Top 10 Trends in Sales and Business Development for 2014

| December 3, 2013 | 14 Comments

10 Trends in Sales and Business Development for 2014

Will companies be hiring more salespeople in 2014? What will companies do to stand out from the competition? Will CRM systems expand or contract? How will the economy impact business growth? These are some common questions I hear as I address audiences around the world. Here are my predictions for the ideas and trends that will shape sales and business development in 2014.

1.    Evolution of Subject Matter Experts

Buyers can now get just about all of the information about your company, products, and services from your website. However, what they do not have is the trends, best practices, or creative applications that determine whether or not there is a fit for the customer’s situation. Buyers will continue to value the subject matter experts.

If you want to know whether or not you rise to this standard already, ask yourself if your ideal clients would value the meeting from your team enough that they would pay for the session. If so, then you might already be there. If not, then you have a goal for 2014.

2.    Content Becomes Emperor

Last year, people said, “content is king.” In 2014, content will continue to be the core to building value and getting heard above the noise. Buyers (and Google) value the best educators, as Marcus Sheridan of TheSalesLion.com says. It used to be that companies feared sharing their best stuff on their websites. As more initial investigations for solutions move to search engines, your ability to stand out from the crowd comes down to whether or not you are addressing the most important questions for your ideal customer. If you are stuck with your head in the sand, you might just get run over.

3.    Continued Shift Toward Vertical vs. Geographic Focus

The shift from vertical to geographic focus tends to work in cycles. With the advancement in video-based communication and collaborative technologies, geography becomes slightly less of a big deal. However, the increased value placed on subject matter expertise will shift the table in a big way in 2014 toward vertical markets.

4.    Collaborative Sourcing and Selling

Over the past five years, there was a trend of buyers beating up on weaker suppliers. While the short-term goal of the buyer was a reduction in costs, the unintended consequence was the destruction of many suppliers and companies who either lacked a competitive advantage, or failed to identify their lack of negotiation and sales prowess before it was too late. Ultimately, buyers lost a portion of their supply chain. The more sophisticated buyers will seek sellers with whom they can work collaboratively to obtain the greatest value. Buyers realize that the cheapest price has little meaning if the vendor cannot deliver as needed.

Collaborative selling will reward results and outcomes, but will continue to punish those selling commodities.

5.    The Shift Toward Project-Based Services Engagements

Buyers have discovered that paying by the hour creates a disincentive for innovation and efficiency. The longer it takes the vendor, the more they earn. However, for the client, the faster they get a solution, the better. The hourly-vendor who delivers the most efficiently makes the least money. In 2014, the top performing professional services organizations will start shifting as much as 30% of their billing to project-based, or outcome-based pricing (with assumptions to protect themselves). Buyers want results, and they’ll pay for it. However, the savvy customer rarely wants to sign a blank check for hours of time without a defined outcome.

6.    Sick of Waiting for the Economy – Build your own

Most economists say that the economy will continue to bump along in 2014. Innovative companies with a great story will start putting their capital reserves to work to build their own economy. The economy grows when businesses grow. And, those with creativity and value will get tired of waiting for the so-called “economy” and will build their own environment to thrive. This will drive accelerated growth in the latter half of 2014 to carry into a strong 2015.

7.    Hiring Trend for 2014

Recognize that there is a need for subject matter experts. Be on the lookout for businesses cross-training their subject matter experts on how to manage a sales process. Those who do hire sales professionals or sales managers will rely more on specialized recruiters to ensure their next hire is the right one. Hiring people who were just looking for work has burned many companies. Often, the hiring companies discovered that those people were out of work for a reason. There are great ways to find a gem without using a recruiter, but recruiters are still the best way to attract superstars from other companies.

8.    Simplified CRM Solutions

Years ago, companies realized they needed something beyond a spreadsheet (or napkin) to keep track of their business pursuits. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions emerged to maintain knowledge, automate forecasting, and improve communication. However, over time, the CRM solutions have taken on a life of their own. The data entry requirements had become so overbearing that few organizations enforced compliance (mostly because the only people who filled out all of the fields were the worst performing reps). Look for a shift in 2014 for companies to identify the top eight (or three) pieces of information they need to understand if a deal is legitimate or not. They will ask reps to maintain fewer pieces of information, but will require compliance.

9.    Better Qualification for Efficient Pipelines

It used to be that if a company was trying to reach $5 million in revenue, it would often look for a pipeline of $8 to $10 million. Today, companies often set a three to five-time multiplier. So, for $5 million, they pursue $15 million to $25 million in opportunities. Sharp organizations have started tracking the cost associated with pursuing unlikely deals. Instead of chasing everything, companies will define specific criteria for what makes a good pursuit, and which ones should be dead on arrival. The definition maintains focus, and preserves resources for the proper pursuit of the opportunities that deserve the company’s attention. Look for companies to qualify based on the relative impact and importance to the customer of solving the issue, rather than the desire of the company to sell something.

10. Honesty Prevails

With so much hype and old-school tactics, buyers will reward sellers who identify their own limitations. Claiming you are an expert at everything will be hard to believe when the buyer can search to discover the truth. Humility and candor will be sought after skills in 2014.

What trend do you think should make the list for 2014?  Share in the comments section or via Twitter @GrowMyRevenue #SalesTrends

2014 is a year for your business to step from the sidelines and thrive.  Stay informed and ahead of the trends impacting your industry to ensure you are a leader in your space.  I plan to monitor these trends closely in 2014 and will share discoveries of these trends in my upcoming articles. You can sign up to receive my weekly article at GrowMyRevenue.com or Twitter @GrowMyRevenue

 

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Category: Consultative selling, Consulting, Customer Service, Grow Revenue, Hiring Sales People, Sales Eduction, Sales Tip, Same Side Selling, Upside-Down Selling

Comments (14)

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  1. Aaron Wilson says:

    Very well-thought-out list for sure, Ian.

    I personally think number 8 is long overdue.

    It’s high time companies realize that a CRM solution is meant to complement their needs and not actually increase their needs instead, which is exactly what happens when a bloated CRM solution is deployed in a firm.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on 2014 sales trends.
    Regards

  3. Great list Ian, universal points that businesses here in the UK could maximise on. Would you say that being more tech savvy especially via the mobile market, is an essential point to consider?

  4. I especially liked number “6”, as I have promulgated this concept for a while. It is my view that eventually, the entire global economy will hinge of freelancing and people mostly working for themselves. The shift to this has already begun, seeing as the current economy is doing little or nothing to bring about more or better employment.

    Work or not, people still have the proverbial rent and light bill. And as this trend takes off in America, workers around the planet will quickly follow suit. Corporations that want to retain quality personnel will either/and/or give them equity (stock & other incentives) or start using freelancers to handle their labor. Or… go out of business.

    Everybody’s an expert at something, and chances are if so, you’re probably an expert at several things. People are finding their skills and expertise and turning them into one-person enterprises. I see that within the next 10-15 years at most, this will be common practice, and not the exception.

  5. Here are three more you didn’t mention:
    1. Growth of Inside Sales & decline of Outside Sales
    2. Increase in the importance of team consensus in purchasing decisions
    3. As sales move to the cloud, manual account “touch plans” won’t work. Sales are a monthly payment, not an event. Renewals, updates, and upgrades require automated ticklers & reminders.
    This is always an interesting topic and discussion.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. This “simple” list is rich with concise, credible and insightful visions of the future. It screams for further discussion on each and every topic. Very impressive.

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