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My "Five Not-So-Obvious HOPES" for the world of B2B Sales in 2020

· Transparency,decision science,leadership,engagement

It’s mid-December. My vision certainly isn't "2020" on predicting 2020, but we can hope, right?

Here are the five not-so-obvious things I hope to see happen in my passion profession, sales, in 2020.

I hope...

1) ...to see the "death of" the term “death of”(or it’s derivatives) associated with anything sales-related.

"Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies!"

" Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness!"

" Earthquakes, volcanoes..."

"The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"

All right, all right...great quotes from 1984's movie, "Ghostbusters". But the hysteria over things like email, classroom training, cold calling and so many other sales/business concepts "dying" feels similar.

Since the digital revolution, name a profession or function that has entirely gone away? 

Of the 270 occupations listed in the 1950 US Census, guess which is the only one that's been eliminated by automation? Yes - there's only one. The elevator operator.

Source: Chicago-Kent Library Blog

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, believe it or not, there are even still > 9,000 individuals in the profession of "Door-to-Door Sales Workers, News and Street Vendors, and Related Workers"!

None of these B2B concepts are dying!

For example, email began its journey to the top of the business communication rankings in 1971. 48 years ago. The first article I could find reporting it’s impending death was from Forbes in 2005. In that article, "teens view e-mail as a way to talk to old people". My kids feel the same way today. However, it’s still the most pervasive form of business communication. It ain’t going anywhere.

Regarding classroom training, according to those predicting its death, the claim is that millennials and younger are growing up digital, and will “expect, require and demand a digital learning experience”. (I took that quote out of an article from earlier in the decade.)

When “learning” is the only objective of a classroom session, the point of bringing everyone together is missed. The value of classroom training goes well beyond that ideal, where peers brainstorming with leaders drives behavior change and engagement, relationships built among participants pays huge dividends in non-obvious things like turnover and recruiting, and the discussions that happen at dinner or happy hour about what’s been learned often drives longer-term learning.

Yes, teachers and trainers must incorporate visual, auditory & kinetic learning together to be effective, but the classroom is growing, not dying. See point #4 below...it has to grow!

2) ...Gallup’s annual study on the "most trusted professions" has sales moving UP the list.

For years, Sales has struggled to be considered trustworthy.

In the 2018 study, it once again was second-to-last on the list...just ahead of “members of Congress”.

The future of sales is radically transparent. It has to be.

Do you know why we all read reviews? And why 82% of us seek out the negative reviews first? And why a product with an average review score between a 4.2-4.5 sells better than a product that has nothing but perfect 5.0 star reviews?

It's because we're wired to resist being "influenced". Our buying brain seeks to predict it's experience with a product or service, and knows subconsciously that perfect isn't real. It seeks the negative to counter the perceived positive impact of a purchase.

So, when we lead with our product's imperfections, it speeds decision making. It builds trust. It better qualifies the opportunities you should win. It qualifies out the deals you would eventually lose - but faster. It allows for focus. And, it builds incredible long term relationships with buyers.

"But Todd, you said "it has to be". Why?

As it turns out, due to the proliferation of reviews and feedback on everything we do, buy and experience, we can no longer hide our flaws and expect to get away with it, anyway. Could the "death of" lying in sales begin in 2020 (counter to my point #1 above)?

In 2020 and beyond, sellers must come to this realization - transparency sells better than perfection.

And, when they do, selling will become a trusted profession versus a necessary evil.

I hope that happens soon! (and, I know of a good book that will help you on your journey...)

3) ...to see even more attention paid to behavioral and decision science in the sales profession.

Over the past 10-15 years, momentum in both categories is accelerating. We now know with confidence how our brains put up resistance to influence, how our brains process information for both decision making and storage, and what things we do as sellers and sales leaders to erode trust, erode engagement and erode performance.

I’m doing as much as I can do drive this into the selling world...but there’s so much more to be done.

(I nerd out about this quite a bit in the book, by the way - and there are others bringing this to the forefront, too.)

4) ...to see organizations realize that sales enablement needs 2x-3x the investment most organizations are giving it.

The number of organizations I see who are seeking rapid growth but have just ONE person focused on enablement is disconcerting. And, there are more than a few organizations with 100+ sellers, and one person focused on enablement.

Well, let me explain that a different way. As a recent CRO, when money would get allocated to invest in sales, if I wasn't planning to spend that money on a "quota-bearing" sales representative, I'd get the Stewie Griffin head turn back at me. So I get it.

Here's the big problem:

1) With the low supply of experienced sellers and sales leaders coupled with the high demand, the way to win is to look outside the box for both, give those less-experienced individuals more runway to learn and succeed, and over-invest in learning.

2) As we grow our organizations, we're promoting individuals into management who have never been. With one enablement person and lots of new "sales" hires, where does the attention go? To the sales hires...NOT the newly minted managers, right? So, the result is those managers just do what they think is right...without leadership training.

3) As a result, investment must go into enablement - even though they aren't technically QBSRs (quota-bearing-sales-reps). More attention for the inexperienced sellers. More attention for the new leaders.

The alternative? Be prepared to invest 3-5x in recruiting and compensation to go find those who are experienced, and deal with the turnover of bad leadership...which accounts for 70% of seller "dis-engagement".

5) ...to see organizations come to the realization that the benefit of having sales floors where everything is “open” (aka, no walls) is dwarfed by the benefit of higher walls, offices or pods.

I’ve written pretty extensively about this before...in terms of the science of what creates annoyance and anxiety in our brains. Selling creates anxiousness. Combined with the fact that the main things that cause annoyance and anxiety in our brain (outlined in the article) happen in open sales floors, we’re not maximizing for a sellers potential performance by continuing to insist on this setup.

If you’ve watched HGTV over the past few years, everything is about the “open-floor-plan”, right? It looks amazing. However, it’s funny to see the growth of “man-caves” and “she-sheds”, people who are starting to create two living rooms, and the reestablishment of walls in homes. Environmentalists are proving that open floor plans create greater needs for energy use to both cool or heat. Walls were there for a reason.

And in sales, they serve an even bigger purpose - lowering anxiety for optimal performance.

Welp, those are my hopes for 2020. What am I missing? What do you think?

Did you see the news? The Transparency Sale was recognized as the 2019 Best "Business: Sales" book at the 17th Annual Best Book Awards.

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