The Evolution of Sales and Where We Are Headed

Dave Cherrie
January 4, 2022

The sales landscape is changing – businesses and organizations are in the race to keep up with how quickly sales are evolving. The sales industry has rapidly transformed in the past couple of years, with salespeople and organizations trying to find new methods to connect with prospects and buyers while continuing to adapt to hit their revenue targets. 

The blow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has not helped either. It has impacted every organization and, more importantly, how we work. This has seen most companies move from working beyond the confines of their office spaces to working from home and setting up remote teams across the world.

Now, as we start to emerge from over a year of global disruption, it's crystal clear that these transformations might be around much longer than we think. In fact, the role of a sales rep isn't left out of this rapid change. According to Salesforce, it was shown that about 64% of salespeople say their job responsibilities have changed as a result of the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic; about 58% foresee their roles to change permanently.

However, despite the shift and how several factors like digital adoption, the pandemic, and generational attitude to sales operations have impacted the sales landscape, some things are probably still far from being changed at all. For example, sales are still sales. Perhaps, it is indeed the targeting of sales that has experienced the most transformation than anything else.

The Shift to Distributed Teams and Remote Work

Companies were left with no other option than to quickly transition and adapt to working remotely. Interestingly, working remotely is now seeming to become the preferred option for many companies and businesses. According to a Gartner survey, it was discovered that up to 74% of companies intend to permanently shift to working remotely even after the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also found that as soon as most offices open their doors, up to 26% of employees will continue their remote work beyond the pandemic.

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Tools Overload

Seems sales and marketing teams tend to look for new tools for every arising problem, be it for email marketing, lead generation, ads, or CRM. The dynamism and shift in the sales ecosystem in the past few years have at least ensured that. Before long, you eventually realize how clumsy it is to find the right tools to accomplish your daily tasks. You find yourself combing through a plethora of tangled, relatively opaque web solutions, complex product integrations, and free trials that mainly offer next to nothing.

However, CRMs has evolved over the years. Formerly, the only possible method to understand your customer behavior or if your prospect will purchase your product or service was to either chat with them directly or place a call. At extreme times, you consider emailing. For more organized companies, customer information is noted down in ledgers, which eventually pile up to become more like spreadsheets due to an extensive catalog of customers. 

But with mainframe computers coming to the scene in 1970, automation started but was limited to organizing customer information in lists and spreadsheets. In 1980, database marketing came into play; this helped in statistical categorization and collation of customer data. Fast forward to now that there is cloud computing, managing customer databases has never been easier – companies can instantly modify customer information across all platforms and from anywhere.

Although this has positively impacted sales, however, with more evolution still underway and increasing CRM software solutions out there, a new challenge of finding the best ones for sales management with a user-friendly interface, seamless integrations, and non-complex add-ons emerge among many others. The question remains how to harness them and ensure they are easily operable rather than harbingers of clumsiness and poor productivity.  

Impact on Generational Workforce

The future of work is changing, and perhaps, the workplace of the future is close by. It was forecast that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made of millennials. Many companies, including Accenture, have reported that over 60% of their entire workforce is made up of millennials. With this shift of generation workforce population from the Baby Boomer to the millennial, there have been (and will still be) significant changes to how work is done. 

First, we can expect an increased tech penetration in the workspace through mobile phones, innovative platforms, AI-powered solutions, and more. A decline in the traditional in-person meeting sets and video conferencing meetings will be favored. Overall, employee engagement might take a hit since most employees could be working directly from home from their computers.

More importantly, the motivations for working with Baby Boomers are somewhat different from those of the Millennial generations. Unlike Baby Boomers, Millennials are often motivated by quality, learning, and feeling valued. Quality of work within an organization is the single biggest attraction for most Millenials: companies with great products, grandeur vision statement, company philosophy, and a laser-like focus on meeting user needs. 

Millennials are easily motivated by a workplace that pushes them to learn and expand their skill capacity. A workplace that is big on employee motivation, friendly competition, and encourages creativity regardless of tenure and status are at the center of job motivations for many Millenials.

Buying Process Has Changed

It is evident that potential customers are everywhere, irrespective of the niche you operate in or the kind of product you are offering. But as new technologies have transformed the information dissemination and advertising mechanism, both retailers and manufacturers have had to tweak their customer buying experience accordingly. 

