stay ahead of the competition? Simply put – by being more efficient.

#1: Have Progress Indicators

As Sale Cycle reports, during the second quarter of 2016 almost 75% of carts were abandoned before the purchase process was complete. During other months, like during the holiday season, that number is only higher. So does this number represent the number of consumers who have changed their mind about their purchase? Or shoppers who are frustrated with the process as a whole? While you may not know the answer, it’s better not to risk driving customers away with an overly-complicated checkout process. You should, therefore, keep every step straightforward, replace any distracting headers and footers with a progress indicator. This bar will reassure your shoppers that the order is moving, smoothly and successfully.

#2: Improve Customer Service

Two years ago, a Gartner survey found that, by 2016, almost 90% of businesses expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer service. While the report wasn’t exactly correct (companies compete on other bases as well), it wasn’t exactly that off, either. Customer service remains one of the most important aspects of eCommerce because no matter how a website can speed up and enhance the shopping experience, not every order decision is seamless. Therefore, you should have at least one service representative available for certain customers who need additional help with their ordering process. You should also keep your contact info in plain sight so that customers won’t leave in frustration if their questions go unanswered.

#3: Go Mobile Right Now

According to statistics from Internet Retailer’s 2016 Mobile 500 report, mobile sales now account for 30% of all eCommerce sales in the United States. In other countries, like the United Kingdom, people are shopping even more through their mobile devices. As the Telegraph reports, 51% of online shoppers in the UK are making their purchases with their smartphones. Clearly, you have to optimize your site for mobile. And while you have to think about the smaller stuff, like properly optimizing images, you should mostly invest into a responsive design, or even build a mobile version of your website,  or even choose a mobile responsive eCommerce platform (for information regarding this topic Website Advisor is a helpful resource). Responsive design is probably a better option (it will most likely cost less), because it will provide a better user experience across multiple platforms and devices.

#4: Try To Traffic Spikes

For instance, according to the latest Global B2C eCommerce Report, the B2B eCommerce market grew 20% in 2015, and the experts tend to agree that we’ll see another growth of this magnitude this year. And no matter if you run a B2B or a B2C business, as the market continues to grow, you’ll need to make sure that your platform is capable of managing jumps in traffic. In addition, you’ll need a safe, cloud-based CRM software like Pipeliner, which not only handles traffic spikes but also offer the security your business needs to protect sensitive data and consolidate all your user records.

#5: Optimize the Supply Chain

Probably the hardest truth every business owner has to face is that you cannot do everything yourself. Most eCommerce owners are usually tempted to ship their products on their own. However, once the orders start coming in, and subsequently, piling up, you need to focus on managing the growth of your business, and definitely not schlepping to the closest mail center. Even though most owners believe that shipping software is too expensive, you simply cannot afford not to automate shipping. Simply put, an effective 3pl logistics provider can be the backbone for your growth – the provider will improve your security, productivity, and even the overall customer experience.

Conclusion

So if you were looking to streamline your processes, even though there are many other things you could do, these five steps are a good starting point. As we said earlier, efficiency is key to running any successful business, and of course, an eCommerce online store is no exception. Efficiency doesn’t only mean a greater profit margin, it also means less waste, and in today’s world, where your customers expect nothing less than the speed of light, your efficiency can make all the difference between a regular and a lost customer.

19 Sales Stats That Will Change the Way You Sell (Infographic)

19 Sales Stats That Will Change the Way You Sell (Infographic)

A prospective client’s digital presence can literally be the gateway to closing sales—if you know how channel your message correctly. In a world that is literally chockfull of means to market your product, what can you do to make sure you are capitalizing on every opportunity to close sales?

First of all, you can’t be afraid to fail. As any entrepreneur will tell you, failure breeds success. And if you look at any successful sales journey objectively, you will learn that every “trick of the trade” is simply the result of someone who kept trying things a different way.

