6 Ways to Stay Relevant in Sales
Sales has changed quite a bit in recent years. This is because of new technological developments and a general shift in attitudes and behaviors regarding how customers make purchasing decisions.
Adapting to this rapidly evolving world of sales requires motivation, flexibility, ongoing development and a proactive approach to selling.
Sales professionals are expected to be experts in both their product and solution as well as their client's business. They must understand the cultural and generational buying habits of an increasingly diverse customer base while adapting to changing sales technology.
Whew, that's a lot to live up to.
But you don't have to let these changes get in the way of your sales success. You simply have to roll with the punches, as they say.
Before we dive into how you can stay relevant in this constantly changing environment, let's take a look at a few statistics about how sales has changed.
- 94% of B2B buyers conduct some degree of research online before making a business purchase, with 55% conducting online research for at least half of their purchases. (Accenture’s State of B2B Procurement Study)
- Buyers are less concerned with the qualifying topics salespeople are usually most interested in: Just one in four want to discuss budget, authority, and timeline.
- It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer.
- Only 24% of sales emails are opened.
- 90% of top performing sales people now use social media as part of their sales strategy. And for sales reps that invest in social media, 64% of them hit their team quota– compared to only 49% of reps hitting their team quota that don’t use social media.
- Half of revenue is influenced by social selling in 14 common industries, including computer software, healthcare, and marketing and advertising.
- Nearly six in 10 salespeople say that when they figure out what works for them, they don’t change it.
Don’t fall behind —here’s 6 things to know to help you stay relevant and to keep improving your sales performance.
How can any sales team keep up with the times and what do they need to be successful?
1. Be Open
If you don't have the ability to be versatile and adapt to changes quickly, you will lose your effectiveness and relevance as a sales professional. Staying open to new ideas, changes, and experiments is absolutely necessary to ensure long-term success.
Learning new technology is a crucial part of your adaptability, but it's not the only piece. Since the lines between marketing and sales have been blurred, a seller must be open to learning about strategies the marketing team employs and applying these techniques and strategies to your own daily sales outreach.
Testing, tweaking, and refining are some of the most important practices a salesperson can take away from marketing.
Sales reps sell more by using social media.
Social selling is about building a connection with your audience before they buy your product or service.
It’s about providing resources that let prospects and customers know they can come to you not only for information about your product, but also for information on industry trends and general education.
When you incorporate social media into your sales process, you can:
- Generate leads quickly
- Use it to get to know your prospects and customers better
- Discover untapped sales opportunities by just listening to the conversations
- Keep a pulse on the competition by monitoring their presence
- Identify any shifts in competitive positioning so you can make a move too
- Spark more relevant and meaningful conversations with prospective buyers
- Establish yourself as a thought leader and subject matter expert
It’s critical to embrace and understand how social selling can help you gain influence, establish your credibility, sell ideas, attract customers, and ultimately increase revenue.
3. Understand that Copy Matters
Embracing social selling means that most sellers are now spending the majority of their time behind a screen - writing. Whether that’s through email, LinkedIn updates, or messages, salespeople need to recognize that the way they write is critical to their sales.
Knowing how to formulate helpful, not pushy messaging is a skill that’s acquired over time.
Being able and willing to devote time to trying new ideas and testing how well prospects react is necessary to be successful. Salespeople can take ideas from the marketing team and begin to develop their own voice.
4. Make Connections
The old saying “givers gain” means you first should give and then you’ll gain from that giving. Call it “the right thing to do” or karma, but this old adage holds true in business networking.
Focus first on how you can help others make the connections they want to make. When you meet someone, ask him/her, “Who are you looking to meet?” or “What kinds of businesses do you want to connect to?”
You’ll become known as a master of networking, people will seek you out and you’ll enhance your personal and professional brand as well as your company's brand.
5. Track Data
Sales teams can no longer rely on intuition to guide them through the sales process. And luckily, they don’t have to.
As data continues to power nearly every aspect of businesses today, it’s also becoming an indispensable asset when it comes to sales.
Research shows companies that inject data into their sales process and operations are 5 to 6% more profitable and productive than their competitors.
Data should be important to every seller. Knowing your numbers is not optional anymore. With access to so much data from your CRM and marketing software, analyzing your activity data to learn how you can improve is necessary.
Understanding the why behind a good month or a bad one is something every seller should know how to do, beyond assuming or having a gut feeling. Salespeople should have a deep comprehension of how their activity affects their sales and be ready to make changes.
6. Make It Personal
A one-size-fits-all sales approach isn’t going to work in today’s interconnected world. Email funnels and other sales follow-ups often fall short because they treat all customers as a single, generalized group. This isn’t what your sales prospects want.
As Alexandra Jaritz writes, “We live in an era of unprecedented personalization. People want as much choice and control as possible in all aspects of their lives. In a sales or service environment, different customers want to engage in different ways, to different degrees, at different times. This is where it’s critical to master the intersection of service and technology, providing customers with multiple paths to match their needs and preferences.”
Staying on top in the new age of sales can be a challenge. Only those who embrace change, social selling, making connections, tracking data, making it personal, and writing well will continue to be successful.
Don't stop here! Keep going. Check out our top tips guide here.
*Originally posted in May 2015, updated April 2019.
About Molly D Protosow
Molly Protosow is the COO and Training Strategist for DMTraining. She manages the day-to-day business and training operations while helping research and develop new training programs as well as refreshing signature programs to reflect the newest sales trends, technology, and best practices. Molly utilizes her wide-range of skills to create sales and marketing assets focused on delivering value to DMT’s clients. Molly has a passion for learning and leveraging new knowledge and experiences. Outside of DMTraining, Molly is a hard core Pittsburgh sports fan, enjoys staying active by running and golfing, and unwinds by reading and playing the piano.