The year 2020 may go down in history as the year outside sales died. After all, business travel came to a sudden halt, and face-to-face meetings became impossible as clients and customers retreated to their home offices and restaurant lunch spots shuttered their doors.
But outside sales lost its luster well before the pandemic struck. And sales teams were already becoming leaner thanks to technology integration, allowing teams to do more with less. The writing was on the walls by 2013, when PointClear reported inside sales was growing at a rate of 15% each year and predicted that 20 million salespeople would be reduced to 8 million by the year 2020.
And now? What will sales teams look like in 2021?
“We’ll see the rise of the professional salesperson — automation powered by AI will require it. The majority of salespeople will be efficient, so the most effective will win out and the rest will be replaced by technology. This means we’ll also see a rise in the need for excellent sales training around conversational abilities and navigating complex sales effectively,” Rex Bibertson, principal, Rexb.co LLC, told Hubspot’s Brian Signorelli.
“The future isn’t ‘death of a salesman,’ it’s ‘death of a lazy salesman,’” adds Chris Fago, a cloud security specialist for RedLock.
“Sales people who can find and convert new prospects will always be needed. It’s just that technology is making the process more efficient. Employers want to see verified results and evidence of what a job candidate’s process has been to turn a prospect into a client,” she says.
That process is increasingly melding traditional sales tactics with tools like CRM software and automation. And while soft skills like leadership, big-picture thinking, self-motivation, and adaptability are critical, so is technical and digital know-how.
“Turning your customer insights into actionable intelligence means recognizing when and how things are changing. Often, that means being fluent in modern business intelligence and CRM…[sales people] need to look beyond yesterday’s Excel and PowerPoint,” says Blueadz’s Erika Giles. “…It might seem like the role of sales is getting smaller. When you look closely at most organizations, however, it becomes obvious sales isn’t shrinking. It’s just getting more agile.”
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