The thing is: we honestly do not know for sure. Go back to 2000. Google was only four years old. Salesforce had only been founded the year before (February 1999). Hubspot was five years away and the iPhone was about seven years away. The first open-source CRM wouldn’t be developed until 2004.
In short: a lot has changed in the last 19-20 years, and the pace of technology has largely kept up. So to predict what the sales ecosystem in 2040 might look like? There’s no way. But we can still try a little bit.
AI AI AI AI AI AI
Right now we are talking a lot about AI, and while AI will probably make sales more efficient in terms of targeting, it’s also not likely to strip the human element from it. People are fine buying bags of dog food via Amazon suggestion, but a high-ticket item? No. They will still want to talk to a human being and build a relationship around what the product does. So, broadly, that side probably won’t change that much, even with all the new shiny tech we’ll likely get before 2040.
If anything, we’ll probably better tech for targeting and more streamlining of our sales processes.
Alive time is a measure of sales velocity. As Adobe explains:
“You calculate that by taking the number of deals in your pipeline multiplied by the value of deals and the win rate, divided by the number of days it takes to close new business. More alive time means greater velocity.”
Simple math, then: five deals in the pipeline at $100,000 each = $500,000. If it takes 10 days to close new business, your “alive time” score would be 50,000. If it took five days, your score would be 100,000 — so it’s simply a measure of effectiveness at closing.
Tech is often called a “force multiplier” and you see it big-time with “alive time” calculations. Think of the introduction of the pager/beeper, for example. Now a salesperson doesn’t have to return to the office to find out who’s been messaging him; he gets it right on his waistline. That theoretically boosted “alive time” for many sales guys back in the 1980s.
Well, now we have all this tech, but the actual truth is … not all of it works the exact way we were promised it would work. (Sorry if that hurt anyone’s feelings.) We will get piped leads that are cold, work somewhere else, can’t write checks, etc… and if we use tech for targeting, the tech is telling us this guy is Mr. Spends A Lot and wants our product so badly.
The promise of targeting and matching technology for sales principals hasn’t aligned totally with reality, and that’s probably what we’ll see the most in the next few decades: better applications and use of the stuff we already have.
Will the “sales manager” become obsolete?
That argument has been made a few times. The idea is that there will still be bosses and a reporting structure for sales, but it will be less about managing metrics — the technology can do that and create reports when an intern presses a button, for example — and more about coaching to effectiveness. So the conventional “sales manager” will really become a “sales coach.” If sales managers remain who scream at their principals about quota, etc… those guys will probably go the way of the dodo bird. All the metrics you can pretty much pull up on your phone, so the bosses need to be teaching and guiding about relationship to marketing, intro calls, prospect development, assets throughout the pipeline, product splintering, and more.
The whole ecosystem
This is from a Gartner report:
Far right means the technology is more adopted.
As such, it appears that less sexy, more nuts-and-bolts tech are under adopted. eSignature, CPQ, and Dialing Automation are three examples. These tools are massive productivity boosts for most reps. They may not make the company millions, but try to take them away and you’ll have a mutiny on your hands.
Do not confuse technology with strategy. Technology helps you execute a strategy, but they are not the same thing. And in 2040, that will also be true, no matter how much fancy new stuff we have.
How we help
We can help you figure out the interplay of tech and strategy as you drive B2B leads. And don’t worry, we don’t navel-gaze about these topics, although it can be fun to discuss now and again because, damn, the world is changing pretty fast and no one can tell what works best for your offer/market.