The 12 sales trends for 2011

The 12 sales trends for 2011It’s been another challenging year for Australia’s sales professionals. While most sectors have now weathered the storm of the GFC, markets remain tough, buyers remain reluctant to spend and sales people continue to be tested. And while economic conditions are expected to improve in the coming 12 months, 2011 looks set to throw up a new set of challenges.

Without doubt, the second decade of the 21st century will bring unprecedented change in how we sell and do business. With many businesses wondering what to expect and how to align their sales efforts moving forward, Barrett has indentified the 12 sales trends of 2011.

It’s a list that highlights the holistic approach sales professionals need. Today’s sales person must be able to demonstrate leadership, an ability to collaborate, an ability to develop personal relationships with their clients and, above all integrity.

As you read these trends, think hard about those that will have the greatest impact on your sales efforts next year. Go to our 12 Sales Trends in 2011 Poll to tell us which trends will be on your radar in 2011.

The year of the sales leader

Without doubt if businesses don’t get their sales leadership and management capabilities functioning effectively, their sales efforts will be in peril in 2011 and beyond. The research is clear – educate and develop your sales managers to be effective sale leaders and the impact on sales results will be dramatic. Smart businesses will invest in the ongoing development of their sales leaders, producing highly effective professional business people who are knowledgeable and skillful in strategic action, technology, and global perspectives, and who excel at coaching, and proactive review. Those companies that support and train all their sales leaders and managers will gain a significant competitive advantage in 2011.

Knowing the business of business

If you lead with product you will be left behind in 2011. In this increasingly complex world, more and more will be asked of sales people and sales managers when it comes to business knowledge and commercial acumen. Gone are the days of just being a product expert, sales people need to be competent business people too. Being able to understand how businesses, markets, and communities function and where you, your products, services and business works in concert with your clients should be on your agenda in 2011. Today, clients expect to communicate and deal with a real professional who knows how business functions. They want to have business discussions not product discussions. Making sure your sales people can understand businesses’ commercial drivers and make commercially sound decisions in line with yours and your clients’ business strategies is key in 2011.

The new sharing

Think it was a milestone to have a shared calendar, well think again. Watch out for the new collaboration software tools which now allow people within companies to share information, connect, communicate and collaborate in secure online environments on projects, sales pitches, client accounts, and daily work flow in real time across geographic locations and time zones.

Like Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks, collaboration software tools are going to change the face of internal company information sharing within businesses. We know that sharing and collaboration cannot take place in a vacuum, it requires individuals working together in a coordinated fashion, towards a common goal. Smart leaders will know this and use collaboration software to accelerate internal business communications to ensure interactive work systems and teams that produce more effective, innovative, efficient and profitable sales results in 2011.

Prospecting and social media

With social networking sites and the plethora of online data available, 2011 presents us with a “better quality prospecting” and “better qualified prospects”. Business sites such as Linkedin and Plaxo, and the emergence of Facebook and Twitter as business destinations, give the discerning business or sales person access to quality data where they can research key contacts with an organisation, as well as business activity.

Then, when appropriate, they can use this data to make professional connections. Smart business leaders and sales people will use social networking sites as tools to engage in better quality prospecting and improve conversion rates rather than just using them to make a list of prospects.

Does this mean you will learn everything about a person via their profile or that you take a carte blanche approach to prospecting? NO. We will need to be mindful about how we go about making contact as we will still need to engage in skillful prospecting activities to position ourselves effectively. With clear sales plans and well defined prospect profiles there’s no excuse NOT to prospect effectively. 2011 will be about a Total Quality Prospecting environment.

Rethinking incentives (The science of motivation)

Incentive programs, commissions and bonuses have been synonymous with sales teams for at least the last 50 years. However, throwing more money at sales teams to perform better, especially in these more complex and creative times may be a thing of the past.

While the ‘carrot and stick’ approach has worked reasonably successfully for most sales teams in the 20th century, especially when sales people were simply selling product, scientific research is showing if you want smart thinking sales people who can create new opportunities, forge new partnerships, and sell real value, then our traditional incentive programs are often precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges. In 2011, more and more companies will be enlisting new approaches to motivation rethinking how they incentivise and reward their sales teams intrinsically and extrinsically.

Results not solutions

If you are about selling packaged or aggregated solutions you may be in for a rude shock. In 2011 we will see more and more packaged solution offerings such as print solutions, financial planning, education and car leasing, like products before them, become commoditised.

Companies that cut costs, reduce levels of service, and get customers to go online and DIY will strip away any real value and reduce packaged/aggregated solutions to price negotiations. Selling packaged/aggregated solutions is at risk of losing its profitable edge.

So, where to from here? Smart sales people and their businesses know that the real value and what clients are prepared to pay for lies in the collaboration and production of real ideas and results. Despite offering aggregated solutions they will look for ways to accelerate their clients businesses or personal lives, to produce more outstanding results. This requires thinking outside the product and solution boxes, dealing with variables and ambiguities which, by nature, are messier and less defined. Working together to achieve real results will bring with it whole new partnership arrangements. Are you and your team ready to position yourself to sell results in 2011?

