2021. What a year, huh?
First of all, from everyone here at Wingman, we hope you and your loved ones are happy and healthy. Because there’s nothing more important than that.
However, what kind of editorial team would we be if we didn’t do a post about the year ahead? So we sat down with some very smart sales folks and had some fantastic discussions about the sales trends they were expecting to see in 2022 and beyond.
“The one thing I want to emphasize is, are you strong on the fundamentals? That’s the very first thing. Are you doing the one thing that makes a lot of difference, ten times better?” - Pradeep Sridar, sales leader and VP of Sales at Wingman
Before we go into the trends of 2022, here’s a prediction.
One hundred percent of organizations that adopt any of the following trends without taking a good, hard look at their existing sales process will be disappointed. 🤷
To successfully latch on to a trend and have it work for you is an amazing feeling. But there is little chance of that happening unless the fundamentals are in order. Before asking about the trends for the next year, sales leaders need to ask themselves the following questions.
- “What was the main growth driver for us this year?”
- “How can we set up a playbook to replicate that success?”
- “What are the biggest challenges and roadblocks for us? Is it prospecting? Is it closing?”
- “Are my reps doing the legwork? Are they crushing the dialers?”
- “Are people resonating with our messaging?”
Only when the fundamentals are in order is it time to go after the trends, for that little extra boost that sends you soaring above the competition.
With that out of the way, let’s move on, in no particular order, to the trends that our wise friends in the sales community felt will dominate conversation in 2022.
#1 Video prospecting will be mainstream
Video has been a cornerstone of marketing since kinda forever, but with the pandemic, even salespeople have been dipping their toes into the waters.
However, unlike the slickly produced marketing videos, these are more immediate, personalized and raw. Less like an ad for the Super Bowl, and more like a quick recorded message for a friend while you are waiting in line at Starbucks (and the person in front is changing their order for the seventh time).
More and more, such videos are replacing emails, especially for post-call follow-ups and responses to product queries. Asynchronous videos like these also mean salespeople are not subjecting their prospects to the dreaded “Zoom fatigue”, while at the same time packing in more clarity and information than a simple text email ever could.
So what’s the ROI for video? That’s the big question, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the data simply isn’t there yet. However, let’s look at some facts.
- Video already occupies an outsized space in marketing, with 86% of businesses using video as a marketing tool - Hubspot
- In a recent survey, 40% of B2B sellers said they would be modifying their tactics to adapt to remote selling - Forrester
- 70-80% of B2B decision makers now prefer remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions - McKinsey
Put these pieces together and a very clear picture emerges — prospects in a post-pandemic world are not just more receptive to video, in many cases they prefer it. And considering all you need to get started with video prospecting is a phone, a quiet (or Starbucks) corner and five minutes — there’s no good reason not to include video prospecting in your sales mix.
Here are some of our favorite video prospecting tools to get you started.
#2 Salespeople will be expected to sell value, not products
Imagine going to a doctor with a minor complaint. Say, a headache.
The doctor barely takes a look at you and goes “Clearly, this is serious. We need to operate immediately.”
Before you can respond, they launch into a detailed description of the kind of surgery he plans to do, the equipment he will use and how shiny his scalpel is.
What’s more likely? That you’ll go ahead with the prescribed surgery, or that you’ll slowly make your way to the exit, with no intention of ever coming back.
Ridiculous, right? No doctor would behave this way. Hopefully. 👀
No doctor would give a diagnosis without probing, questioning, testing — without genuinely trying to understand the patient’s problem. And yet, that’s how most sales people behave. Pushing ahead with (usually) their most expensive solution. Trying to rush the sale through and meet their quota.
Fact is, the best salespeople have always behaved like doctors — understanding the client’s problems with genuine concern and empathy, and offering them a solution that can help them thrive. That person who sold ice to an Eskimo? You can bet he didn’t get too many recurring customers.
“Are you able to uncover problems efficiently? And then, once you hear the problems out, are you able to articulate the value of your product? That’s all.” - Pradeep Sridar
“Stop thinking about selling. Start thinking about what’s your buyer’s success statement and where do you have a match.” - Brent Keltner, Founder and President, Winalytics*
(You can hear our complete conversation with Brent below)
There was a time though, when this sort of aggressive product-based selling worked. A few years ago, B2B customers could be convinced by an impressive feature set. However, new market realities mean that far more companies are now focused on cost reduction. A Deloitte report stated “relative to pre-COVID-19 levels, the likelihood of undertaking cost reduction initiatives increased globally by 74%”. And one of the ways in which companies are doing that is by maintaining a laser focus on ROI.
Pushing the product itself, rather than the value the product provides has been particularly prevalent in B2B SaaS sales. In short, salespeople have let the product sell itself. Partially because of the complexity of SaaS products, and partially because it’s easy, and it worked. Sometimes.
