We do this every year: try to predict what will happen in an industry/space next year. 2019 is specifically a big one because 2020 ushers in a new decade, so if we want to get crazy, we can talk about what’s going to happen in a full decade, even though no one has any idea. For context: at this point in 2009, we had no clue about stuff like Trump, Brexit, Arab Spring, or even how many iPhone iterations there would be. The Avengers? Ha. It’s hard to predict. Most people are not good at it. Most people get it all very wrong. But there are still a few things we can point you towards.
Maybe 2020 will be a year where sales is more human, not more tech-y
This comes from a few 2020 data points in this CRM Buyer article, including:
- By 2020, 30 percent of all B2B companies will employ artificial intelligence to augment at least one of their primary sales processes, according to Gartner. (That means 70 percent will not.)
- The average annual spend on sales technology was US$4,581 per rep per year and spans an average of 5.2 categories of sales tools per rep, according to InsideSales. The top categories of sales tools include CRM, social prospecting, presentations, pipeline management and data/list services.
- More than 45 percent of the 430 B2B technology buyers TrustRadius surveyed for its B2B Buying Disconnect research study were millennials — the most of any age group looking into B2B products and services.
- “Vendors who were very influential during the purchasing process were twice as likely to be open about product limitations and connect buyers with current customers,” the TrustRadius report found.
These bullet points speak to less tech than we always predict — although 5.2 tools/rep is high — and more human interaction. Go back two generations and think of a vendor selling by discussing product limitations. It wouldn’t happen; they’d be fired. But the world is uber-connected now, and (some) people value transparency in their buying cycles. It underpins relationships. More AI isn’t going to get us to that.
The next “data decade”
We are headed towards that, and SaaS will underpin a lot of it. The problem is that decision-makers in organizations, psychologically, often want to “trust their gut” as opposed to giving what they perceive as big business decisions over to AI, algorithms, and software. The “trust your gut” vs. “use data” debate has been going on for a decade, if not longer, and while we are spending a lot on software, software isn’t winning yet. In sales, the current crop of sales leaders — even some of the millennials — believe in data and use it, but to a point. They also want to build relationships, build their brand, and be seen as relevant. Tech and data solutions can encroach on that. You need to understand this dynamic to understand what’s going to happen with data in any meaningful way.
SDRs and BDRs and all those roles
We covered some of this recently. There will not be a drastic shift in SDR and BDR role/function in 2020, but across this decade, there will likely be a wholesale reinvention of what those roles do in support of sales teams and tech stacks. We’re not entirely sure what it will look like, but most organizations currently do not use SDRs in a strategic way. Something will need to give there.
Meanwhile in enterprise sales there’s no single channel that performs well. Sorry to say that but cold calling, cold emailing, LinkedIn messaging, digital marketing, they are all dead. Dead, if you only use one channel and dead, if used only in one direction – to sell one-on-one. We’re all so used to Sales KPIs and we like them. KPIs force us to reduce communication to a necessary minimum and to optimize and streamline the sales process (play book). Wrong! You don’t build good relationships by optimization. Not between two persons and therefore also not in business. Relax, give it all more time, communicate and talk not just for the sake to qualify and sell. Listen on all channels, talk on all channels, engage on all channels and don’t put short time KPIs on it. It will not work. Outsource it to experts if the pressure from CxO and shareholders don’t allow you to build relations.
And hey, we’re here for you (and it)
2020 will be nuts geopolitically, with Brexit repercussions, a possible global economic slowdown, and the U.S. having a Presidential election. There will be things to weather, for sure. It will impact both the SaaS vertical and sales broadly. But we’ll be here, keeping on and reinventing some aspects of how we work with people to better serve where the market is going. If you want help navigating all this as it happens (and before it does), reach out!