Just as changes in technology affect the landscape of our daily lives, they also impact the sales cycle. With everything from AI software to mobile devices, technological advances are evolving the way we do business.
As the way we work grows more complex and sophisticated, the future of the sales cycle looks entirely different from what it once was. Rather than cold calling a list of names, sales and marketing personnel will be dealing with highly informed consumers who expect increasingly personalised services.
Over the past few decades, three major waves of technological advancements have already had a large impact on businesses. These waves can be categorised as the digital revolution, the social revolution, and the mobile revolution:
Digital Revolution: The digital revolution came about with the development and growing prevalence of the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Along with email and the rise of digital commerce, it became possible for customers to educate themselves online, rather than relying on sales representatives to learn about products and services, thus changing the buying process forever.
Social Revolution: The social revolution began in the early 2000s, as social media and the concept of social sales grew more widespread.
At this stage, companies began focusing on gathering information about potential customers and using it to interact and build relationships with them. This notion of social sales is still largely relevant today, but has greatly evolved with the vast spectrum of technological advances of the past decade.
Mobile Revolution: The present day mobile revolution was ignited by the invention of the smartphone, and represents a time when information is available at your fingertips within a matter of seconds.
According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer survey, “58% of consumers agree that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them”.
Pair that with the fact that more than half of consumers also agreed that it’s important for companies to be innovative, and it becomes very clear that we now live in a time when sales and technology go hand in hand.
With the leaps and bounds that have been made in recent years, there are a wide variety of technological factors affecting businesses today. Not only have there been advancements in the way we communicate, but also the ways in which we gather, process, and store information. Here are some examples of technology’s impact on marketing and sales.
Social Media: Mobile technologies, like smart phones and tablets, have made it possible for consumers to remain connected to social media platforms at all times. Sales teams can use this connectivity to communicate with more potential customers than ever before, while also gathering information through their online engagement, such as product reviews and shared posts.
Today’s consumers prefer informing themselves through recommendations from peers on social media to speaking with sales representatives: 3 out of 4 B2B buyers cite that they use social media to make purchasing decisions. This means that sales staff enter the picture much later in the game and marketing teams have a larger role in the sales cycle.
Processing Big Data: To remain competitive, sales teams depend largely on their ability to gather, organize, and analyse large volumes of data about customer behaviours and buying habits. In fact, a recent McKinsey analysis found that companies who put data at the centre of marketing and sales decisions could improve their ROI by 15-20 per cent. Analytics software can help companies track the success of a sales campaign, predict customer behaviours, target messaging, and more effectively generate leads.
Connecting over the Cloud: Cloud technology can be used to increase flexibility, promote collaboration, organize documents, and streamline processes. One major example of cloud technology impacting the sales cycle is the rise of the cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
Companies use CRM software to provide sales and marketing teams with fast, timely insights into customer behaviours. Using cloud technology, those insights can be accessed from anywhere at any time. On top of that, CRM software can be linked to sales software using the cloud, streamlining the whole sales cycle.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI is a useful tool in managing data and automating a wide range of processes. When it comes to sales, AI can be used in conjunction with a CRM system to analyse customer data, perform lead scoring, offer opportunity and account insights, and automate contacts. Using AI to automate processes and filter through data can save countless working hours and provide sales and marketing staff with timely, accurate insights.
According to the State of the Connected Customer survey, 71% of business buyers anticipate that technology will drastically change how they work by 2020. As technology’s impact on business continues to grow, some predictions for the future include:
According to a study by Deloitte Insights, the number of retail sales influenced by the shopper’s use of a mobile device went up by 32% between 2015 and 2016. Mobile is rapidly becoming an integrated part of the entire customer journey. Some experts believe that the mobile revolution has only just begun and that mobile technology will have an even bigger role in addressing our individual needs in the future.
The focus of mobile technology will shift from apps to actions, honing in on real-world and context driven experiences to better identify an individual’s preferences and needs. In turn, advertising and marketing campaigns will also be more individualised, with a greater focus on behaviours, actions, and schedule – customers will receive information about products and services that is not only based on what is needed, but also appears when it is needed.
At total of 63% of Salesforce survey respondents also cited that by 2020 they expect companies they purchase from to “use artificial intelligence to automatically purchase or recommend products based on their company’s preferences.” This is only one way in which AI’s role in the sales process will continue to grow.
AI software can help sales teams meet customer expectations for personalised, fast-paced, and knowledgeable interactions by offering predictive insights and productivity-boosting functions, using machine learning to process vast quantities of data, and automating more processes over time. With AI managing information and automating processes, sales teams will have more time to focus on customer relationships.
Industry 4.0 is set to streamline manufacturing and production processes by uploading them onto the cloud so that they can be accessed remotely. As modern manufacturing becomes increasingly digitised through cloud computing, the internet of things, and other technological advances, companies will need to adapt their sales strategies to match. This is in line with findings from the Salesforce survey, which show that 80% of B2B buyers expect to purchase from companies that will provide products and services that are connected to the internet and that 73% predict that they will interact via cloud connected products.
Customers will benefit from improved quality, consistency, and made to order products, as increased data processing and advances in technology are used to better meet their specific needs. This increased individualisation will also be reflected in sales and marketing strategies, highlighting the importance of inbound marketing methods to target potential customers on a personal level.
As technological changes continue to impact how we work, one thing is clear: individualisation is paramount. New methods of interaction, data analysis, and production put the customer’s wants and needs at the centre of the action and future advancements will help us to focus even more on personalising different elements of the sales cycle.
This post is part of our Navigating the Sales Cycle series. Download the e-book and discover the 7 steps to sales success.