In January 2023, Sales Xceleration held its annual conference in Las Vegas. This year’s focus was on discussing and establishing the future of selling. In total, 125 fractional sales leaders, each with over 20 years of experience in their industries, participated in the workshop. Leveraging their collective experience and expertise, the group came together to explore and ultimately define the top trends impacting the sales profession today and shaping the future of sales.
This focus on the future comes at a time of monumental shifts in technology, demographics, and geopolitics. ChatGPT and artificial intelligence have changed how businesses and consumers learn and communicate. Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the U.S., and introducing Generation Z into the workforce will likely change how workplaces operate. Plus, the war in Ukraine and trading conflicts with China have significantly affected the global economy. These are just a few examples of the trends and events that have begun to threaten or change the status quo.
The future of sales has never been more uncertain, and trends impacting the sales profession are often overwhelming in number. By gathering together and using their collective brain power, the group mapped out strategies for leading and managing in this uncertain future.
How did the future of selling event work?
The participating sales leaders were put into groups. Each cohort sat at a different table and was given 70 disruptor cards. Every card suggested a factor or variable that might impact sales in the future. The cards fell int six categories: people, culture, technology, governance and geopolitics, economics, and environment.
The leaders’ job was to consider and evaluate these 70 variables and decide whether they had a low or high likelihood of impacting the future of sales.
To help us understand and break down the future of sales, Rick Von Feldt, workplace and learning futurist, explained that the business world is subject to waves of innovation. For the past few decades, we have lived in the Fifth Wave, where software and digital networks have driven our business cycles. But we are now entering a Sixth Wave, which he estimates will last until 2045. This wave will likely be shorter than the last, requiring business leaders to take a more change-ready mindset. They will need to back disruptive change versus incremental change in order to develop the strategic foresight that will help them weather storms and succeed.
After each table took a vote on these 70 potential disruptors and submitted its top three suggestions, all votes were tallied to land on a final list of the most prescient disruptors.
What did the experts find?
The biggest trends the sales professionals landed on were in the culture, people, technology, and economic disruptors categories. Here are some of the trends the experts believe will be most consequential for the future of sales.
Sales teams should expect faster and more disruptive change in the culture arena. Leaders need to be ready to adopt new mindsets and challenge their own beliefs and expectations head-on if they’re going to bring new generations of workers on board. Millennials and Generation Z — the generations that are currently job seeking — are introducing new ideas about what work means. These new generations recognize that incremental improvement is not enough. They want to be part of companies that are constantly evolving, making changes, and taking bold actions.
As with culture, trends around people will focus on shifting generational perspectives on work and business. Technology and its associated automation could change 50% of the world economy and disrupt $14.6 trillion in wages.
Training employees to keep up with changes is key. Automation, AI, and other technological advances will have a large impact on the sales landscape of the future. Sales teams will have to continually broaden their skills in order to function in an increasingly virtual landscape and leverage new tools in the sales process. People and technologies will require training to work alongside each other to maintain a competitive edge and please buyers. Sales leaders today can prepare for these changes by implementing new onboarding and training frameworks to evolve employees’ skills and knowledge. Focused sales training teaches new technologies and processes in addition to selling.
As technology becomes more accurate and sophisticated, it will provide deeper analytics into the sales process. Technology will impact every other category on this list as it becomes more ubiquitous in sales. Machines using AI and predictive data are merging with better algorithms to change the experience of sales process tracking, forecasting, and closing insights. Because every strategy will have to be proven with data and analytics, the future of sales will need to leverage new tools in the market to support a data-first mindset.
How can sales leaders come to grips with the ascension of automation technology? To start, they should uncover and learn about new tools that permit the utilization of automation in technology. Leading research companies such as Gartner, McKinsey & Co., Salesforce, and Forrester have published great resources on how technology is or will be distributing the future of business.
All of the above trends will impact the future of sales economics. Consider the effect of digital technologies on the way we gather and engage buyers: Because selling with predictive data will be so critical, sales teams will no longer be able to rely mostly on intuition or experience to go above the competition.
All sales and marketing professionals will need to understand predictive modeling in order to carve out a competitive edge and stay profitable. Today, we look at historical data; in the future, we will look at predictive modeling, machine learning, and meeting the customer exactly where they are.
These sales trends are not just interesting patterns; they are the ingredients we will need to use to gain strategic foresight. The future of sales is bright, but it is also full of change and uncertainty. To make the most of what it has to offer, sales leaders will need to ready themselves and their teams to use data and people power to understand their sales funnel and form relationships with new generations of buyers.
Read the article on CustomerThink.com