That’s been changing, though. Companies are far less likely to purchase a solution on features alone. Now, the salesperson has to go the extra mile — to dig deep, understand the customer’s problems, and then guide the customer down a path where the customer themselves understands the need for the solution being provided.
In short, heart and sincerity will be more important than ever before, and generic talk tracks will fade further into failure.
#3 Programmatic prospecting and hyper-personalization
Did we slap two buzzwords together to please the SEO overlords? Guilty. 🤓
However, are we completely talking out of our hats? No, we’d never do that! Let us explain.
In our discussions on “value-based selling” things got a bit philosophical. After all, “value” means different things to different people. Value for an end user might be the ability to do their job faster so they have more time to play with the kids. For a manager, it might be the ability to hit targets quicker. And of course, for a CFO, it would be a positive impact on the bottomline.
To a sales rep, every single one of these profiles is a foot in the door. Some may come with a higher potential conversion rate, but each represents a swing of the bat they cannot afford to not take.
However, unless you adjust your messaging to each persona’s definition of “value”, you might as well not talk about value at all. The CFO might appreciate a tool that helps employees log off an hour early, but it’s hardly going to convince them to sign on the dotted line. Alternatively, adding 0.5% to the company’s yearly revenue is unlikely to make a manager push your product to the decision makers.
“Every single company is now selling to six to eight personas. There are probably three or four different types of unique value that different personas care about. So you gotta tell a story to each buyer, about what’s in it for them.” - Brent Keltner
Which brings us to programmatic prospecting and hyper-personalization. Translate them to human speak and what you get is the intensive but rewarding task of adjusting your messaging for each buyer persona — maybe even multiple value propositions for each.
The biggest reason why this will be crucial going into 2022 is because of the end of the in-person meeting. Hardcore sales folks will agree, video conferencing is just no substitute when it comes to getting a message across.
Used to be, you could drop into the prospect’s office, observe their workflow, understand their body language, and adjust your pitch live. Now, all you have is a screen and a strict 30-minute deadline. Unless you come in with something that resonates immediately, you might as well chuck the whole playbook out the window.
#4 Community and word-of-mouth
Online communities are as old as the internet, but for the longest time they remained a niche — frequented exclusively by the tech savvy. Salespeople built connections the old fashioned way, at conferences, or over coffee or cocktails.
But of course, that has changed. After an initial wave of indecision and even resistance, networking has moved online. Digital communities have grown fast, and thanks to the open borders of the internet, networking has become a global activity.
Sales folks are familiar with communities like RevGenius and Pavilion. Social platforms like LinkedIn have countless micro-communities dedicated not just to sales overall, but even specific aspects of sales, like pre-sales and sales enablement. Now, it’s critical for sales reps to find their industry communities and leverage them for branding and demand gen — but always with authenticity. 🧘♀️
According to some studies, 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth.
In micro-communities, especially online, word of mouth can spread incredibly fast.
Put the two together and we have a classic case of high risk, high reward. Salespeople who build a reputation of being helpful and genuine in those communities will find a lot of success.
However, it’s just as easy to destroy a personal and brand reputation if one is not careful.
Here are a few awesome sales communities you should join (if you haven’t already):
#5 A buyer-centric approach to content and tech
“70% of companies are increasing the amount of content production. Only 30% have a clear strategy linked to the buyer journey. You gotta get really good at linking your content to a buyer journey, telling a story about buyer value.” - Brent Keltner
If there has been a theme to this post, it has probably been “value”. Fewer customers are asking “What can it do?” and more and more, they are asking “What can it do for me?” And this extends to the content companies create.
Content is, of course, a cornerstone of B2B marketing. More than 87% of B2B companies use some form of content marketing, and why not? According to some surveys, B2B buyers read as much as 13 pieces of content before making a purchase decision, 70% of which they get from vendor websites. However, with so much content being pushed out daily, it has become even more important to link the content to the buyer journey.
What does that mean? It means focusing on buyer value. It means actual case studies and use cases. It means real, attributable testimonials. Buyers simply do not have time for low-effort fluff content that does not relate to their problem.
So what’s the answer? Providing third-party references and attributions goes a long way towards mitigating the lack of trust that buyers naturally have towards vendor-authored content.
To 2022 and beyond!
“...How do you be more human with your buyer? How do you facilitate a better process there? I think we’re all getting really burnt out on email, and now even text messaging, and getting remarketed to. How can you start to refine that?” - Asa Hochhauser, VP of Sales, McGaw.io
In all the discussions we’ve had over the past year with sales leaders, a few words and phrases keep coming back. Words like “genuine”, “value”, “authenticity” keep bubbling up in the cauldron of ideas. Perhaps rightfully so, because when we distill the “trends” down to their core, what we are left with are simply the best sales practices. After all, a turn of the page on the calendar is unlikely to change what customers want, and the best salespeople will always be those who genuinely empathize and understand their customers’ problems and approach them with the best intentions.