When you to accept the notion that sales is a process, not a procedure, you are setting yourself up for success. One way to really capitalize on what people are learning is to look at what’s working. Remember, in a world that is literally “wired” 24/7, change is a natural as sleep. It has to happen, so you need to stay on top of these changes if you want to stay competitive. Here is a look at just a few things you can try.

  • Send emails at the right time of day—know when they are read most.
  • Learn the times of day that the different social media channels experience the most traffic.
  • Adjust your voicemails to assure that they are being heard.
  • Make sure you know how to write a good email subject.
Sales Must Adapt or Die: 12 Reasons Why

Sales Must Adapt or Die: 12 Reasons Why

Adapt or die.

We have seen this consequence play out for centuries.

Now it’s time for sales to pay attention.

Old school traditional sales has outlived its usefulness.

It no longer works.

If sales is to maintain relevance in today’s world, a transformation of the way it is practiced is required.

Not just incremental change, but a complete approach.

Blowing up the old model; building a new discipline.

This is why it’s such a big deal:

1. The drivers of customer demand have changed. What motivates a person to buy today has changed dramatically. New buying behavior requires different sales methods.

2. People have almost unlimited choice today from a variety of suppliers that grows daily. Fierce competition steps up the challenge to attract and keep customers. Selling the sales relationship is the new mantra.

3. “Me” personal markets are replacing “many” mass markets. People want their personal desires taken care of; they are turned off by the assumption that they are like the crowd in any way. Crowd-based messaging is returning less as a communications investment.

4. Customers wield the power now; organizations no longer can dictate to the market what they get.

5. Customers are able to switch suppliers with ease. Barriers that once existed are disappearing as switching costs approach zero. Fickle customers use this opportunity to hop from one organization to another much more frequently than in the past. The sales focus is on creating barriers to customer exit.

6. Sales is less of an island in the organization. It is only one element an organization has to deliver as part of its value proposition. The sales identity is rapidly blending with marketing and customer service to respond to the holistic needs of a customer. Sales itself is morphing to the service arena.

7. The nature of customer engagement has morphed from transactions-based to more of an idealistic alignment. People are more and more doing business with organizations that demonstrate the same values (social responsibilities, environmental-friendliness, philanthropic intent and so on) that they believe in.

8. Experiences are trumping products and services. Material goods don’t create long-term happiness; experiences do. Flogging products is moving to the back seat behind creating memories.

9. Communications clutter is making it very difficult for customers to decide whom to do business with. Every supplier looks the same and gives no compelling reason why they should be selected over their competition. Most messages talk about price; any value reference is aspirational and vague. The need for sales to practice their art like no one else is critical.

10. Customer loyalty has to be earned at every touch point be it personal contact, an organization’s web site, communications media and social media. All customer interfaces must work together seamlessly and synergistically and must carry the same message and engage the customer in the same way.

11. Pushing general advertising messages to the masses is no longer an effective investment. Targeted personalized sales communication to individuals is required to ensure customers get the precise value they want.

12. Acquiring new high-value customers is now a function of fans talking an organization up to their friends and associates. The sales referral is now a critical success factor.

New sales muscle is required to address these new realities.

Are you re-inventing your sales machine?

Top 7 Developments Changing the Face of Sales Today

Top 7 Developments Changing the Face of Sales Today

You know the mantra. Your sales practice is only as good as your quiver of arrows, and your aim. It’s only as good as your attitude, your product, your leads, your proposal, and your closing skills. Is the mantra always true? How could it be? There are factors—variables—coming into play. These variables affect each stage of the game.

As of my writing this, consumer spending is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (reported here by Trading Economics), the second quarter of 2016 saw people make more purchases than ever before. What accounts for this? Are products better? More qualified leads? Superior salespeople?

The truth is there are a great many factors affecting spending, just as there are many factors that affect sales. Are spending influencers and sales influencers all the same? No. As I talked about in my last post, this is the age of the informed consumer. Consumers are making decisions outside of marketing and sales funnels, they’re making purchases based on word-of-mouth—digital and otherwise.