The shift in this customer buying process is sponsored by the ever-increasing dependency on online media outlets to educate, inform, and entertain, primarily as more people rely heavily on mobile technology to access the internet.

The Previous Purchase Model

Before now, the buyer journey was considered a very linear experience – with low access to advertising platforms and fewer information outlets. So, when a prospective buyer sights a product or service they like, say on a TV advert, newspaper, or billboard, the next thing would typically be to reach out to a sales rep. 

Alternatively, they go to a physical store to make inquiries before making a purchase decision. There's a possibility that they still shop around for other choices, but options were just minimal then.

Buying Process Today

Now, however, the process is drastically different. Internet connectivity and mobile technology adoption have provided customers easy access to explore an infinite number of advertisements and online shops directly from their fingertips. 

Also, it's no more essentially about calling a sales rep. They can easily make self-diagnosis and comparisons by checking different sales merchants, finding out product details, shopping for alternative products and services, checking product ratings, and carefully sifting through reviews left by sellers and buyers of a product.

Buyers may still choose to see the product in reality before buying, but the convenience and flexibility of instant delivery are mostly preferred by many. In addition, distributing their buying options much further than the buyer's own geographical location is also favored since they have access to more choices.

What Salespeople Are Looking For In A Role

Company culture isn't any longer a cliche or hyped catch-phrase. For most salespeople of this new generation, it has now become a significant determinant factor. Employees are no longer just driven by the need to earn but are looking out for a company that helps them grow in their careers. Money used to be the number one shot caller some short years ago. But with the evolution of work and sales gradually transforming with it, people are now quickly drawn to roles that afford them instant gratification and healthy competition. They also favor companies that provide a category of social belonging, variable rewards, and career growth

Gamification As A Motivating Performance

Gamification in the workplace involves employing game mechanics in a non-game environment. Organizations set up gaming structures and internal competitions to boost employee performance through healthy races, scores, prizes, and extra incentives. According to a recent study by TalentLMS on gamification, it was revealed that 83% of employees who enjoyed gamified training experienced a significant boost in their motivation for work. However, 61% of those not given gamified training feel unproductive and readily bored. Arcade provides gamification solutions that integrate tools you are already familiar with to simplify the hassle of hitting your sales targets and getting the best out of your employees.

The rise of thought leadership and personal brand 

A pivotal issue for companies that diminish their growth focus for the future is indicative of the absence of outstanding sales leadership. As the sales landscape evolves, personal branding and sales leadership has become more prevalent and, of course, a fundamentally different role in the market today. 

Forward-thinking companies are now investing heavily in their sales team – they set up training, gamification methods, and coaching. Coaching is one critical aspect of the current evolution where growth strategies are put in place to help salespeople become thought leaders and more productive at their jobs.

In a world where people have evolved in their purchase thinking and relatively become more sophisticated, customers are readily settled with sales reps who are smart and not simply throwing marketing jargon around. People want to do business with a brand that they can trust. Thus sales reps must be thought leaders and be more knowledgeable on their products and the markets.

A Shift to Retention Focused Selling and Marketing

Of course, many companies invest a significant amount of resources to acquire customers; it is equally important to find the best ways to keep them. These days, more organizations have woken up to the idea of focusing their attention on retention selling.

Research reveals that existing customers tend to have an appreciably better lifetime value than new customers. Also, content marketing can be employed to attract customers not only at the buying decision phase and top of the funnel but also at the after-purchase phase. Essentially, it can cost up to 5x more to connect with a new customer than needed to retain an existing customer, and boosting your retention rate by an average of 5% can have a significant profit impact on your business to well above 25%.

The meat of the matter is to think about how to deliver value for your existing customers with information-rich content and harness trustworthy content from them.

Value-Based Selling

This is mainly about selling value over features. Sales, in general, has evolved beyond the insistent need for hard sales pitches, overly salesy videos, weekly promotional emails to showing customers the real value they stand to gain from your products or services. Instead of investing too much in advertising an item that is priced to sell, being in the presence of the prospects and showing them how your product will ease their problems is the real hook.

In Conclusion

The sales landscape will continue to change, especially with the rapid growth of new technological trends and alternating changes in customer purchase patterns. The major challenge remains how companies will ride on these waves of evolution and harness sales performance solutions such as Arcade to discover (and keep) potential customers interested in their products or services.

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