You don’t need to read a blog post to know that technology is changing the world — you’re living the experience. Whether you’ve been in the workforces for two years or two decades, you’ve likely felt the impact.
And while we can’t necessarily predict what technology will rise to the top of its industry 10 years from now (otherwise we’d all be billionaires) we can use current trends to make an educated predicted about what technology will dominate the new year.
Here are a few ways we can expect technology to change the sales industry in 2018.
1. Sales software will get increasingly specialized
From the beginning of 2017 to the fall, Sales Hacker’s annual compilation of newly released sales tech nearly doubled from 460 tools to more than 700. In 2018, even more new products will be released.
This dramatic jump in available products is thanks in part to increased adoption of SaaS, which allows founders to build and rollout new tools without putting a product on a shelf. As technology becomes less novel for sales teams (the adoption of CRM software, for example, is as high as 90 percent), demand for technology that is specialized for a particular industry or that solves an increasingly honed-in pain point will grow and software creators will answer the call.
2. Sales leaders will get smarter about tech stacks
The explosion of sales tech can lead to haphazard adoption in which sales teams end up with many overlapping, unintegrated tools. The result is more of a tech pile than a stack, and can actually decrease productivity.
In 2018, sales leaders will need to get smarter about the technology they adopt. It will be crucial for every leader to carefully examine their funnel to identify the biggest areas of opportunity for improvement, then research, compare, and test solutions tailored to that pain point. Frontline sales reps will need to be more heavily involved in the process of vetting tools — adoption increases with early buy-in. And every tech tool will need to be examined for its ease-of-integration with the rest of the stack.
The rise of millennials, who have come up through the ranks exposed to plenty of sales technology, into senior management positions, will also help teams think smarter about their tech stack.
3. AI won’t replace us, but it will enhance us.
By the end of 2018, will all sales reps be replaced by bots? Put away your resume, the answer is no.
Today’s consumers actually want their interactions with brands to be more human, not more automated. However, artificial intelligence (AI) does have a role to play. In 2018, it won’t replace sales professionals, but it will make us better, smarter, and faster at our jobs.
Conversation intelligence is a prime example and expected to catch hold with more forward-thinking sales teams next year. This tool records every call reps have with prospects and transforms it into data, so that the tactics your best reps employ can be used to train the rest of your team.
4. More than your email will show up in a lead’s inbox
Email remains one of the best ways to reach leads — more than half of consumers report it as their favorite way to interact with brands. Why then, did the average marketing email send rate for individual brands decrease from 9.8 monthly emails in 2016 to 8.1 monthly emails in 2017?
The answer is email fatigue. Successful marketing and sales teams are beginning to realize that, despite the strength of the email channel, consumers do have a threshold. With billions of emails being sent every day, the key isn’t to add more email to the mix, it’s to get smarter about what you send.
It can be difficult to stand out in your leads’ cramped inboxes, particularly when email templates make the rounds and reps from different companies all start to sound the same. One interesting way technology can help cut through the clutter is with video. More tools are arriving on the market that make it simple for reps to create personalized videos and attach them to their emails, no production skills required. In 2018, you’re likely to start seeing more talking heads popping up in your inbox.
5. eLearning will empower SDRs
The traditional role of the SDR has been as a pipeline filler, with a focus on quantity over quality of conversation. This high-volume approach can be exhausting, and is one of the factors impacting the high and costly turnover rate among SDRs — their average lifecycle is barely over a year.
It’s not sustainable, particularly as consumers become more educated, spend time researching on their own, and come to discovery calls to ask questions (not to listen to scripts).
In 2018, we’ll need to get smarter about how we prepare SDRs for these conversations. Their onboarding and ongoing development will be critical. eLearning will play a huge role in our ability to scale training to their needs. Some of the eLearning trends to look out for include machine-learning backed tools such as conversation intelligence, on-demand libraries in learning management systems, and in-the-moment knowledge recall that allows SDRs to educate themselves during conversations.
High-performing sales teams use three-times more technology than underperforming teams. In 2018, technology will continue to help us evolve to be more efficient, effective, and satisfied in our sales roles, all while improving the most important thing — customer experience.