Sales Predictions for 2017: 16 Experts Weigh In

Aki Merced

In the rapidly changing playing field of business, sales organizations need to update themselves on the latest strategies, tools, and techniques to pull ahead of the competition. Be complacent and you’ll find yourself playing catch up with your competitors.

To be proactive, the key is to stay in sync with innovative sales techniques, tailor them to your teams, and roll them out quickly.

As we start the new year, Tenfold brings you this roundup filled with hard-hitting insights and ideas as to what the sales landscape will look like this 2017.

We asked sales and business leaders:

“What’s your top sales prediction for 2017?”

Want to get ahead this 2017? Dive into the insightful and thought-provoking predictions for the year from industry experts.

17

 

Mike Kunkle * Elinor Stutz * Britton Manasco * Kurt Shaver
Patricia Fripp * Max Altschuler * Leanne Hoagland-Smith
Marcus Sheridan * Alice Heiman * Colleen Francis * Bob Apollo
Lee Salz * Ken Thoreson * Jonathan Farrington * Andy Paul * Peter Mollins

Top Sales Predictions for 2017

“While it’s always difficult to predict exactly when a trend will hit the tipping point, I see a few things on the horizon:

➔ The concept of Sales Manager Enablement will continue to blossom, with a focus on hiring, training, coaching and developing the competencies, activities, methodologies and practices that help frontline sales managers succeed.

We’ll continue to see growth with technology-enabled virtual coaching and other sales management enablement tools that support managers beyond just the coaching part of their role.

➔ Sales Development will continue to grow and evolve into a function staffed by experienced, highly skilled and trained, top-performing reps who can elevate the profession and deliver the quality Top of the Funnel results that our sales forces so desperately need.

➔ Sales Enablement will continue to evolve as a profession with a focus on merging talent development, technology, process, messaging and methodology to better train and support sellers as they support buyers through their buying journey. I predict we’ll see more focus and alignment across the industry about what Sales Enablement is and does (perhaps led by the emerging Sales Enablement Society).”

Mike Kunkle is senior director of sales enablement at Brainshark, Inc., which provides sales enablement solutions. Mike shares his expertise frequently as an advisor, writer, and speaker. You can connect with him at@Mike_Kunkle or on LinkedIn.

 

“The profession of sales is being elevated and coming into its own.  Each company depends upon increasing clientele.  Therefore, sales enablement, the new buzz word, will be examined from every aspect of every department.  The end result will be a comprehensive plan between departments for open communication to truly enable sales.”

Elinor Stutz, CEO of Smooth Sale, delivers inspirational keynotes at conferences and authored two books: The International Best-Selling book, “Nice Girls DO Get the Sale: Relationship Building That Gets Results“, and community service led to the writing of her second best-selling book, “HIRED! How to Use Sales Techniques to Sell Yourself On Interviews.”

“Venture-backed companies are now obsessing over account-based this and account-based that. Why is this happening?

Well, they’ve discovered it’s not enough to just acquire new customers and ensure their success with nominal levels of income.

The customer retention problem will ultimately blow up your business model. You need “expansion revenue,” as venture capitalist David Skok call it. You need to go upstream and then land and expand.

You need messages that are deeply relevant to the decision makers and influencers with the large accounts you are targeting – and you need to develop these messages in a smart, systematic way. You’re challenged to ensure marketing and selling teams are unified in their efforts to penetrate these accounts – and grow them to new levels.

And it isn’t just the venture-backed “insurgents” that should be getting smarter about strategic account strategy. It’s the established, “incumbents” as well.

They are discovering that they cannot adequately cover their accounts when account managers end up doing everything on their own. They end up acting as “administrative coordinators” as opposed to growth strategists. As our clients have discovered, you need teams of “networked specialists” actively collaborating to deepen connections and surface opportunities within key accounts.

You must arm and enable your account managers to have conversations that clarify a business vision and create a sense of urgency. Expect to see this become a very big deal in the coming year.”

Britton Manasco is CEO and founder of Visible Impact, a strategic marketing and sales enablement firm focused on making sales conversations matter. His new book – co-authored with Anneke Seley – is Next Era Selling: 5 Strategies to Make Your Business Unstoppable (Now + Next, 2016).

“Microsoft will move quickly to integrate LinkedIn into its CRM (Dynamics) and business productivity apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook,…).

The result will be accelerated adoption of Social Selling practices including increased social content sharing by salespeople. This will lead to further blurring of the lines between Marketing and Sales as they work more closely on inbound marketing activities for lead generation.”

As the Founder of The Sales Foundry, Kurt Shaver has 10,00 hours invested in speaking about and training corporate sales teams on advanced Social Selling skills. He has appeared at conferences like Sales 2.0, AA-ISP Social Selling, and LinkedIn’s Sales Connect. Clients include leading companies in the technology, telecom, insurance, and business services industries. Learn more at

 

“One prediction for 2017, smart companies will continue to revisit, refocus, and rescript their sales message.The purpose is to always put more focus on the prospect’s needs.”

