The 12 sales trends for 2012

The 12 sales trends for 2012 The theme for Barrett’s 12 Sales Trends for 2012 is “Adapt or Perish”.

This theme is borne from the turbulent and challenging economic time we now find ourselves living in. Many of us need to rethink how we do business, how we sell and buy, how we live our lives and how we engage with the world. With the looming potential of a second GFC, we are witnessing and experiencing a major transition from the Industrial Revolution to a brave new world of the new tech paradigm. Economic conditions are expected to remain volatile in the coming 12 months and 2012 looks set to throw up a new set of challenges.

Social, economic and political tensions bring uncertainty, with many businesses wondering what to expect and how to align their sales efforts moving forward. Barrett has identified the 12 Sales Trends of 2012 to help guide businesses through the major transitions in how we sell and buy. Some of the trends are closely aligned, however distinctive enough to stand on their own. Together they foretell major changes in the way we sell and do business.

Today’s business and sales leaders will need to examine their go-to-market strategies and sales force structures as well as demonstrate courageous leadership as they navigate these unchartered waters.

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 2012 Poll to tell us which trends will be on your radar in 2012.

A seismic shift in the way we sell

If you were looking for things to settle down and a return to the good old days of selling in 2012, then think again. We’re never going back, so it’s time to adapt and forge a new path to selling for your business.

The way we sell and the way we do business in the 21st century is proving to be a very different proposition from the traditions established in the 20th century. Selling now requires a different philosophy and approach. Selling and service now go hand in hand so we all need to be much more proactive. There are now very few absolutes – everything is subject to evolution and reinvention. It’s no longer just about doing deals and all about developing strong relationships that go beyond great products, great service and great design.

In the 21st century business is more about questions than answers; more about thinking than action; more about people than capital. 2012 is about getting your house in a new order because the world changes yet again and we need to change with it.

Intuitive customer centric CRM

The goal of a CRM solution is to drive growth (ie. revenue) and maximise efficiencies (ie. profit) in business practices, processes and relationship management (sales). In 2012 watch closely as CRM moves away from being a contacts database and pipeline/forecast management tool to becoming the system that places customers at the core of a company’s operation. This means integrating marketing, sales, service and support to provide a single view of the customer as they move through the engagement lifecycle.

In 2012 smart companies will make sure their CRM has a simple, intuitive interface easily configured for integration to finance and legacy systems presenting a single source of the truth concerning customers. Your CRM will also easily embed social media to aggregate all content concerning a customer. As for employee productivity it also needs to be mobile to give staff flexibility to access and update information efficiently while they’re on the move. In 2012, CRM goes where you go.

Make coaching the priority and coach your way to sales success

Coaching has been a hot topic for some time now and the results are in – regular and effective sales coaching does make a dramatic and positive difference to sales people – and their sales results.

Smart sales leaders make time to invest in sales managers, making sure they are properly trained, coached and well equipped to be sales coaches in 2012. Leaders need to make sure their sales managers can get time in the field and offline to develop their sales people and coach them to sales success rather than being continuously caught up in meetings and with administrative tasks.

Sales managers are already seeing merit in coach training for team engagement and improved bottom line. So, in 2012, if you want to be at the top of your game and stay ahead of your competitors, get coaching.

Move over mass marketing welcome to fragmentation and segmentation

Next year will see niche sales and marketing strategies becoming the norm. Fragmentation and segmentation are well and truly taking over from mass marketing. Sales and marketing teams will need to work together even more closely and take their listening skills to a whole new level.

Smart companies will tune in to where buyers are electing to spend time and money. Ready or not, new consumer markets will emerge, demanding different ways of doing business. This means sales teams will need to be even more targeted in their sales planning and prospecting efforts – no more scatter gun approach.

Marketing teams will need to stop producing catch-all marketing materials that ignore buyer preferences and attitudes at their peril. Leaders will need to start looking at their strategy’s evaluation measures and start measuring marketing and sales teams on those same measures. 2012 requires a distinct shift in attention from an internal company “me” focus to an external buyer and seller “we” focus or expect to perish.

The polarisation of buying and selling

Watch out for polarisation of sales strategies and sales teams as the middle ground begins to disappear in 2012. We will see leaders re-think their sales force structure and go-to-market strategy as products commoditise and real margin value shifts to ideas, education, innovation and results.

In the 21st century a sales-driven organisation needs to focus on helping the buyer successfully navigate and complete their journey. In the modern world, buyers needs are polarising between being completing simple transactions and navigating complex arrangements. If the former, the sales journey needs to be supported by systems and processes that make the transaction as quick and as efficient as possible. If the latter, organisation’s need highly skilled people as the primary points of contact engaging in a proactive consultative approach to selling.

In 2012 sales and business leaders will need to make brave decisions about how they structure their sales efforts if they are to thrive and prosper. 

Field sales team numbers to halve

With access to so much information, buyers have grown more sophisticated and better-informed consumers, especially in the B2B (business to business) space. The savvy business person knows that many of those commodity purchases they have traditionally made face-to-face with a sales representative can now be made online, thus saving them valuable time and money.

2012 will see the beginning of a massive restructure of transactional sales forces as clients go online, and ditch the “order taker” who adds no value. Smart sales leaders know this sacred cow is not long for this world and has already begun planning for a major transition into the blended world of online and personal selling. These leaders are choosing to invest in sales forces that educate clients on how to run a better business and achieve better results.

Educate and facilitate

Smart sales professionals have always known that they need to calibrate where a prospective customer is at before they start offering up products or solutions. They know their role varies along a continuum of education to facilitation. In 2012, smart sales leaders know to recruit in and develop their sales teams to be educators and facilitators not product sales people. Their investment in their sales people will result in a whole new skill set including patience, listening, creative problem solving and dealing with ambiguity and complexity.

Customers will come to value the new and improved sales approach because in 2012 the customer, not the product, will be at the heart of the sale, and they know the sales person will help them make the right decisions moving forward.

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