In the rapidly-evolving world of sales, staying ahead of the competition requires embracing the future of selling. Success starts with understanding key trends and acting on the ones that will provide the most value today and into the future. HORN has identified five trends that every sales leader needs to pay attention to.

  1. Develop digital dexterity to keep pace with technology 

One of the only certainties in today’s business environment is that the pace and magnitude of technology-driven change will continue to accelerate. Successful sales organizations are working today to ensure sales professionals develop digital dexterity to keep pace and stay ahead of the competition.

Digital dexterity is the willingness and ability of salespeople to learn and use the latest technology. Whether it’s using technology to lead engaging and influential virtual or hybrid sales meetings, or adopting productivity-boosting generative AI tools, salespeople need to effectively use the latest tools.

To get started, senior sales leaders should:

  1. Ensure salespeople are change ready – invest in training to increase salespeople’s ability to deal with constant change. People need to be able to move themselves through change curves quickly and remain resilient even during transformational change initiatives.
  2. Appoint a tech champion – someone in the sales organization whose job it is to keep up with the latest technologies and tools, identify which to adopt, and liaise with IT and HR to plan an implementation that will maximize adoption and results.
  3. Make mastering tech a team sport – even if a tech champion is in place and technologies are rolled out effectively, driving adoption can be challenging. Adopting new ways of working that involve new technologies need to be everyone’s accountability. Create a tech club to bring people together to experiment, identify best practices, and create shared accountability for using the tools to improve personal and team results.
  1. Leverage AI to maximize productivity

Generative AI has taken the world by storm and is driving significant change to processes and ways of working across all functions, including sales. Use cases for generative AI for salespeople include:

  • Lead generation – analyzing vast amounts of data to identify potential leads and prospects. It can scour social media, websites, and other sources to find relevant information about individuals or companies that might be interested in a product or service.
  • Meeting assistants – summarizing notes from customer calls, and even adding them directly into the CRM.
  • Content generation – generating personalized, engaging content for sales pitches, emails, and presentations.
  • Customer insights – analyzing customer interactions, feedback, and purchase history to provide valuable insights. Salespeople can use this information to understand customer preferences, anticipate needs, and offer personalized recommendations.
  • Analyzing and writing responses to RFPs.

Additionally, AI can help sales leaders with:

  • Competitive analysis – monitoring competitors’ activities, pricing, and market trends. AI can provide sales and marketing with valuable insights to position their products or services effectively and stay ahead of the competition.
  • Sales forecasting – analyzing historical sales data, market trends, and other factors to predict future sales. This helps sales leaders plan their strategies, set realistic targets, and allocate resources effectively.
  • Sales process optimization – identifying repetitive tasks such as data entry, scheduling, and follow-ups that can be automated to free up salespeople’s time, allowing them to focus on building relationships and closing deals.
  • Sales coaching – analyzing sales calls and providing real-time feedback to salespeople.

Early results from a generative AI pilot within Microsoft revealed that:

  • 83% of salespeople believed they were more productive with the AI co-pilot.
  • 79% agreed that administrative work was reduced.
  • 67% said they could spend more time with customers.

AI is poised to revolutionize work. Early adopters will have a significant advantage.

  1. Strengthen data-driven mindsets and skillsets to accelerate decision-making

Data is the key to faster and more effective decision-making. It’s also fuel for fully realizing the value of generative AI.

Best-in-class organizations have identified and started collecting strategic data today, even if they are not yet ready to fully leverage it. They are also investing more in projects to consolidate data from various internal systems and external sources into one central location. This will allow them to manufacture new types of data (by combining different data) to drive better insights than the competition.

As organizational data capabilities mature, more sophisticated predictive analytics tools can be adopted. Many sales professionals still lack advanced data skills however, and often don’t trust data. Sales leaders need to lay the groundwork now to develop mindsets and skillsets, to create a team of citizen (sales) data scientists.

  1. Be a strategic value creator to optimize results

Salespeople are facing an unprecedented number of headwinds. Digital disruption, shifting customer dynamics, economic/regulatory/geopolitical uncertainty, cost and price inflation and more challenging competitive landscapes make it even more critical for salespeople to be able to create value for customers. They need to be able to think broadly, critically, and creatively to challenge the status quo and formulate new ideas to help customers deliver sustained profitable growth.

Strategic value creators are skilled at:

  • Operationalizing a growth mindset. Not just identifying but acting on the right opportunities.
  • Moving past continuous improvement and change to true innovation. Identifying new and unexpected sources of business value.

These emerging skills need to be developed, to enable differentiated value creation and sustained competitive advantage.

  1. Develop human-centric skills to differentiate from the competition

As technology continues to shape the way we communicate and work, human-centric skills are becoming even more important to establish meaningful connections with customers, build trust and differentiate from the competition. While skills like building rapport have always been important, there are a new set of deeper human-centric skills that will help sales professionals stand out.

Emerging human-centric skills include:

  • Engaging with the whole person – incorporating DE&I concepts into selling practices.
  • True omni-channel selling – understanding the full buying journey of customers and meeting them where they are in the sales process.
  • Making the leap to elevated empathy – improving listening across multiple channels.
  • Connecting with both minds and hearts – leveraging data-supported storytelling.
  • Leading uncomfortable conversations – better recognizing subtle cues/nuanced objections and initiating courageous customer conversations to strengthen relationships and advance the sales process.

Maximizing Results in the Never Normal

Sales leaders must consider these trends and assess their team’s maturity against each. They can then assess the potential ROI of each for their organization and create action plans to advance capabilities. IT and HR are important partners in the journey to future-proof the sales function. Ignoring these emerging trends will put organizations at risk of falling behind their competition.

For more insights on how to get started with these trends, contact us at learn@horn.com.

 

About the Author

Michelle Moore is the Managing Director at HORN. Michelle has over 25 years of global experience, working with organizations to use human capital to solve complex business challenges, and with individuals to maximize personal effectiveness and career success. She has expertise across a broad range of industries, and specialized knowledge regarding innovation and digital transformation.

 

About HORN, a division of Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc.

We transform cultures and capabilities by better customizing solutions to the specific needs and context of our clients’ businesses and people. Our mission is to provide transformative organizational solutions and unforgettable personal learning that profoundly shifts how people think, work and lead.

For over nearly forty years, we’ve been catalysts in advancing the thinking, behavior and performance of thousands of leaders across six continents, 48 countries and every major industry. Learn more at www.horn.com.

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