Patricia Fripp is a Hall of Fame keynote speaker, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills and online training expert. To become a great speaker easily, conveniently and quickly, visit her site Fripp VT.

“Google gets into the sales space with the acquisition of a CRM company. Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, Oracle, SAP, and PE Firms start to roll up sales and marketing companies aggressively.”

Max Altschuler is the CEO of Sales Hacker Inc, a rapidly growing media company focused on the future of B2B Sales. Max wrote the book Hacking Sales: The Playbook for Building a High Velocity Sales Machine, which was recently published by Wiley. Aside from Sales Hacker, Max angel invests and advises startups around the globe.

“My sense is top performers will continue to take advantage of social selling platforms by inspiring their ideal customers/clients through insightful educational content.

There will be a continued focus on building sustainable relationships using a plethora of technology platforms, smart devices through multiple methods of communication such as text, email, voice mail and phone.”

Leanne Hoagland-Smith, writer, speaker and executive coach is the trusted authority for forward thinking sales culture and results. She works with SMBs or sales professionals who are putting out repetitive “fires” of people or process e.g. rapid growth, hiring, etc.

“More and more of the actual “sale” will occur before the prospect ever talks to a salesperson–meaning that companies need to see the marketing side of their business as “sales” and also would be well served to, in many cases, at least partially merge the two departments in an effort to eliminate silos and create greater results.”

Called a “web marketing guru” by the New York Times, the story of how Marcus Sheridan was able to save his swimming pool company, River Pools, from the economic crash of 2008 has been featured in multiple books, publications, and stories around the world.  Sheridan has since become a highly sought after global speaker and consultant in the digital sales and marketing space.

I predict that more emphasis will be placed on sales leadership.

For too many years the pressure has been put on the salespeople when sales numbers are not being hit. Company leaders are starting to understand that a sales team is only as good as its leader and those sales managers are only as good as the sales leaders that support them. The trend will be toward providing professional development in the form of training, coaching, and peer mentoring, to sales management.”

Alice Heiman has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. Her innovative sales programs produce results. Other sales coaches tell you how to increase sales but few show you exactly what to do and make it so easy. Alice will show your sales leaders how to get consistent and sustainable sales growth.

“In 2017 companies will recognize that everyone has a role to play in ensuring customer success, revenue, and the health of the organization and will start creating Customer Success Teams organized by territory.

These new teams will be organized around creating a successful customer experience. Smart companies will start to ask, “which job functions in my company are integral to the customer having a positive experience with us?”

The list could include quality, production, shipping, marketing, customer service and sales or more. They will then build virtual cross-functional teams based on a territory or product line with representation from each of these groups. In this way, everyone in the organization becomes a profit center by focusing on customer success and company growth.”

 

As the Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions, Colleen is driven by a passion for sales – and results. A successful sales leader for over 20 years, she understands the challenges of selling in today’s market. Colleen is the best-selling author of popular sales books including the recent Nonstop Sales Boom. She is a Certified Sales Professional (C.S.P.) and an inductee into the Speaking Hall of Fame.

 
“B2B selling becomes even more data-driven.

One of the most striking trends over the past few years has been the growing application of sales analytics, and I don’t think that 2017 will be any exception. In fact, I believe the trend will accelerate.  Don’t get me wrong – complex sales will always benefit from a human touch. Sales people with emotional intelligence will always outperform their less gifted colleagues.

But the ability to process and apply customer data will take on increasing importance. The sales analytics vendors will clearly do well out of this – it’s already one of the fastest growing areas of investment in sales technology. We can also expect salespeople that can combine a rational, analytic mindset with their customer interaction skills to benefit. They will make smarter, data-driven decisions about which opportunities to pursue and how to pursue them. And they will increasingly leave many traditional sales people trailing in their wake.”

Bob Apollo is the founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners. He works with ambitious B2B sales organizations, helping them to implement structured selling systems that enable them to progressively narrow the gap between their best sales people and the rest – shortening sales cycles, improving win rates, increasing deal values and driving predictable revenue growth.

My top sales prediction for 2017 is that salespeople will be challenged more than ever with being able to differentiate their product, company and themselves. To effectively differentiate with buyers, salespeople need a documented sales differentiation strategy that helps them win more deals at the prices their company wants. Sales managers yelling for them to sell the value will not get it done.”

Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist and founder of Sales Architects, The Revenue Accelerator, and Business Expert Webinars. He has helped hundreds of companies experience explosive growth through the migration of their sales teams from “people-based” to “process-based.” An expert in building world-class sales forces, he designs the processes companies need to hire, onboard, manage, enable and compensate their teams.