But we’re concerned with developments affecting sales, because that’s the business we’re in. Awareness can help keep conversion rates high. The following developments have changed the game for good.

#1: Personalization

According to international marketing and branding agency Base Creative, personalization is one of the biggest trends to watch in 2016. And it’s not going to stop now. Because of the availability of consumer data from online activities, marketing and sales can now personalize campaigns, targeting individuals based on reliable information.

Base Creative’s research shows that personalization delivers 5 to 8 times higher ROI for marketing, and boosts sales by 10 percent, or more. Make no mistake, personalization plays a role in all of the developments I’m presenting to you here.

#2: Mobile payment

Now, because of technology such as mobile card readers, you can make a sale from almost anywhere. This increases the potential for sales in the field. You’ll never be unprepared to close. And, in an article on how to accept credit card payments, Square reports that customers spend 12 to 18% more when they pay with a credit card instead of cash.

There’s the potential for traveling salespeople and mobile businesses to conveniently accept payments. There are improvements in personalization from marketing and sales. Combine these developments and you can see why consumer spending has continued to rise.

#3: Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

This just makes sense. Repeat customers spend more, and they do word-of-mouth marketing for you. CRM uses science to simplify the process of selling, to help manage ongoing relationships and create new ones. It does this by sifting through data, allowing you to zone in and personalize the sales process.

Essentially, through CRM, salespeople can now keep track of more contacts, because the software does the work for them. They can hone in on leads, have productive conversations, and move towards conversions with precision. This efficiency wasn’t possible with old-school sales.

#4: Sales acceleration

Back in 2005, Barry Trailer, a founder of CSO insights, released a study showing companies who use CRM generate 17% more revenue than those who don’t. Then Sales Acceleration software came along to automate the process of selling.

Whereas CRM is about really working personally on those relationships, Sales Acceleration can operate in tandem to generate leads and make appointments. It takes out the legwork of scheduling and calling. Inside sales teams who use sales acceleration close deals in an average of 69 days, compared with 144 days for outside sales.

#5: E-commerce

As more and more information has become available to consumers, the e-commerce store has stepped up. For the salesperson and entrepreneur, doing an e-commerce store is like putting your bait in the water and sitting back until the fish bite. This is where sales is becoming more like marketing.

But many are interested in improving their chances, which is where Robin Burton’s advice on how to make more money in e-commerce comes in. Interestingly, certain points in Robin’s how-to post can easily apply to sales:

  • Make buying easy”—of course! Every salesperson knows convenient access to what you’re selling is important
  • Accept all payment methods”—this is a matter of removing obstacles to purchase
  • Watch cart abandonment”—if you’re pretty positive a prospect is hooked, but they drop the line, it’s important to take note and think of ways to incentivize the purchase
  • Bundle products”—this is a classic sales incentive tactic: give them more value and they’re more likely to buy

In other words, sales best practices have migrated to the digital world. Does e-commerce spell an end to traditional, person-to-person sales? That’s something we’ll have to watch. Thankfully, any good salesperson has valuable knowledge to improve e-commerce.

#6: Globalization

According to research from Rutgers on globalization, 54% of U.S. companies are involved in foreign markets, and 72% want to increase their international business share. With the reality of globalization comes new challenges for sales, including adapting practices to different cultures and being flexible to a ton of travel.

In the global marketplace, companies must be tech-savvy, implementing data-driven solutions such as CRM, and automated processes such as Sales Acceleration. With that, salespeople must be prepared to use technology effectively.

#7: Social Media

In a study on entrepreneurs and social media, the UAB Collat School of Business made several noteworthy findings:

  • Entrepreneurs are “hesitant” to use social media for their business pursuits
  • When entrepreneurs do use social media, two of the top ten things they use it for are prospecting and sales

Social media throws yet another variable in the mix for entrepreneurs and sales. It can be tough to figure out exactly how to use it, but you can’t ignore the fact that billions of people are on various social media channels every day. This creates a whole new prospecting field. It also creates a challenging arena for outreaching and closing deals.

