We all know business practice, trends and processes change rapidly and we do our best to be on the front foot. The social media phenomenon is a good example of this. Whether we’re tech savvy or not, businesses both large and small have had to jump on board and embrace the newest tools in the marketing mix. Those who haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity are missing out on significant business opportunities, audience reach and brand awareness.

It’s not just marketing tactics that have had an industry shake up. B2B sales is now a lengthier process due to more people being involved in the decision making process and businesses are seeing the value of collaboration between different departments and seeing the benefits of sales, marketing and HR teams working together. This year has seen the online industry take centre stage, with more and more businesses investing in their online presence knowing they will be left behind if they don’t.

With the potential of a second GFC looming, economic times are volatile. Uncertainty has once again stripped businesses and consumers of confidence and has led to a rethink of current go-to-market strategies and sales forces.

Barrett has identified the 12 sales trends of 2012 to help guide businesses through the major transitions expected for next year in how we buy and sell. Through our research and active involvement in the sales industry, we have forecast what businesses can expect from 2012 and the challenges that lie ahead:

1. A seismic shift in the way we sell

We need to completely forget the traditional ways of selling. It’s not about product nor is it about capital. People and relationships will be at the centre of our sales strategies and value will be placed on our thoughts rather than our actions. Salespeople need to aim to change from being seen as just the ‘salesperson’ to the business partner that possesses business acumen who can engage in meaningful conversation and provide ideas and solutions.

2. CRM

2012 will see customers be at the forefront of your business. Our marketing, sales and support strategies will need to have a streamlined view of the customer and how to effectively engage with them every step of the way. As for employee productivity, it also needs to be mobile to give staff flexibility to access and update information efficiently while they’re on the move.

3. Coaching: The priority

Investing in sales and allowing sales managers to have the time to provide sales coaching to their staff will see dramatic improvement to the bottom line. Leaders need to make sure coaching and staff development become the top priorities to lift the game of your sales staff.

4. Mass marketing will no longer be effective

Tailoring marketing strategies for each audience segment will become the norm in 2012. Sales and marketing teams will need to work even more closely to ensure that we are effectively following and understanding the ways consumers buy and sell. New customer groups will emerge and the only way to find them – and know how to do business with them -is to prioritise the collaboration of different departments to make sure the chosen marketing approach is the most effective.

5. The polarisation of selling and buying

The middle ground will begin to disappear for sales and go-to-market strategies. Buyers will be focused on quick transactions or navigating their way through complex arrangements. Our sales forces and strategies need to be prepared for this and ensure our sales processes dependent on our business are quick and as simple as possible for the buyer to complete their transaction – or make certain they have the relevant expertise on board to provide a consultative approach to selling.

6. Field sales team numbers to halve

Information is now at our fingertips. Most of what we want to know about a product or service will be on the internet via the product or service’s website or the countless other forums, websites and discussion boards available. Many sales that were once done face to face with a salesperson will begin to quickly fade out – as most businesses are now fully aware. We need to train our sales forces to be able to educate and advise on the growth of a business rather than product monologues.

7. Educate and facilitate

Businesses will need to invest in their sales teams a whole new skill set. From the very first discussion between prospective buyer and salesperson, the salesperson needs to be aware of where the buyer fits in the bigger scheme of things, such as knowing what challenges they are facing, what they need and what they don’t need. Patience, listening, creative problem solving and dealing with ambiguity and complexity will need to be taught to sales forces to see them effectively help make the right decisions for their clients and customers to move forward.

8. It’s not what you do but why and how you do it

With so much competition and information out there about current and emerging products and services, buyers are tired of the confusion marketing and want organisations who can explain why they exist and how they do what they do in a simple and easy to understand manner. Think about what your company stands for and what expertise you provide and then translate this to the customer by highlighting why and how you do this.

9. The sales brain

Neuroscience enables us to analyse why the brain reacts the way it does and the effects this has on mental and physical wellbeing. With tough economic times ahead, to keep sales team from burning out, businesses need to start providing their salespeople with knowledge and information about how the brain works and why we feel how we do and what we can do to master these feelings. Giving our sales force the key to knowledge such this will instil in them true sales resilience and greater sales success.

10. Using scientific data to predict B2B buying behaviour

We know that information is now more readily available than ever before, and the same goes for information on our customer buying habits, preferences and trends. Businesses need to start following the lead of other high profile organisations that use this information to predict buying behaviour. Particularly in B2B, we need to find new ways of understanding our customers and implementing research and data into our sales strategies.

11. Shrinking product life cycles

With new products, ideas and business concepts springing up in 2012, businesses must prepare for getting their products to consumers as quickly and simply as possible. Waiting is no longer something the consumer is willing to do.

12. Buyers will call the shots

The new age buyer is tech savvy, educated and can know just as much about a product or service as the person selling it to them. They are quick at spotting spin and want real value. Don’t take your customers for granted but rather work together with your customer or client. The buyer is in the driver’s seat and businesses who don’t understand this concept will be left behind.

The sales trends predicted for the year ahead may seem overwhelming but leaving your business to chance by not being prepared to face these new trends will leave you scratching your head and missing out on opportunities.

 

Visit Barrett’s 12 Sales Trends in 2012 Poll to have your say on which trends will be on your radar in 2012. The results of the most important Sales Trends for 2012 will be available in January.

Sue Barrett
BY Sue Barrett ON 12 December 2011
Sue Barrett is one of the leading female voices commenting on sales today. An experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur and founder of Barrett Consulting, which provides sales assessments, sales consulting, sales coaching and sales training programs.

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