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The last 18 months has been a very uncertain time for businesses but it now appears we are seeing a glimpse into the new world. Maybe international travel in the next year, maybe no more lockdowns but definitely some continued change and uncertainty.

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of State’s famous quote seems to describe things pretty well “there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Yes, it is confusing but that is the point, business is in a strange place right now and with our sales lens on there is nothing more certain that things are changing quickly. As they say things are moving faster than ever before but will probably never move so slowly again.

Around this time of year typically look to our achievements over the last 9 or so months, the struggles we have faced and the opportunities that await us in the next year. The process of our annual Indicator Mood of the Sales Leader, which kicks off in mid-November, helps structure these thoughts and gives invaluable insights into the year that was and the year that will be.

So, what’s happened? For many it was a surprisingly busy and productive year, at least until the latest lockdown. In most of our Sales Syndicate sessions our members have been reporting being busier than ever with many boasting record months for their companies. Sadly, whilst many businesses have prospered this year, as predicted by the Indicator Mood of the Sales Leader 2021, this latest lockdown has caused many to go to the wall. The hospitality, events and tourism industry are under significant stress and our thoughts go out to those industries and anyone who is suffering severe hardship.

We’ve seen massive supply challenges in not only products but also in the recruitment area. As companies saw demand for their products and services increase, so too did the need for companies to find more people. Many struggled and a salary war began where salespeople in particular, saw an increase in job offers and also an increase in their financial worth. Will this trend continue? I am not sure, but one thing it does highlight is the need to retain your top people. We have seen a shift in thinking to understanding how we retain our teams through more than just financial means.

A shortage of people will also support the theories of those in the tech space who are already predicting a reduction in the need for salespeople over the next 10 years as AI and sales tools begin to take over. The question for everyone is are we prepared?

Gartner and Forrester have been making these predictions for some time and it has only been accelerated due to Covid where we are all moving towards inside sales and dealing with customers digitally. There are billions of dollars being spent into ‘Digital Transformations” around the world. Personally, I look at some of these big businesses and think they may struggle to adapt where the smaller nimbler companies have an opportunity to make big inroads if they are up to the challenge.

These conversations have been going for some time but with the changes that Covid has brought it is now definitely happening a lot faster.

So here are my predictions for NZ Sales this decade:

  1. In person meetings will fall to less than 10% of your total sales meetings (some industries will be slower than others to adapt)
  2. Engagement with a real person will make up a fraction of the sales process in B2B selling but will remain an important part
  3. Whilst digital interactions increase clients will value cultural fit, shared values more than ever and salespeople with excellent softer skills will still be in demand
  4. Salespeople that become experts in the customer will continue to flourish
  5. Non or poor users of CRM and other tech tools are on the precipice of no return and risk being out of business by the end of the decade or sooner
  6. CRM technology that enables the best integration between other platforms will be the number one choice for companies – all sales and marketing tools will be attached to a central hub
  7. The best sales process will put customer experience at the heart of marketing and sales across a variety of different channels
  8. No longer will location be an impediment to work for a company although time zone challenges will remain
  9. LinkedIn will lose traction as the number 1 business connection platform in the world within 5 years

As we look ahead to what next year has in store for us I am reminded of that famous quote from Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”. I should say that all my predictions above are not necessarily the work of a futurist as all these trends and drivers are already in motion.  But I do predict them to become increasingly prevalent over an increasingly shorter time frame.

We’re looking forward to your feedback for Indicator Mood of the Sales Leader 2022, we will be in touch soon with details on how to get involved.

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