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The quicker you align and adapt, the greater your competitive advantage. That's why SPI has rounded up 2016 predictions from their consultants.
1© Sales Performance International, Inc
2016 PREDICTIONS FOR
THE SALES PROFESSION
2© Sales Performance International, Inc
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2016 PREDICTIONS FOR THE
01: MACRO TRENDS AFFECTING SALES
02: SALES LEADERSHIP / MANAGEMENT
03: SALES TECHNOLOGY AND ENABLEMENT
04: SALES TALENT ACQUISITION AND
05: BUYER SELLER ALIGNMENT
06: DEMAND / LEAD GENERATION
3© Sales Performance International, Inc
2016 PREDICTIONS FOR
THE SALES PROFESSION
The sales profession is always changing because sellers must constantly adapt to
changes in economic, political, cultural and market forces. As the world changes, so
too must salespeople respond – and those sellers who can align and adapt first are
those who can achieve a competitive advantage, at least in the short run.
What kind of changes can we expect to see for the sales profession in the coming
New Year? Here is a round-up of perspectives and opinions from consultants at
Sales Performance International. We’ll revisit these at the end of 2016 and see how
many of our prognostications turned out to be accurate.
01: MACRO TRENDS AFFECTING SALES
Fully empowered “Buyer 2.0” behavior will be the pervasive global norm.
• Keith Eades, Founder and CEO: Buyers will go deeper into their buying
process before ever contacting a salesperson. In fact, I expect that half of
all buyers will never engage a seller at all – instead, they will buy “self-serve.”
• Tim Sullivan, Director of Business Development: Currently, a majority of
buyers develop their own visions of solutions to their problems before
communicating with a salesperson. I expect to see this become even
more prevalent behavior in 2016. Successful sellers will be those who are
highly proficient at enhancing or re-engineering buyers’ existing visions of
solutions by providing useful insight and expertise.
Buyers’ perceptions of global uncertainty and instability will not abate.
• Tim Sullivan: I am sadly pessimistic about the impact of global politics in the
coming year. Economic and political uncertainty will continue to influence
purchase decisions heavily. As a result, sellers will need to continue to
address an exaggerated perception of risk by buyers. The most effective
sellers will be able to mitigate buyers’ concerns about operational, financial,
and transitional risks in each purchase decision.
Global shortages in sales talent will become even more acute.
• Keith Eades: The total number of salespeople in the world will decline in
2016. Companies will have to do more with less, in order to achieve sales
goals. As an indirect result, I think that more than half of all new college
grads in 2016 will sell something as part of their first job.
and collaborative abilities of sales professionals will continue to increase.
The supply of people with required selling abilities will shrink, resulting in a
global shortage of qualified sales professionals. Sales managers will spend
an increasing amount of their time recruiting sales talent, and also in
mentoring and coaching current sales staff, to try to close persistent sales
4© Sales Performance International, Inc
The cost of qualified salespeople will rise.
• Tim Sullivan: The cost of sales will increase – at nearly double-digit rates in
global pool of qualified candidates becomes more restricted.
• Sean DesNoyer, VP of Customer Success: Mergers and acquisitions will
that sellers will need to identify, access, and align with will also increase.
• Tim Sullivan: The need for disciplined account planning and management
skills will become more critical in the coming year, as the pace of change
accelerates in most customer organizations. More sellers will need to take
time to review their customer accounts in a proactive way, so that they can
identify new opportunities to create value for customers and also protect
accounts from competitive encroachment.
02: SALES LEADERSHIP / MANAGEMENT
Sales management spans of control will stabilize, and may even decline.
• Tim Sullivan: Spans of control in sales organizations has been rising for
two decades, from an average of about 1 manager to 5 sellers to 1:12
or even higher today, by leveraging CRM and improved communication
technologies. But as the skill level requirements of sellers continues to
increase, managers must spend more time in coaching and mentoring to
develop their teams. This means that the previous trend will abate, and
perhaps even reverse in some organizations.
Sales leadership decisions become more data driven – and sales ops becomes sales
• Dave Christofaro, Sales Talent Optimization Practice Leader: More sales
leaders will use analytics to make objective, data-driven decisions on sales
performance improvement investments.
• Ken Cross, Sales Enablement Practice Leader: The use of “big data” will
become more pervasive, as sales leaders begin to learn new ways to use
cycle and in combining this data with information from sales assessments.
required to record their marketing and sales activity in CRM and Marketing
Automation tools. This trend is being driven by improved analytics tools,
which provide sales leadership with better insight and predictability of
future success. Increasingly, they are using that information to identify best
practices for faster onboarding and sales development activities.
