And that’s another year nearly gone—time sure does fly! Just like its predecessor, 2021 probably hasn’t been what we were hoping it would be. Nonetheless, even these trying times won’t stop our annual tradition of predicting the most important sales trends of the upcoming year.
As you well know, many things have changed over the course of the year, but one thing remains the same—sales activity hasn't stopped. As has been the case for a while, creativity and resourcefulness are becoming increasingly important for sales and marketing teams to excel.
A renewed focus on the role of the salespeople and the tools and technologies that can help them do what they do best. That's the premise in which we're predicting next year's sales trends—and here they are:
B2B Sales Trends 2022
1. Product-led Growth
If you work in the software industry, especially SaaS, the term product-led growth is probably something you’ve heard a few times already. As you know, companies can have different sales and growth strategies. Some rely on sales-led growth, and others on marketing-led growth. The trendy new term is product-led growth.
It’s a business methodology in which new business sales, expansion sales, and retention are all driven primarily by the product itself. PLG companies often build a freemium or free trial revenue model that allows potential customers to try out the product before talking to sales. However, it’s good to keep in mind that PLG companies still need talented salespeople to succeed, the only thing that changes is that product-led customers enter the buying process at a later stage than their sales-led and marketing-led counterparts.
This trend will most likely also lead to some frustration among salespeople. Executives from sales and marketing-led companies might get excited about the concept and start transforming their companies into PLG mode. But it’s easier said than done, and it takes time. There will be divisions of salespeople who miss their quotas because the expected free trials simply did not land in their hands, at least not in the volumes expected.
2. SDR and AE tasks in CRM go autopilot
Once you have your ideal customer profile defined and you have an understanding of when a prospect is most likely to be interested in hearing about your solutions, there’s really nothing stopping you from automating large parts of the prospecting process.
In 2022, we’ll have more and more sales development representatives, account executives, and customer success reps that simply open up their CRMs in the morning and see a list of daily tasks that are accurate and automatically curated.
Here at Vainu, we call these workflow triggers. When SDR has defined that they are targeting FinTech and EdTech companies that are located in Northern Europe, have more than 100 employees, and invest in, for example, SEO and SEM, the new companies that meet the criteria can automatically be added to their CRM and the appropriate tasks can be assigned to the right SDR. Or, when an existing customer in CS rep’s portfolio announces a leadership change, the same thing can happen and an information-rich task automatically appears on the rep’s to-do list.
3. Firmographics 2.0
The most used prospecting and ICP criteria are without a doubt firmographic data points—company size, location, and industry. These criteria define how millions of salespeople worldwide make decisions of who to target and who not to target.
For decades, we have relied on quite static and narrow data sets when talking about firmographics. Most companies use either revenue or employee count as a size indicator, the main address as location indicator, and standard industry codes (SIC, NAICS, etc) as industry information.
Finally, technological advancements can also be seen in this space. Outdated and approximately 10-15 years old industry codes can be dropped when machine learning models can profile companies with much higher accuracy. Instead of targeting “Information Technology” companies, sales can now pick and choose between categories such as 3D technology, network security, data visualization, and greentech. They are all very different segments and should not be labeled the same way.
The same applies to location and company size indicators. Location is not only about one location but target groups can be created based on HQ location and sub-locations. Maybe a good target is a business that has HQ in North America and also some regional offices in at least two other continents. And instead of just looking at pure revenue and employee numbers, maybe a growth momentum is the one that is a better selection criterion. How much is web traffic growing and how are search and hiring volumes behaving. Sales and marketing people will get more accurate, that’s what we call firmographics 2.0 in targeting.
4. Digital Sales Room
We believe that transactional sales will become increasingly automated. Salespeople will allocate more of their time into larger opportunities where consultative approach, discovery meetings, and tailored proposals play a bigger role. More people will get involved, both from the buyers and sellers’ side.
With these larger sales processes, customer-facing digital portals, and microsites will gain more traction. Parties can share relevant materials, chat with each other, and craft custom proposals with prospective buyers. The goal is to strengthen the relationship already before the contract is signed by removing any buyer friction. These portals also allow sellers to track content that clients view and interact with, which can be highly useful when analyzing which content creates the highest impact.
The software vendors that enable these portals and microsites come with different backgrounds. After G2 released the digital sales room as a newly formed category, we have seen many sales enablement platforms and some e-Signature and document management providers rebranding themselves as DSR vendors. Nevertheless, salespeople will most likely find it useful when creating unique buying experiences for customers gets easier.
5. Social Proof to fix the crisis of digital trust
Trust in newspapers, politicians, social media, and corporations has hit an all-time low in many parts of the world. At the same time, most industries are seeing more competition than ever before, and standing out from the crowd is challenging to say the least.
For salespeople who approach new companies day in and day out, this can be a challenging objection to overcome. Especially these days when more and more salespeople are conducting their processes remotely without a chance to meet and greet and get to know each other face-to-face.
Using influencers and review sites is nothing new but we believe that social proof will find its way into more and more sales playbooks in 2022. It comes down to the right timing and right context. Seeing a row of global logos when you enter the website is not enough to make someone trust you as a vendor. You need more authentic ways to demonstrate credibility. It could be a tailored video testimonial that is waiting for you in the digital sales room next to the proposal or a proactive LinkedIn message from your network that hits your inbox the moment you’re actually considering buying something new.
When differentiating based on product/service features gets more difficult, the companies focusing on improving the buyer experience and building credibility in the eyes of the consumer will get most of the deals.
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6. Hybrid salespeople
According to a recent McKinsey study, the pandemic has cemented omnichannel interactions as the predominant path for B2B sales. Given the choice of in-person, remote, and e-commerce channels, purchasers have shown they want them all. And as purchasing goes omnichannel, sales models will go hybrid.
A hybrid salesperson is a representative who interacts with customers via phone, email, online chat, video, apps, and occasional in-person visits. This will most likely create some channel conflicts and a high need for reinventing the onboarding process for new salespeople.
Already last year, we predicted that revenue attribution will be a hot topic to keep an eye on. Moving from multi-channel to omnichannel environments, attribution comes even more crucial for SalesOps and RevenueOps people. But it may also lead to some channel conflicts where two reps are approaching and engaging with the same customer at the same time, which may disrupt the buyer experience. Sales leaders, most of whom started their own sales careers with more linear sales methodology, need to go back to school and upgrade their skills in all these new tools and apps. Proposals can be interactive and trackable and the first initial outreach doesn’t have to be a well-drafted email or a solid cold-call script but something completely different, maybe a tailored video message shared directly to recipients' social media inboxes.
B2B Sales Trends Bonus Round
Since 6 trends aren't enough, we'll do a quick bonus round. These are 6 trends that we’ve predicted over the past 6 years and believe will gain additional traction in 2022.
- 2016 prediction: Microtargeting. This plays nicely in tandem with firmographic 2.0, right?
- 2017 prediction: Value-based and usage-based pricing. This is what buyers expect from PLG companies, right?
- 2018 prediction: Video in sales and marketing. A good example of omnichannel reality.
- 2019 prediction: Automated sales prospecting. It took three years for us to put CRM tasks on autopilot.
- 2020 prediction: Creative outreach tactics. Who would have guessed that pandemic forced all of us to find alternatives to traditional office landlines.
- 2021 prediction: Customer data platforms. At the end of the day, the business that has the best and most accurate data and knows how to use it will build the smoothest and most elegant sales and marketing machines
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