Are your salespeople struggling with selling in a changing business environment? Maybe it’s because you’re not paying attention to some key consumer trends that are affecting business development. In today’s guest post Shawn Naggiar, CRO at Act|On software, explains top trends forever changing the sales process.

A number of publications have suggested that advancements in technology have made the traditional salesperson obsolete. It’s easy to see that the sales process has changed over the past 10 years; however, crediting that change to technology alone is inaccurate. Customers, like salespeople, are a key part of the sales process. As a result, consumer trends play an important role in determining which sales and business development techniques work and which don’t.

The following three consumer trends have changed sales:

  1. Decrease in Face-to-Face Interaction The most obvious factor changing the sales process is the decrease in face-to-face interaction. The Web—along with various tools such as email marketing, social media and teleconferencing—has not only decreased face time with potential customers, but has also eliminated, or at least narrowed, the focus on one-on-one selling. Based on the availability of new technology, it is no longer cost-effective to sell low-value items using this method.
  2. More Informed Customers and Speedier Buying Decisions In the past, prospects would have to talk to salespeople to price compare, but with the availability of information today, buyers can come close to a buying decision without ever consulting a salesperson. In fact, there are large portions of the sales process that might not be visible to the company. As a result, buying decisions appear to occur much more quickly today. Salespeople whose companies implement marketing automation actually have a competitive advantage in cases like these, because they have a better idea of how prospects are interacting with the brand—visiting the website or attending a webinar, for example—earlier in the sales process.
  3. Customer Service Expectations There is a customer service aspect of sales that has changed as society’s overall customer service expectations have decreased. We no longer look for a manager to help us in the grocery store—instead we’re willing to compromise on service in return for lower prices. This transition towards commoditization has a dramatic effect on product differentiation and as a result, traditional selling, which was often dependent on strong customer service and highlighting the unique features of a product.

While it’s true that sales and business development is changing, sales is far from a dying profession (just ask our new hires—we nearly doubled our sales force again in January). Just as customers are taking advantage of new technologies to aid in the buying process, there are new tools for sales professionals and customer service as well. Marketing automation allows sales professionals to weave together different businesses processes that touch the customer—including CRM. This gives sales professionals a better idea of who their sales leads are and how ready they are to buy.

Shawn Naggiar is the Chief Revenue Officer at Act|On Software responsible for everything related to creating, managing and growing revenue at the company. Shawn built the revenue and service sides of the business from the ground up, helping make Act|On one of the hottest SaaS companies in the online marketing technology space.
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