• Tim Sullivan: The duties of sales operations managers, which have been
generally focused on sales results reporting, compensation management,
CRM management and forecasting, will continue to evolve and expand
to include analytics, sales recruiting, sales talent management, sales
5© Sales Performance International, Inc
training, sales knowledge management, social selling tools, and other
seller enablement capabilities. More companies will recognize that
equipping sellers to develop their expertise and skill levels is a worthwhile
investment with a rapid return on results. Sales Enablement Managers will
be increasingly charged with this important responsibility.
03: SALES TECHNOLOGY AND ENABLEMENT
and sales leaders.
• Ken Cross: ”Sales intelligence technology” will become a commonly-heard
buzz-phrase in 2016. For years, sellers have entered information into CRM
and SFA. In 2016, these systems will start to use this information to push
useful intelligence back into sellers’ and managers’ hands – telling them
how to spend their time, how to be more effective, and how to ensure they
are aligned with their customers throughout the sales cycle. Increasingly,
this technology will provide sellers with what they need for specific selling
or planning situations. Use of generalized sales processes will increasingly
shift to applying a “process of one,” whereby data is leveraged to generate
a tailored sales process for each specific selling situation.
• Robert Kear, VP of Innovation and Development: Companies will begin
to invest more aggressively in adaptive learning approaches to maximize
in sales enablement, where technology will be leveraged to support the
most valuable selling competencies.
Being tech-savvy becomes a supercritical requirement for sellers.
• Sean DesNoyer: While the profession of sales will always involve a
human element – people buying from people – the use of technology will
increasingly impact the buying and selling process. The ability to maximize
the value of interactions with buyers using technology will become a
required competency for sales professionals.
04: SALES TALENT ACQUISITION AND DEVELOPMENT
The use of advanced analytics for sales hiring and development decisions will
• Keith Eades: Companies will rely more on assessments and analytics
before making new hire decisions, as they can’t afford to make hiring and
• Robert Kear: In 2016, sales leaders will think more about performance
in learning and development based on where analytics indicate are the
capabilities with the highest payback.
Millennials’ preferences become increasingly important in developing sales teams –
granular, video, and mobile content become the new normal.
• James Touchstone, Learning Solutions Practice Leader: In 2016, with
6© Sales Performance International, Inc
millennial generation people joining sales organizations in increasing
numbers, and with growing availability of mobile technology, the preferred
type of sales training will shift from instructor-led training (at the macro-
level) and related, on-demand e-learning content (“micro-learning”)
to short-duration, on-demand, just-in-time, video-based learning on
mobile devices (“nano-learning”). A mix of training modalities will continue
to produce the fastest development of sales skill mastery, but use of in-
the-hand training content on mobile phones and tablets will become
increasingly popular. Most sales training organizations will struggle to keep
up with the higher demand for this type of granular, nano-level content,
which often needs to be highly tailored.
• Keith Eades: The millennials are here. As a result, learning and development
for sellers will continue to move to more on-the-job experiences, and less
on classroom and traditional e-learning training. Video is the future of sales
development and is now a requirement for effective training of millennial
• Ken Cross: How learning is consumed will become nearly has important as
what is consumed. There was a period when many organizations furnished
their sellers with tablets to provide them with a quick, go-anywhere way
of accessing data and information. With the increase in smartphone
sizes, organizations will move away from tablets and instead, and ensure
that their sellers have the latest in smartphone technology. As a result,
preferred learning modalities will shift, as “mobile-ready” will increasingly
05: BUYER / SELLER ALIGNMENT
A differentiated customer experience becomes paramount for sales success.
• Dario Priolo, Chief Marketing Office and Demand Generation Practice
Leader: I believe that 2016 will be the year of customer intimacy. Sustaining
a competitive advantage based on product features is now nearly
impossible. Technology evolves so quickly that new competitors emerge
out of nowhere and can easily copy what you do or disrupt an entire
industry. As a result, more than ever, companies must understand their
customers and how to create value for each individual buyer. This requires
sales and marketing to be completely aligned on messaging and go-to-
market strategies. The “fit” of solutions to individual customer problems
matters, and those companies that can demonstrate they are the best fit
across the customer relationship, from initial contact to close to ongoing
success management, will succeed. This requires anyone who touches the
customer, or who supports those who do, to raise their game significantly.
• Tim Sullivan: An increasing number of organizations are realizing that their
biggest differentiator is a quality customer experience, and that most of
that experience is the responsibility of salespeople. More than half of
buyers’ perception of a company’s brand is based on their interactions with
sales representatives. In 2016, companies will invest more in sales training,
not only to improve selling skills, but also to ensure a consistently good
7© Sales Performance International, Inc
• Sean DesNoyer: Buyers will expect more sellers to work with them, not only
during the purchasing process, but also well beyond their decision to buy,
until they actually begin to see operational and business results. As a result,
the demarcations between traditional Sales and Customer Service roles in
many industries will become increasingly blurred.
