In our recent webinar, Ambition co-founder Brian Trautschold and Challenger Inc.’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Kevin Hart, took a look at the top sales predictions for 2020. You’re probably familiar with most of them: AI is comin’ for your jobs; millennials are changing the game (yet again); email is dead (also, again). 

Kevin and Brian did a lot of dissecting — and a little debunking. Here are the top takeaways you need to know — plus, catch the full recording below.

Prediction 1: New channels will kill old channels once and for all!

Verdict: Fiction

Reports have been warning that email is “dying” since 2008 — will this finally be the year? Kevin and Brian say no. Sure, email is always evolving and has seen some major pendulum swings as sales tries to strike the right balance between automation and personalization. But for the foreseeable future, email isn’t going anywhere.

What is true is that new channels — video, text — are becoming a more integral and critical part of the sales process because, simply put, they’re effective.

  • According to our friends at Gong, deals have higher win rates when a web cam is used, potentially to the tune of 40%. 

  • 90% of texts received are seen and read. 

What do video and text have in common? Both channels, when used correctly, are incredibly personal. A webcam is the closest most of us get to a face-to-face meeting these days. Having the ability to look someone in the eye and read or respond to body language is invaluable.

As for text: at this year’s SKO, our CRO suggested that the best way to know if you’re truly got a champion in the buying process is if you’ve got their cell number. When you’ve got a personal number, you’ve got trust — and we all know that’s fundamental in sales.

Prediction 2: Gamification is getting smart(er).

Verdict: Fact

For years now, gamification has been a lever that sales managers use to spark energy on their sales floor, motivate their teams and celebrate wins.

But now, we’re seeing gamification become part of a formal sales coaching strategy. That is, smart sales orgs are no longer spinning up a occasional contests to get a quick lift; instead, they’re identifying the KPIs they want to impact and the long-term behavior change they wish to see on their teams; and then, they’re building contests around those things.

And as Brian pointed out, there’s another element to this: transparency. The end-game, so to speak, shouldn’t be a secret to your reps. 

“It's really important for managers, team leads, director of sales, whomever is doing this, to say: ‘What number am I trying to affect?’ And then they need to tell that story to everyone, so it’s extremely clear why they’re doing this.”

Prediction 3: Millennial buyers are changing the sales conversation. 

Verdict: Fact

In 2019, 45% of tech buyers were millennials — keep in mind, that’s ages 24-39. So while it’s a relatively large bucket, generally speaking, millennials are reaching the age where they are moving into (or already are) in leadership and decision-making positions. For example: 60 to 90% of millennials have already decided on their purchase before they even engage with their company's sales team. That means they’re coming to the table having already done their research, armed with information and preconceived notions — right or wrong. 

What does that mean for sellers? Well, according to Kevin: “It’s hard to say it’s just up to the seller to fix that problem.”

In other words: sales and marketing alignment is critical. “You need a sales and marketing engine that is tuned to go out and disrupt with the right kind of content, so that when you get in with the buyers, you’ve already planted seeds.”

So yes, millennials may be changing the game — but it’s entirely possible to leverage that and use it to your advantage. If they’re seeking information early in the game, make sure your company is the one putting out the best information, in a way that’s easily discoverable.

Prediction 4: Frontline sellers will slowly but surely be replaced with AI, chat bots, and virtual assistants.

Verdict: Fiction

Take a deep breath: the robot invasion isn’t happening (yet). 

According to Gartner, by 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ artificial intelligence to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. 

That may be true — and while we’re seeing more chat bots on websites these days, by and large, AI’s biggest advantages aren’t really customer-facing.

Kevin’s take: “It’s actually behind the scenes, right? I think you're seeing much more AI and algorithms and logic put into what exists in your CRM, data mining fo your ideal customer profile, trying to understand what's happened to the business so that you can plan better for the future. AI is 100% supported there. I just don't see a world in the very near future where you'll be able to get what you need [if AI takes over].”

Brian agreed, adding that AI can help to get you in the right queue, or connected to the right person — but at the end of the day, a human-to-human experience is necessary for rapport, brand loyalty, and to reduce effort on the part of your customer.

Prediction 5: Sales enablement is rising up (in a good way).

Verdict: Fact

Recently, we’ve been seeing a trend — what we’re calling the “empowered sales enablement leader.” Sales enablement folks are becoming key decision makers, something that’s changed in just the last two or three years.

They’re involved in hiring, training, buying. They’re constantly thinking through the sales process and how it can be optimized, asking questions like: 

  • Are we taking the right actions? 

  • Do we have the right objectives? 

  • Are we tracking the right type of conversation or types of opportunities that we're creating?

And then continually adjusting and evolving based on that feedback cycle, which plays out in collateral, messaging, technology and more.

According to Brian, the rise of sales enablement is good news for both sellers and customers. “In an ideal world, it’s going to help the customer, too. It’s going to create a better, higher quality buying experience for them, and you’re going to end up with an enhanced sales cycle.”

Want more? Watch the full webinar below!

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