To succeed in the digital age, sales leaders must develop a new set of skills to respond to rapidly evolving customer expectations and behaviors.
Bigger, faster, more. Those three adverbs seem to be part of any conversation about selling in the digital age. But what’s really happening, and what does it mean to sales? To help answer those questions, here are four key megatrends that are shaping how sales organizations need to adapt.
- Highly networked “superbuyers.” New disruptive technologies are changing buyers’ attitudes and actions. Specifically, powerful (and affordable) analytics, connected communities, and the cloud make getting information and processing it cheap and quick. The result? A new and expanding set of “superusers” who understand products extremely well. They are highly networked with each other, can easily find people who’ve faced similar challenges, learn from each other, and influence each other. Some 74% of B2B decision makers, for example, use LinkedIn for business reasons, while 42% use Twitter. This is leading to profound changes in what they expect from sales reps and leaders. Describing products or connecting them to other references isn’t enough. Sales leaders need to understand context, provide answers, and shape thinking.
- Micro-segments, macro-behaviors. Two fundamental shifts in buyer demographics are forcing changes in how companies sell. First, as the middle classes in emerging economies like China and India continue to grow rapidly, emerging cities will have 60% of the new urban consumers globally within a few years. Second, Millennials will outnumber Gen-Xers by 2015 and 75% of them use social networking versus 50% of Gen-Xers (and 30% of boomers). These simultaneous shifts both lead to more granular geographic opportunities and a critical mass of new but shared global behaviors. Companies will need to develop go-to-market models that meet both sets of needs.
- B2C-inspired customer expectations. We have seen a 50% growth in the use of tablets in the enterprise, while 40% of devices used in the enterprise are consumer applications. A proliferating set of easy-to-use, free, and relevant tools has created the expectation that B2B products and solutions meet the same bar. Sales leaders need to develop frictionless and personalized models to connect with the customer across any channel.
- Growth through learning. Collaborative technologies and lower experimentation costs are game-changers for business economics. The premium today is on learning quickly, not planning. Companies that organize their business model to maximize their learning from every customer or potential customer interaction will capture disproportionate return. But to extract the value from these learnings, companies will need to be much more agile, from how their supply chains work to how their sales people adapt to customer situations.
So how are you going to be bigger, faster, more?