“2017 will be an interesting year, a new US President and an economy that could struggle.  It is my view that in 2017 online-self-paced sales training will take off and be accepted by the masses. This action will change the game on traditional sales training workshops.

With younger sales teams, better levels of technology, cost considerations, and increasing “adult learning” awareness and knowledge, these factors will merge to create online, mobile and interactive sales and sales management training offerings that will improve the level of professionalism to the next level.

Much like the increasing power of CRM, these new tools will provide greater levels of individualized training, when you need it, where you need, and how you like to learn.  A few sites like ChannelEQ.co and SalesGravy.com are just a few of the potential winners.”

Ken Thoreson is the president of Acumen Management Group, Ltd. Acumen Management Group has provided sales management expertise and programs to organizations for generating revenue growth. Through its headquarters in Knoxville, TN, the firm creates strategic sales management programs – from assessment through implementation and evaluation – that build positive, predictable revenue for early-stage, high growth, and turnaround corporations throughout North America.z

I believe that most of us recognize the onward, relentless march of commoditization, which will accelerate in 2017. Slowly but surely, more and more products, solutions and services are being commoditized. My definition of a commodity? If it can be purchased online with a credit card, it is a commodity. One of the few restrictors is a credit limit.

There is a huge post-commoditization graveyard somewhere full of petrol pump attendants, insurance agents, mobile phone salespeople, newspaper sellers, and a whole host of other ex-salespeople made redundant by the internet – and it is filling up fast. Careers are dying to get in there!

Change is inevitable. It is the one constant we can rely on – it cannot be refused or resisted, so we have to accept it and adapt and thrive. The sales space isn’t dying, it is just re-shaping itself and we just have to fully embrace it and keep the shutters of our minds in the “up” position.”

Jonathan Farrington is the CEO of Top Sales World and the editor of Top Sales Magazine. TSW, which launched in 2006, is a unique international online community dedicated exclusively to the profession of sales, drawing together the industry’s best-known sales experts who provide unparalleled – and free – information in the form of how-to-guides, articles, webinars, podcasts advice and so much more.

“I predict that 2017 will see a renewed focus on the importance of the human element in sales; on the art of selling.

Over the past several years we’ve witnessed an influx of sales enablement technologies and data-driven processes and analytics. Many supposed thought leaders have rushed to proclaim this a “golden age” of sales in which the “science of selling” has permanently killed off the “art of selling.”

In fact, rather than presiding over the death of the “art of selling,” data-driven sales processes are highlighting the ongoing importance of person-to-person selling, as well as the limitations of automation, in creating the differentiation and delivering the value that shortens decision cycles and closes more deals.   

The top sales performers have always been those individuals who have mastered the uniquely human sales habits, skills, knowledge and tools required to best serve the needs of their customers. In 2017 and beyond, the top sales performers will be those that most effectively integrate the massive amount of available data about their buyers into every sales interaction to accelerate and elevate their productivity.”

Andy Paul is well-renowned coach, sales strategist, founder of Zero-Time Selling, and best-selling author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales (Morgan James, 2012.) 

“In 2017 we’ll see every B2B employee become a sales person. We all pay lip-service to the idea that every employee should be the face of our product. That’s become more urgent over time as so much of a customer’s lifetime value is determined by interactions before and after engagement with a traditional sales person. That includes exchanges with SDRs, support, account management, finance, and other business units.

What’s changed is the rise of automation to help these employees act like sales people. That can be through customer experience platforms that help support a customer journey. And it can be through sales enablement platforms that can distribute training, sales guidance, and marketing content to employees based on the prospect’s context.

The result is employees who are equipped to have intelligent conversations with prospects or to direct them to resources that can help.”

Peter is the VP for Marketing at KnowledgeTree. He brings 20 years of experience with marketing technology companies in the US and Europe. He holds a master’s degree from Thunderbird and is the proud owner of an IMDB listing.

 

Final takeaways

Big players

A significant chunk of the experts we asked shared that they predict big players are entering sales and marketing tech in a huge way–particularly through the CRM space.

Better conversations

Customers and prospects are informed now more than ever. They come to salespeople already armed with details and loaded questions.

Sales organizations who have salespeople who are also experts in the industry will win out competition easily. Because of this, tools and processes enabling reps to provide better and more value to prospects and customers will be ubiquitous in organizations.

Top-down accountability

Sales organizations with leaders who take responsibility for their team’s results will make strides this year. Training, education, and coaching on the top-level will evolve to be the norm this year.


Cheers to the New Year from all of us at Tenfold!

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Aki Merced

Aki Merced

Aki Merced writes about B2B sales and marketing as a content marketer for Tenfold. Follow her on Twitter @akimerced!