October 23, 2020

The Changing State of Sales In 2020

by Uvaro in Technology

With the first half of 2020 well behind us, it’s time to look at where the state of sales sits right now, the most important trends that are poised to transform what’s coming next, and how successful teams are already doing things right.

Here are three predictions that have us excited.

Remote teams are on the rise

The trend:

Since 2005, the number of remote employees working from home at least half of the time has seen triple-digit growth in the U.S. alone, clocking in at 159 percent according to a report from FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics. And that number’s set to grow. By 2028, fully 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers, predicts Upwork.

Why you should care:

There’s no shortage of reasons. Research shows that working remotely:

  • Reduces operating costs when you don’t have as many people in offices
  • Increases employee productivity and morale
  • Lowers rates of sick days and reported stress
  • Gives you access to a larger pool of talented employees
  • Improves time zone coverage when you deal with customers around the globe
  • Boosts efforts to go green by taking more cars off the road 

Remote work is particularly well suited for all-online sales cycles where reps go through the steps in your process – everything from prospecting research to giving product demos to signing on the dotted line – without ever meeting a client in person.  

Who’s doing it right:

Reply.io’s co-founder Lee Gladish calls his remote sales team an integral asset to his company’s success. But it wasn’t easy getting there.

“I’ve found the two biggest disadvantages are a lack of knowledge share and communication difficulties,” he wrote in a blog post. “It can also be difficult to establish sufficient levels of trust, especially in the first few months. While many people can work remotely without any problems, it’s not for everyone.”

For activity and performance tracking, they turn to their CRM. Slack, Skype, and phone calls help the team stay in touch throughout the day. A daily check-in keeps everyone aligned with their goals. When they hire, they specifically look for candidates who can manage themselves and take responsibility. They have a playbook in place to make the transition easier for new hires, too. 

With workers around the world, Reply.io has also been able to take advantage of different time zones to offer support around the clock – an unexpected benefit that’s netted them great results.

Gladish sums his experience up like this: “Having worked with remote sales teams for close to ten years, my experience is it’s not only possible to run a remote team, but when done right they’re a powerful asset for your company.” 

Voice technology takes the stage

The trend:

In 2011, Apple released Siri, a voice-activated digital assistant that could do everything from playing your favorite music to cracking a groan-worthy pun. Today, you can buy voice-activated microwaves, TVs, lights, thermostats, toys, garden sprinklers, and more. The market for voice recognition is expected to reach $49 billion, says CB Insights, and it’s edging its way into sales technology, too.

Why you should care:

Salespeople are busy people. They only spend 34 percent of their time selling, says Salesforce – the rest? Things that keep them away from prospects and customers, like finding information and data entry. Voice technology promises relief from that work as it takes on the heavy lifting of logging calls, taking notes, scheduling meetings, and even updating customer records.

Who’s doing it right:

When One Call started using voice technology on their sales team, their goal was a more productive workforce that would offer a better customer experience. 

“Not everyone was eager to change the way they work. Old habits die hard, and many colleagues were reluctant to get started,” an employee shared in a Salesforce blog

Their team found starting small helped shift perspectives. They gave reps time to train with the technology – after all, it needs some time to get used to your voice and speaking style to work at peak performance. Then, they started adding in little tasks bit by bit. A quick note as you pull into your driveway at the end of the day. A reminder during lunch. Anything to get people comfortable using the tech. A little competition helped too, with a contest that rewarded users with prizes.

As for the results? “Adoption of voice technology is high and continues to increase, because employees are seeing how well it works. More encouraging, according to our recent national sales meeting, we’ve significantly improved pipeline accuracy,” they said.

AI-powered tools get smarter

Full disclosure: we love AI. It’s part of what makes our Playbooks™ a hit with our customers. And it’s already embedded in a huge number of sales tools, from CRMs to your training platforms. The difference this year isn’t so much the number of AI solutions available, but rather their quality, as our little algorithmic helpers get a boost from tech that was formerly out-of-reach like computer vision, deep learning, advanced personalization, and intent classification.  

Why you should care:

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: sales reps have no time to waste. Hitting quota is hard when you only spend a third of your day selling. Highly specialized sales tools promise to get really good at the task at hand so reps can get back to the human stuff – talking with people and helping them solve problems.

Who’s doing it right:

Intercom is an AI-driven sales enablement company, so they know first-hand what they’re dealing with. They eat their own dog food, so to speak, but also use a suite of AI-enriched tools that help their sales team get their work done.

“We aim to automate the parts of our sales process that are high touch but low value – that is, the activities that take up a lot of time but don’t actually require human decision making or oversight to do well,” they wrote in a blog on their site

Part of that comes from smart integrations between tools. Now, instead of copy-and-pasting information and switching between windows and apps, reps need only to enter information once – or a tool can automatically pull data from sources like a live chat to eliminate data entry entirely. 

“With less time spent doing manual tasks, sales reps can focus on more impactful work: personalized outreach, demos, negotiations, and so on,” they reported. “Prospects are happier too – faster sales cycles benefit everyone – and more likely to convert to customers.”

That’s our take on the state of sales. What’s on your radar for 2020 and beyond?