Here again, technology such as CRM and an e-commerce funnel can help a great deal if you want to take advantage of social media. But, in my opinion, if you have an excellent lead and you’re in touch on social, do your best to schedule an in-person appointment. Nothing beats the personal touch.

5 Ways Sales Can Obsolete themselves as a Buyer Information Source

5 Ways Sales Can Obsolete themselves as a Buyer Information Source

New buyers in contemporary markets are more empowered than buyers in the past.

And the most significant source of this new found independence from the sales community is the availability of information and the ease of accessing it.

In “the day”, buyers would rely on a salesperson to provide product, price, availability, and warranty information and use brochureware as the primary communications vehicle.

Today, potential buyers roam the Internet to find the product they like with the terms and conditions they favor.

This aspect of the sales role has changed; it will never return.

(Note: not every buyer has adopted the electronic highway as their source of information and will continue to rely on the personal source. But it is a diminishing segment of the population that will eventually disappear.)

So the challenge is not how to get the buyer to rely MORE on the salesperson for this type of information, but rather how can sales ADD VALUE to the new information gathering process that buyers are adapting.

How can sales enable the buyer to not only gather the information they need more easily and effectively but also to understand what the information means to the buyer decision making process?

These questions will help you play a meaningful role with your clients rather than resist the change and lose out.

  1. What type of information do your clients want? Determine the kind of information buyers in your space use in the buying process. What info elements are critical to their decision to purchase versus those that are merely interesting to them and have no buying influence?
  2. What are the sources for the information they seek? Make it a priority to discover the most useful sources of the critical information they are looking for. Recommend specific web sites as well as a variety of tools that make the research process easier.
  3. How can you personally play in the content game? Create a personal sales web site with a blog to publish both original and curated articles dealing with information you have determined buyers want. It’s ok to discuss your own products and compare them with others available. But don’t turn your blog into blatant advertising. Focus on what buyers want to read about and learn; if your products fit, mention them. If another provider’s product fits, mention them. The objective is to be open and transparent with the buyer. And don’t be afraid to mention the shortcomings of your own stuff. Talk about what other suppliers are doing. Curate your content with other points of view. It makes you real and more easily trusted.
  4. How can you train buyers to research more effectively? Develop this expertise and teach buyers helpful tools and techniques that make it easy for them to find information and do comparative analyses among different suppliers. Product updates and new applications are available for a number of suppliers, for example, and a prospective buyer of a particular service might be interested in that type of information.
  5. How can you go one-on-one with individual buyers? Not every buyer has the same information needs, so be prepared to do custom research work for each of your high value ones.

You may not like the change, but you have no option than find a meaningful role in the new game.

Be a player and decide on your own outcome.

Be a victim and you have no future.

How to Build Trust with a Sales Prospect

How to Build Trust with a Sales Prospect

Sales is a tough profession; it is not intended for the faint of heart. I compare it to the “glass ceiling” that challenges very talented and accomplished women to succeed in today’s business environment. It’s the sales stigma that works against most salespeople trying to advance an opportunity with a new sales prospect.

“Slick”, “sleazy”, “pushy”, “insensitive” and “arrogant” are often used to describe the way salespeople do their job and “force” the prospect to buy what they are flogging.

It’s not a fair characteristic but it’s real.

It’s almost impossible to sell a prospect anything when they have this bias; when they are predisposed to believing that you really have no interest in their problems, needs and desires and that all you want to do is get the sale and move on to another prospect with the end game of making your bonus.

In sales, no trust = no sale.

Here’s some basic rules to follow to establish “newbie trust”. Remember there is absolutely no reason the newbie prospect should even give you the time of day, much less buy something from you.

Here are my proven trust-building actions.

