The Rain Group‘s Mike Schultz has published blog observations about sales trends, observing 6 Ways Selling Is Changing. While the observations here are more generic than the specific architectural/engineering/construction (AEC) research from the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), I think many of the observations outlined below correlate with the industry-specific trends.
- Prospecting has been turned on its head completely. The phone is still a helpful and necessary tool, but new outreach methods (e.g., email, LinkedIn, mobile) have changed the communication media. Content is the new digital bait that draws buyers in with the seduction of what sellers offer, and new technologies (e.g., SalesLoft, Yesware, HubSpot Sales) are making savvy sellers more efficient and effective as they prospect.
- Researching buyers and markets is completely changing. LinkedIn itself has changed the game, and few sellers are taking full advantage. We can use technology to track everything our buyers do online. They’re leaving a digital footprint, but few sellers leverage it.
- Pipeline management is changing. Here’s the digital footprint again. We can know who’s interested in what, who’s highly interactive with us online, and who’s opened proposals and when. Sellers are using digital signatures to increase their win rates and win speeds. (And yet, we still see some contracts conclude with “please sign and fax back to…” Oy.)
It’s not just technology that’s changing the game here. Opportunity management itself is becoming more customer- and value-centric. Sellers using old seller-focused opportunity management methods and templates are not winning like they used to.
- Procurement has grown tremendously, changing how sellers interface with buyers. Sellers who do not know how to succeed with procurement are at a great disadvantage.
- Buying committees are more common. It’s easier for buyers to collaborate across geographies to work together to buy, so there are more teams buying than in the past. Sellers who do not know how to drive change and influence group decision making are losing sales to no decision as much as they are losing to competitors.
- Collaboration methods have expanded into the digital sphere. The way sellers interact and collaborate with buyers in the sales process is extremely important, and it’s increasingly moving online.
It’s not just that they’re moving online—in the right situations they’re more effective online. As noted in the Harvard Business Review article “Collaborating Online is Sometimes Better than Face-to-Face,” online collaboration has a number of benefits, including solving time problems, distance problems, and communication problems. As a complement to live collaboration, new technologies like Slack, Yammer, Postwire, Bloomfire, HubSpot Sales, and Realtime Board provide sellers with an expanded set of tools to collaborate online.
If you can draw an overriding conclusion from these observations, I think it is that communications technology has evolved sufficiently that your research speed and depth should be much more effective than ever before; and your capacity to co-ordinate with multiple individuals (including selection committees) also has been enhanced. However, if you don’t fully use the new tools you will be at a serious competitive disadvantage.
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