(This article was written by GrowthX Corporate Partner and GrowthX Academy Mentor, Steve Crepeau)

As I gaze into my 2019 B2B Sales crystal ball, what do I see? Well, for enlightened B2B technology sales leaders I see a tremendous opportunity to improve their selling effectiveness and outperform their competitors. You are probably asking yourself but how, pray tell, is this possible in 2019 when it is harder than ever to sell?

You would be correct in that it is harder than ever to sell technology solutions. All of the B2B sales research and empirical findings bear this out. These B2B sales stats have been bandied about and are often cited at this point, but here are some lowlights:

·     Only 54.3% of B2B sales reps attained quota in 2018 (CSO Insights)

·     That’s down from 63% quota attainment from only 5 years ago

·     Only 16% of sales leaders are confident they have the talent to succeed (CSO Insights)

·     The time to ramp up a new B2B sales rep selling complex solutions is 9-10 months+

·     Average turnover cost of a B2B sales rep is $200K+ (SiriusDecisions)

I could cite an endless stream of B2B sales stats and trends that substantiate that it is harder than ever to sell technology solutions to large companies, but suffice to say it is and I don’t want to depress everyone. Herein lies the irony…big challenges are always accompanied by big opportunities for the clever sales leaders that exploit the challenges and transform them into successful outcomes.

Here are my 2019 B2B sales predictions (aka – my sales leader advice dispensing session):

1.    Back to the basics. There will be a refreshing return to doubling down on the basics. By that I mean basic professionalism. Strong and consistent execution of fundamental sales “blocking and tackling.” Proper research and planning prior to every sales call. Meeting preparation including establishing a mutual agenda in advance with adequate time allocation to cover all the key meeting topics. Here is a link to a recent blog post that I wrote on this subject.

2.    Sales coaching is paramount to your success. Smart sales leaders will invest in sales coaching and in particular, their first line sales managers. There is a global B2B sales talent war going on out there today. There simply aren’t enough experienced, quality sales reps available to fill all the open sales positions. Think about the unprecedented economic run that we’ve been on and all the new sales jobs that have been filled in the past 7-8 years. This has forced many companies to “settle” in their sales hiring and accept less experienced, less qualified sales reps. Coupled with the need to fill new first line sales manager jobs to support all these new sales positions, companies are commonly promoting inexperienced individual contributors into sales management roles with little to no training. In short, it is the perfect storm with far too many inexperienced sales reps being “supported” by inexperienced first line sales managers.

3.    Effective onboarding matters. Due to the aforementioned average time to ramp up a new sales rep and the global sales talent war, designing and implementing an effective onboarding program is more important than ever. Ineffective onboarding of new sales reps results in longer ramp up times (2-3 months+), lost sales that should have been won and double the voluntary sales attrition rates due to frustrated new sales reps. Here is a link to a recent blog post that I wrote on the importance of sales enablement.

4.    Create the frictionless buying experience for your customers. There is more competition in technology sales than ever before. This creates mass confusion for the buyer as all the technology vendors sound the same. Sellers also don’t make it easy for buyers to evaluate and buy their technology. Often sellers attempt to impose or dictate their sales process on the buyer. This is an outdated anachronistic approach that commonly leads to failure. There are also more key stakeholders involved in complex technology sales (7.2 on average) and they need to be treated as individual decision makers with unique things that matter most to each of them. Yet what every B2B buyer study shows is:

  • Buyers are increasingly frustrated with the seller
  • Buyers are experiencing that it is taking twice as long as they had anticipated to evaluate and purchase a technology solution
  • Buyers are experiencing higher rates of buyer’s remorse than ever before (i.e., Buyers are less confident that they made the right purchasing decision)

None of this is a positive reflection on B2B sellers. Smart B2B sales leaders recognize this and are making a concerted effort to dissect the experience that their buyers need to go through to evaluate and buy their technology. Progressive sales leaders are striving to remove all friction from the buying experience and are fully committed to providing a frictionless sales-buying experience. This is a perfect example of how to better differentiate your company from the competition. Highly satisfied customers renew their subscription agreements and expand their adoption of your technology. Here is a link to a blog post that I wrote on the frictionless sale.

5.    Great sales teams practice situationally. Great sales teams need great players (hiring in a global sales talent war). Great sales teams need great coaches (see #2 above). Great sales teams always systematically build out a winning program, starting with an onboarding program. And great sales teams are constantly looking for new and better ways to engage, influence and sell. Here is a link to a short blog post that I wrote on practicing situationally.