  1. Accept that every newbie thinks you have a hidden agenda; all you want to do is make a sale and move on. Factor this reality into your attitude, demeanor and body language.
  2. Have a medium to long term goal in mind. Choose to maximize sales from this prospect over the long term. Your monthly quota will beget actions that will confirm to the prospect that indeed you are a flogger. Interested only in what YOU can get from the engagement.
  3. Ask lots of questions in your first encounter. Pitch your stuff only as an answer to a question THEY pose. Stay off your soapbox or you will lose your audience as they run for cover.
  4. Discover something personal about them. I’m not saying be invasive; simply listen for clues as to who they are and what they value. AND REMEMBER THEM.
  5. Make notes. Lots of notes. Ask for permission and ensure they see you as a copious note taker. It shows that you care about what they have to say.
  6. Forget about making a sale in your first encounter. The first conversation with a prospect should be about earning the right for a second conversation. As trust builds the number of potential conversations increases as well. And then… the sale!

Prospects need time. Rush it and you’re done. Push it and you’re done.

Take time and you just might earn the right to their business for more than one transaction.

The New ABC’s of Closing: Earning the Right to Close with Today’s Buyers

The New ABC’s of Closing: Earning the Right to Close with Today’s Buyers

One of the common complaints I’ve heard from Sales executives is that their people aren’t strong closers. To me this is a reinforcement of the fact that far too much emphasis is placed on closing. It’s as though a strong ending can salvage a poor 3-act play. Any seller that has seen Glengarry Glen Ross remembers Alec Baldwin’s advice on the ABC’s of selling:  Always BClosing. If only it was that easy. Frequent closes in B2B sales can be highly offensive to buyers who don’t appreciate pressure applied by sellers. This insinuates that the seller is in control and driving the buying process, rather than the buyer.

Many peoples’ impression about selling and closing is based upon experiences they’ve had in B2C transactions. Whether a retail store, buy insurance or buying a car, chances are the buyer and seller won’t ever do another transaction. The realization that if you leave they will likely lose the sale causes them to use high pressure closing tactics.

B2B salespeople often enjoy the benefit of multiple meetings/conversations. They reap what they sow during buying cycles. The better job they do in uncovering buyer needs and associated value, the more likely they’ll win the business.

Before earning the right to close, I believe buyers need to be aware of:

  • The business outcomes they want to achieve
  • The reasons they can’t achieve the desired results
  • The capabilities needed
  • Some type of proof (i.e. references or a demonstration)
  • The price of the offering being considered
  • The cost vs. benefit to understand potential value and payback
  • How competitive offerings compare in terms of functionality and price
  • Any implementation/conversion plans /costs if needed

Sellers are under constant time pressure each month, quarter and year to achieve quota. These pressures increase when pipelines are thin. My belief is that sellers issue premature quotes or proposals and close before buyers are ready to buy, therefore pressuring buyers and potentially putting opportunities in jeopardy.

There are several aspects of closing that sellers are either unaware of or disregard because they have their own agendas:

  1. Before closing buyers should understand their desired outcomes, why they can’t be achieved today, what capabilities are needed, the potential value and the price. In many instances they will want to compare at least 2 other vendors.
  2. It’s demeaning when sellers try to close non-decision makers. It’s awkward to ask for orders if they aren’t authorized to commit.
  3. Sellers make mistakes by not getting in front of decision makers to close. Some reply upon proposals they hope decision makers will not only read but also understand.
  4. Sellers pressure buyers when they close prematurely. Some buyers will be “put off” and may decide not to buy. Those that are willing to buy will almost certainly expect incentives (concessions and/or discounts) for buying sooner than they expected.
  5. There are few instances in B2B transactions when closing and discounting will work if sellers aren’t the vendor of choice. Some sellers rationalize that is makes sense to discount even if they can’t win because the winning vendors will accept lower prices. I believe putting low-ball numbers on the street can come back to haunt sellers.
  6. Unfortunately the old concept of selling is alive, if not well. The thought is a seller can convince, persuade and pressure buyers into giving them the business. This flies in the face of the reality that people prefer to buy without high-pressure tactics.

