A series of fast-emerging market trends in 2023 will require sellers and sales managers to develop a new set of capabilities and enablement practices.
Those market trends will be characterized by several factors, including buyers with a DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) focus, an unpredictable economy, exhausted sales teams, and the need to yield more value from investments made in the sales tech stack.
Here, I share details on these market trends, the capabilities sellers and sales leaders need to address them, and how learning and enablement practices can support that skill development.
Millennials are ascending to leadership roles. This trend is clear in research from Forrester showing that 73% of millennials are involved in buying decisions. This trend is changing selling because millennials want to see their DE&I principles reflected in the solutions they purchase and, in the sales teams, presenting them.
Success means understanding the buyer’s DE&I priorities and showing how the solution supports those strategies. It’s no surprise that the sales teams who mirror the seller’s DE&I practices enjoy an average lead-to-opportunity conversion rate of 54%, compared to just 26% among organizations lacking in DE&I practices, based on additional data from Forrester.
Higher interest rates and inflation are reducing liquidity in the marketplace. This challenge exists across the globe, as seen by research from the Economic Policy Institute, showing that 33 countries saw an acceleration in core inflation from December 2020 to May 2022.
Sales leaders are experiencing the effects of these dual forces. Wins are taking longer. The status quo is becoming harder to dislodge. In this setting, sellers are using more time and resources to get a deal of any size across the line. As a result, deals will require more approval from higher level decision makers. This intensifies pressure on sellers to up tier to executive management and make a compelling case for the solution’s ROI.
Sellers cannot succeed in 2023 without strong negotiation skills. They need to be effective in this area for two reasons. First, they must be able to present existing customers with price increases without losing the relationship. Second, sellers must be able to use negotiation skills to protect
the value of the sale as buyers work within tighter budgets. Sellers need to have a clear framework for navigating the negotiation phase of a sale.
They must be able to quantify the impact of the solution in ways that can be understood by the customer. Additionally, they need to be able to position the solution in the context of the customer’s strategic priorities. Making all of this happen means having exemplary interpersonal skills to maintain the health of the relationship by having the ability to navigate challenging high-stakes conversations.
Gaining the customer’s interest and expressing the differentiation of the solution through writing is critical. Doing so means using the reader’s time more effectively – with text that expresses a relevant and cogent idea in a style that is clear and direct.
Most sellers will need to be more deliberate in their approach to the introduction, body, and conclusion. When drafting the introduction, the seller must present the most important ideas in the first sentences. This approach immediately tells the reader that their time will not be wasted.
Following this, the body of the piece must represent a flow in which one idea leads to another while sharing only the information and ideas that are salient. Finally, the conclusion must make the message memorable by illustrating the contrast between the customer’s business with the solution and without it.
Both sales leaders and sellers need ways to make better use of existing data and analytics. Sales leaders need to develop and use data to better understand where coaching is needed. Sellers need to be able to independently use data to determine what specific actions are needed given their stage of the pursuit.
Doing so means using CRM platforms as more than a management tool. Sellers need a responsive system that prompts them to apply specific skills to achieve key milestones critical to winning the sale. Data is also critical for benchmarking that illustrates the comparative competence of sellers relative to a peer group.
Broadly, the key is to advance the data and analytics strategy beyond simply recording actions – so it becomes more prescriptive in nature and can guide the seller in ways that truly matter to the pursuit and to their personal development.
Leaders need to be agile so they can quickly deploy learning at the point of need, and they need to focus on rapid skill building that addresses the most current needs with personalized, role-specific skills. With this pinpointed approach, sellers can immediately apply learning to close capability gaps that impair performance and drive momentum with current opportunities.
Just-in-time modular learning will increasingly become the preferred approach. Modular learning builds more than skills; it builds morale because the sales team sees that the leadership recognizes a need and acts on it. As a result, sellers become more engaged in learning.
Giving sellers a boost when and where they need it will go a long way toward easing the burnout and loss of productivity cited earlier. Modular learning also serves the seller by making the most of a limited amount of training, so they minimize their time out of the market. Harnessing this approach will allow leaders to connect learning to the data insights being yielded from their sales tech stack investments.
Meeting the challenges of 2023 means having the agility to adapt to the increasing rate of change seen among customers, the economy, technology, and enablement.