Why Sales in 2016 Is Different and How You Should Adapt

(This article was originally published on SalesHacker.com)

There is an old saying, “What got you here, isn’t what will get you to where you want to be.” I heard this again the other day and couldn’t help but think about my own development, and what I need to do to “get where I want to be.”

When I look back on how our engagements have changed in 2015 compared to the previous two years, I see big differences in how salespeople are hired and onboarded, and the evolution of the overall sales process — particularly how tech supports or detracts from it.

As a VP of Sales, it’s daunting, because a role that has been relatively unchanged for decades is now evolving at a pace that is nearly impossible to stay in front of.

A lot of sales leaders look at these issues through a lens of “yeah, I heard about that but we just invested in Miller-Heiman Blue Sheet, which was invented X years ago, and it’s working well for us now.” The key here is “now”.

Training processes and procedures such as that of Dale Carnegie’s in the 20s, the Sandler Method of the 60s, and Miller-Heiman’s Strategic Selling of the 70s aren’t universally wrong. In fact, they have a lot of great tips that are still relevant today.

The problem is that they haven’t evolved. Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy’s methods are what got me to be a high performing rep in 2006, but that was in the infancy of modern sales culture and technology.

With sales technologies like CRMs and email sending platforms, salespeople can do so much more in terms of research and automation. But more importantly, they can do more in terms of selling.

In fact, organizations with more than 90% CRM adoption see selling time for sales reps increase almost 10%. So any sales training or consulting that doesn’t focus on technology as a key aspect of the sales process and deliverables is missing out on a huge piece of the puzzle.

But there are plenty of other things that have sales leaders excited for the years to come, including changes that deal specifically with salespeople, clients, and processes. I asked a few of my veteran sales colleagues at high-growth startups, and here’s what they had to say:

People

“In 2016, we’re focusing on building our environment for sales success. This requires a great product that solves a real challenge (obviously), a really well-built onboarding process, attainable career ladders, and a great culture. But the most important factor is to make sure to always dig under the covers in the interviewing process to see if the sales candidates are actually the right hires through proper, thorough evaluation.” — Marc Jacobs, VP of Sales — Greenhouse Software

Takeaway: More time needs to be spent on setting up clear, dependable evaluation methods for new hires, so bad hires can be avoided, and good ones can be groomed in an environment of success.

“Promoting from within builds trust and camaraderie — it strengthens the team, and everyone just loves it.” — Michael Rosenberg, Senior Director of Sales — Grovo

Takeaway: Promoting from within the organization can be very effective because with proper training, your best salespeople will want to continue to grow and challenge themselves.

“Fair and achievable goals are something that sales leadership has to focus on.” — Tice Pell, VP of Sales — Rocketrip

Takeaway: Setting fair, individualized sales goals is a good way of ensuring that every member of the sales team garners the confidence necessary for refined selling later on.

Process

“No prospect wants to talk to a rep who knows less than they do.” — Marc Jacobs, VP of Sales — Greenhouse Software

Takeaway: Salespeople need to know their prospects’ industries inside and out and provide not just a solution, but actually quantify the problem enough so the buyer is naturally inclined to commit.

“Brand loyalty is really starting to fall apart, the key to get this sought-after and repeat business is to establish and maintain this human connection that we have with everybody.” — Michael Rosenberg, Senior Director of Sales — Grovo

Takeaway: As more options become available for B2B consumers, the best way to gain and hold onto sales, is by creating and nurturing human2human relationships.

Technology

“We’re moving away from automation and more towards personalization.” — Marc Jacobs, VP of Sales — Greenhouse Software

Takeaway: Sales and marketing automation is a great way to get low-hanging fruit, but personalized, thoughtful outreach is key when going after everything else.

“I think the big thing that we figured out quickly is that email automation, marketing and all of that stuff should facilitate actual conversations on the phone.” — Robby Allen, Director of Sales Development — Zenefits

Takeaway: Sales technology should enable you to sell more effectively, not take the place of it.

As you can tell, it’s an extremely exciting time to be in sales and you can’t be expected to know everything. The key is to identify the bottlenecks, find experts/peers who can help, and then make sure you have a clear plan for follow through.

Invest in tools, trainings and hires only if they help successfully move the needle towards your ultimate sales goals. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. Because face it, sales is changing so fast, a better solution or strategy might be right around the corner.

If you’re interested in discussing ways to get in front of any sales related issues today — let’s talk!