Sales models become more complex, and less relationship-based.
have had simpler kinds of engagement with buyers, such as food service,
commodities, and non-profit organizations. They will need to develop
dynamic, buyer-aligned sales processes and supporting methodologies to
• Dave Christofaro: 2016 will see the end of the traditional “relationship-
based sale.” As buyers make more purchases in larger committees, and
increasingly incorporate formalized procurement departments relying
solely on relationships with individual customers is becoming more difficult
– and more risky. Successful sellers in 2016 and beyond will need to prove
• Sean DesNoyer: We will see more organizations use hybrid sales channel
models in 2016. The use of inside sales teams will continue to rise, either
as replacements for outside direct sales teams, or as supplements to
them and indirect channel partners. This trend will be driven by a growing
diversity of buyer preferences in purchasing approaches.
Confrontational sales techniques will decline, in favor of modern collaborative
• Tim Sullivan: The simplistic idea of confronting buyers with disruptive
insights, in order to assert seller control, will fade away as buyers become
increasingly empowered and resistant to such tricks. Instead, the most
effective sellers will be agile, taking the optimum role as required to
align effectively and collaborate as equals with buyers throughout their
• Keith Eades: Situational knowledge will see a return in importance for
salespeople. The expertise of each salesperson will have to be a part
of what differentiates solutions, especially for products or services that
buyers perceive as commodities.
expect sales professionals to be extremely knowledgeable, not only about
their own products and services, but also about customers’ businesses, so
that they can provide useful advice as expert consultants.
06: DEMAND / LEAD GENERATION
Demand generation becomes even more critical – and more difficult.
• Keith Eades: The number one sales challenge in 2016 will be demand
8© Sales Performance International, Inc
creation. As buyers delay engaging with salespeople even more, there
won’t be enough qualified leads to fill every seller’s pipeline. Sales and
marketing will need to develop or enhance account-based and content
marketing strategies to sustain required levels of sales. Sellers will need
to become proficient micro-marketers to connect with buyers and create
• Dario Priolo: Buyers are becoming overwhelmed by irrelevant content – so
much so much so that they are becoming numb to it. Marketing strategies
a severely diminishing impact in 2016. Sales and marketing organizations
will need to develop and provide specifically useful content for well-
targeted buyers, if they want to attract and hold their attention.
Smart companies increasingly help sellers develop their own personal brands.
• Tim Sullivan: As a generally higher level of knowledge and skill will be
required in order to be a productive sales professional, those sellers who
become recognized experts in their chosen specialization will develop their
own, individual brand. The use of social media to demonstrate expertise
and help clients develop visions of potential solutions will accelerate this
trend. Savvy marketing organizations will recognize this as a valuable asset
and work with their sellers to help them develop their own individual brands,
instead of limiting them in favor of a general corporate brand.
9© Sales Performance International, Inc
Keith Eades, the Founder of SPI; has dramatically changed the
face of selling in the past thirty years and is a leading authority of
marketing and sales performance improvement. He is the author
of The Collaborative Sale, and previous bestsellers including The
New Solution Selling and The Solution-Centric Organization.
Sean DesNoyer is Vice President of Voice of the Customer.
The specific VoC program will focus on tracking the customer
satisfaction of our clients and also creating a collaborative
platform with our customers.
Dave Christofaro is SPI’s Talent Analytics Practice Leader who
is focused on providing sales talent optimization services for
effective assessment of sales teams, and enabling improved
hiring of sales professionals.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Steve Wagner is SPI’s Demand Generation Manager with a proven
success record for driving revenue. He’s demonstrated his ability
to cultivate and manage new departments by driving team
collaboration, adaptability, and responsiveness.
Tim Sullivan is Director of Business Development with Sales
Performance International. He is co-author of The Solution Selling
Fieldbook, and more recently, The Collaborative Sale: Solution
Selling in a Buyer-Driven World.
Ken Cross is SPI’s Director of Sales Enablement, focusing on
advancing sales technology and process automation. Ken is a
frequent contributor to this blog and to industry publications and
Robert Kear is SPI’s Vice President of Product Development,
focusing on the delivery and evolution of our new platforms.
Additionally, Kear teamed with SPI founder, Keith Eades, in the co-
authorship of The Solution Centric Organization
and is responsible for the creation and enhancement of advanced
sales methodology and skill enhancement programs. He is also
co-author of The Solution Selling Fieldbook.
Practice Leader. Dario is an expert in business-to-business buyer
behavior, content and digital marketing transformation, go-to-
market strategy, and executive-level demand generation.
1 0© Sales Performance International, Inc
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