A seller earns the right to ask for the business if and when a buyer has all they need to make a buying decision. One of the most powerful motivators for buyers is a clear understanding of the potential benefit on a monthly basis so they understand delaying decisions means deferring benefit. If sellers do a good job, placing orders can be a logical conclusion for buyers. Some will volunteer to buy but if they don’t, the attempts to close will go much better.

Featured picture courtesy of New Line Cinema’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992).

The Sales Dilemma: Do I Push or Do I Build?

The Sales Dilemma: Do I Push or Do I Build?

Salespeople have a choice in terms of the modus operandi they choose to employ to deliver results: they can either push or flog products at customers or they can build “intimate” relationships with them and trust that sales will follow.

Here’s the profile of each…

The pusher:

– is focused on short term success; it’s all about making the numbers
– flogs technology, emphasizing the cool things it can do
– loves to make speeches on how wonderful their products are; not too much listening here
– will try and force-fit their product to the customer’s problem even though the product is not be the “perfect fit” for the customer. – is motivated to sell product and not to do whatever it takes to solve the customer’s problem
– is a one-way communications artist. They are constantly in “the transmit mode”; they listen very little
– wants to get the sale and get out; the quicker the transaction the better
– is frustrated by the need for after sales service and devotes minimal time to it
– is driven by their annual compensation plan and dedicates little effort to medium and longer term issues
– spends copious amounts of time doing cold calls
– relies on low prices to express their value proposition; blames high prices when they lose a sale
– avoids personal accountability when a client is “screwed over” through a service mishap made by the company
– is super driven to win an annual sales award and get a trip to somewhere exotic

The builder:

– is a “server” with the innate desire and ability to take care of people
– is a highly engaging individual; believes that deep conversations with the client will expose opportunities
– wants to get paid by their compensation plan, but is willing to balance longer term needs with the short term
– drives the majority of their sales through repeat business from long term loyal clients
– creates “intimate” relationships with clients trusting that the relationship will yield sales over the longer term
sells value at the highest price possible. Avoids commodity transactions where the sale goes to the lowest price supplier
– focuses on obtaining client referrals to grow sales; doesn’t have to cold call
– spends time trying to discover client hidden wants and desires – “secrets” – and employs this knowledge as a critical component in their sales proposition
– is a “recovery addict” ( doing whatever it takes to recover from a service mistake the organization made that caused client pain
– takes the role of client champion inside their organization “fighting” for them regardless of the issue
– has incredible listening skills which represent a heavy dimension of their personal brand
– uses a customer report card regularly to gather customer feedback on their performance; follows up to ensure improvements are recognized
– will lose a potential sale by recommending someone else’s product when they have a better solution to a client’s problem
– is very involved with marketing in the new product development process; ensures that their client’s unmet needs are addressed
– is viewed by their clients as partners; part of the client team

Which approach do you think will build customer loyalty and distinguish you from your peers?

Sales Disruption: What’s Different for 2016

Sales Disruption: What’s Different for 2016

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.

Creating a Culture of “Sales” Throughout Your Entire Organization

Creating a Culture of “Sales” Throughout Your Entire Organization

It’s no longer just the sales teams who are responsible for “sales.” Today – every person who interacts with customers is a part of the sales team and is in part, responsible for sales results.

Here are three tips for managers and executives to help the entire company become “sales centric:”

  1. Focus: As the leader of your organization, your goal is to focus your entire group on the sales goals and insist that each member of your company can articulate where the company is headed and what their role is in achieving the company’s sales goals.
  2. Accountability: Accountability is not just a benchmark of negative results. It can also be a standard for a positive sentiment in your organization. Of course we need to hold everyone accountable – but make sure you’re also using accountability to identify what your teams are doing right.
  3. Tracking: If the whole team is responsible for sales, then revenue goals can’t just be limited to the sellers’ performance. On any project – members of every part of your teams should have assigned, measurable goals that relate to sales revenue.

Building a strong sales organization means that everyone is in sales and everyone is responsible and accountable for sales goals.

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