Buckle up folks. The trends we’re seeing in B2B sales are creating a tsunami of change in 2023 and beyond according to Petr Zelenka. A widely respected sales and growth champion, his mission is “to make top sales coaching and leadership development accessible to everyone.” According to Petr, these are the top five B2B sales industry trends in 2023 and beyond:
1. Doing more with less: a focus on RevOps (revenue operations)
The key focus in RevOps is doing more with less. This is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days. Instead of hiring new salespeople, companies are looking for new ways to do the same jobs while simultaneously making more money. Basically, especially in RevOps, anything that improves efficiency is highly welcomed right now.
2. Bringing it all under one roof: tech stacks get consolidated
An underlying theme I see is to bring all of the tech under one roof. In other words, companies are looking for one solution that gets everything done. Companies realized that they are using a lot of different tools from various providers. To save money, they are trying to get rid of every single piece of technology that’s not absolutely necessary. Related to this shift, if a client hears the word “tool” in your pitch then that’s a game-stopper since everyone is looking to consolidate them. Only a “tool” sells tools these days.
“Only a ‘tool’ sells tools these days.”
Companies are also coming to grips with the uncomfortable fact that their salespeople don’t know how to use the tools already available to them. In addition to the overall low utilization, they don’t know how to use them effectively. Some companies I see have hired a person that is dedicated solely to training salespeople on their tech stack. In this way, they can begin to tap into the workflows and rich features instead of just making use of basic features—or not even using them at all.
3. Mind the gap: training and skills
When we talk about training and skills, smart companies have realized that the discovery skills of their salespeople weren’t that great. In fact, it’s probably the number one gap. They found that their salespeople tend to lack curiosity, as well as the ability to actively listen and better understand the buyer. This puts salespeople at a disadvantage because without these skills they don’t know how to effectively build their value proposition for the buyer.
When the discovery skills gap is closed, salespeople are better able to understand the truth in the situation of the buyer. And by understanding this truth, salespeople are better able to prioritize their leads as well as to create more accurate sales forecasts. This saves a huge amount of time so that they can focus on other things that matter. And, importantly, they can stop chasing deals that will never close.
“Losing a salesperson in the USA can cost on average $300,000 to $2,000,000.”
Closely related to the training and skills trend is a focus on the retention rates of salespeople. Let’s face it: losing a salesperson is costly. In fact, it can cost a company in the USA on average $300,000 to $2,000,000. In my work, I have observed that there is almost no training for sales managers on how to coach their teams. Moreover, typical training programs don’t work. One of the major reasons for this is because managers do not reinforce the skills from the training. Continuously coaching sales teams to create new habits and to fine-tune their skills is a path to establishing best practices. And without proper training and coaching, enablement initiatives are wasted.
4. AI revolution: entirely new ways of sales prospecting
AI is definitely the star trend here. It’s going to be huge; I am sure of that. The big question is how can we best harness applications like ChatGPT? When I look into my crystal ball, I see progress around this gathering at breakneck speed starting from the second-half of 2023 and beyond.
“There's gonna be a nuclear bomb in sales prospecting; it will be super painful for everybody.”
Although not every company is currently focused on AI, I think that by next year nearly everyone in the B2B sales industry will be forced to figure out how to incorporate the technology into their day-to-day work. There’s going to be a nuclear bomb in sales prospecting; it will be super painful for everybody. We will all have to learn new ways of doing things and entirely new processes.
Imagine a scenario where a ChatGPT bot finds prospects for a sales campaign, prepares it and sends the email campaign. It’s not going to happen this year, but in the very near future for sure. I can say with 100% certainty that email prospecting will look radically different—and soon.
5. Stop selling: start diagnosing and problem solving
Perhaps this isn’t as much of a trend, but rather a piece of advice to those in B2B sales: stop selling. The best sellers on Earth are not selling. Instead, they help to shine the light on a problem that can hurt the customer. They ask meaningful questions and then stop talking in order to allow the buyer to realize if it is the best time to solve the issue.
Unfortunately, rather than attempting to understand the truth of the buyer’s situation, many salespeople ask questions that are intended solely to manipulate. People are not stupid; they see through these self-serving questions. It sends the message that you don’t care about the buyer and are only there to close the deal. And then you wind up like everyone else. And when you wind up like everyone else, you have to start discounting your product or service.
“You are there to help your buyer make great decisions. That’s it; no selling.”
As an effective and trustworthy salesperson you are there to help your buyer make great decisions. That’s it; no selling. You are just diagnosing and problem solving.
Ahead of the trends curve: a company that’s getting it right
You asked me to mention an example of a company that is doing a good job of staying ahead of these trends. Gong.io comes to mind. Gong.io is a SaaS company that’s leveraging the AI trend to analyze the conversations that their salespeople have with customers. This in turn allows managers to give more effective feedback and more. A lot can be learned from the example that they’re setting.
Petr Zelenka is a partner at Hackerly and consults around organizational growth, and culture. He’s worked with brands such as Veritas, Merck, IKEA, and T-Mobile. As a Google Mentor, he advised high-growth startups and acted as an inspirational speaker at Grow With Google. He has personally trained over 5,000 leaders. You can contact Petr via email or LinkedIn.
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