The sales pioneer

Not afraid to ask the hard questions, uncover new opportunities, challenge the precepts and ideas of their clients and companies alike, work in healthy and dynamic collaboration with clients including procurement, internal teams and allied suppliers, the 21st century sales pioneer is not afraid to stand up and be counted. They are far from being ‘yes’ men or women and will not be bullied or tyrannised by prevailing views and attitudes, and this is precisely what ‘market challenger’ companies will want to recruit in 2011.

Definitely not well suited to compliant or transactional sales cultures, this new more articulate, professional and conceptual breed of sales person will be the first to enter new territories, opening up new vistas, challenging our thinking, taking us to better places where we can benefit. If you are thinking about refreshing or realigning your sales team in 2011 consider finding, developing, harnessing and retaining the sales pioneer to give you that edge in 2011.

Procurement & value managed

In 2011 we will see a quickening in the development, thinking and sophistication of the procurement profession which will definitely see them on the front foot. Sixty per cent of major corporations around the world now have procurement and supply at the executive table alongside sales, marketing, finance, production, HR, IT, etc. Security of supply, environmental credentials, sustainable business practices, integrative processes, businesses cases will be up for discussion at the executive level and procurement are right in the centre of key decisions making.

The conversations had with smart procurement professionals will centre much more around value management rather than the narrow bandwidth of cost management. Contrary to the popular myth that all procurement people want to negotiate down to the lowest price, the procurement profession will present as far more sophisticated than most sales people give them credit for. The sales profession will do itself a favour if it pays attention and ditches the ‘Us versus Them’ scenario when it comes to dealing with procurement. 2011 will be about working with procurement to supply and managing real value.

CRM as a business strategy

Looking at your Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM’s) as a piece of software? Think again. While CRM’s are getting better, easier and cheaper to use, in 2011 more and more companies will position their CRM’s as a strategy, enabling their people to use it as a marketing channel mapping the true value of their clients and this will aid in their competitive edge.

Smart companies will position CRM as a strategy and corporate asset from the outset. This dynamic communication system will be your corporate memory and tactical delivery channel for targeted campaigns and will be used across the organisation not just by the sales team. Positioned and used correctly with all this valuable information tracked and mapped it can be valued as part of your asset register and eventually sold for premium.

Integrity – your sales edge

With the internet comes a whole new transparency. False promises, dubious offerings, bad behaviour and bad press will be tracked and publically broadcasted to many in 2011. There is nowhere to hide in the virtual world. Your reputation will precede you. Despite the prevailing paradigms of 20th century ‘old school selling’ tactics of bullying and deception, highly successful, effective, ethical sales people will have nothing to fear. They have always known the best way to sell is to develop honest and open relationships. They know that TRUST supersedes like.

The time has arrived to move beyond the old sales stereotypes and enter the real world of the honourable sales professional. All your knowledge, skill, products, company infrastructure and brand will mean nothing without integrity. Companies and sales people need to shape up in 2011 and make sure what they promise can be delivered. Proactively forging honest and open relationships (of any kind) based on trust, transparency, respect, and doing what you say you will do, will be on show in 2011.

Leading an examined life

For many years you could lead an intuitive sales life because your product was your edge, but no more. With products replicated in minutes, the spotlight is well and truly on the specific ingredients of being an effective sales person and sales leader. In 2011 smart companies will take the time to uncover and develop the essential knowledge, skills and mindsets needed in their sales teams.

In particular, there will be a focus on a developing a ‘mastery mindset’ where self reflection, self awareness, compassion, candor, caring and resilience are key. Those who lead an examined life know that we cannot know another if we do not know ourselves first. Far from being self indulgent, encouraging a continuous learning ‘mastery mindset’ will help salespeople and leaders take personal responsibility for their learning journey in defined areas of performance excellence. There is no need for unconscious or disengaged learning in 2011. Smart companies will make conscious, mindful learning a part of their daily working lives. To achieve sales mastery we will need to lead an examined life in 2011.

Getting personal

Despite or because of the internet, customers will be wanting personal, single contact satisfaction. Contrary to some pundits who believe that the role of salespeople is becoming obsolete with the ongoing proliferation of internet and mobile technology, effective sales professionals and a personal approach to selling is becoming ever more important in 2011.

Smart salespeople will offload functional and transactional activities in order to concentrate on the more personal aspects of selling, including understanding the customer’s business and providing more personalised service. Our client surveys are already showing that those customers who know their salesperson by name are 90% more likely to stay loyal.

Companies that have a large turnover or salespeople with short tenures are unlikely to adequately maintain the customer familiarity needed to achieve a high level of loyalty in 2011. Customers are raising the bar for customer-relationship standards in 2011.

Which of these trends will have the greatest impact on sales next year? Go to our 12 Sales Trends in 2011 Poll to tell us which trends will be on your radar in 2011. We will publish the results of the most important Sales Trends for 2011 in January.

And remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett practices as a coach, advisor, speaker, facilitator, consultant and writer and works across all market segments with her skilful team at BARRETT. Sue and her team take the guess work out of selling and help people from many different careers become aware of their sales capabilities and enable them to take the steps to becoming effective and productive when it comes to selling, sales coaching or sales leadership.To hone your sales skills or learn how to sell go to


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