A few years ago, I started working with Howard Stevens, CEO of Chally Worldwide on a roadmap for how sales will evolve over the next 10 years, based on the best available research.
That effort is now available as a collection of books. Since the boxed set is pricey (though more than worth the money, IMHO) I thought you might be interested in an "executive summary." Here are the most interesting findings:
1. In-person relationships will become more rather than less important.
Once social media, texting, video conferencing and other mobile technologies have lost their newness, there will be a shift towards personal, face-to-face relationships. While those technologies will continue to be used more frequently, business people will increasingly differentiate between online "friends" and the personal relationships that involve face-to-face contact, and the active conducting of business.
2. Sales training will move from private providers to colleges and universities.
Sales training is currently a multi-billion dollar business that's dominated by private providers, many of whom teach a similar, or even identical, curriculum. While academia has generally ignored the study and teaching of sales in favor of the study and teaching of marketing, that will change over the next decade. An increasing number of business majors will "minor" in sales as well as marketing.
3. Salespeople will become more specialized and more professional.
Traditional wisdom says that a good salesperson can "sell anything to anyone." That was never really true--there have always been different kinds of selling--but it's going to be come less true as time goes on. Salespeople are already beginning to specialize in terms of industry, because specialized expertise is needed, and in terms of channel, because selling on the phone, by video conference, and in person require different skill sets.
4. Sales process will become both more measurable and more nebulous.
There are few places where "big data" has had a larger impact than in tracking marketing and sales efforts. However, while insights continue to emerge from the measurements of these activities (especially marketing), the process of selling is being forced to become more adaptive to the way individuals and individual companies buy. In other words, sales will remain an art, but be measured more scientifically.
5. Companies will continue to hire more rather than fewer salespeople.
For the past few decades, many business thinkers have treated selling as something that would eventually "wither away" as the Internet made commerce more "frictionless." That hasn't happened, however, because as soon as something becomes a commodity (and thus can be sold directly), that process has created the need to higher-level solutions. This continues to create an increasing demand for skilled salespeople.
6. Sales management will become a separate discipline, like professional coaching.
The tendency in the past has been to "promote" top salespeople into sales management positions. However, with selling becoming both more specialized and more measurable, it becomes clear that managing salespeople does not resemble selling any more than, say, coaching Olympic athletes is the same thing as being an Olympic contender.
Again, if you're interested in the future of selling, check out the entire boxed set.
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