When it comes to the future of sales in 2015, you might be surprised to see where big businesses are investing their cash. According to a sneak peek from the CSO Insights newest 2015 study, many organizations are pulling funding out of CRM programs and putting it all into developing better training and lead generation processes.
2015: A Decline in CRM?
The annual Sales Performance Optimization Study (SPO) has been keeping a thumb on the pulse of the sales industry for over 20 years. And, in all that time, 2015 will be the first year that businesses have noticeably decreased their investment and use of a CRM. Sales leader Ken Krogue suggests that this shows a weakening of the entire set of processes that businesses are using to develop leads:
“CRM engagement is a leading indicator of the assembly line upon which almost every other sales process and sales application run. We are missing the blocking and tackling that makes up successful sales.”
But, even though usage of lead and sales process management software has decreased significantly between 2012 and 2014, there is still a place for it – as long as smart sales managers are willing to use it effectively. CSO Insight head researcher Barry Trailer explained that the disturbing decrease of CRM usage could actually become a competitive advantage. Those who tighten up their CRM processes instead of running with the common theme of CRM apathy can limit their investment in lead generation simply by using what they already have.
A Potential Economic Downturn in the Sales World
Another strange phenomena that came to light in the survey was the relative downturn of both sales rep quota attainment and company sales attainment. Although these numbers are not nearly as low as those from the 2008-2009 recession aftershock, 2013-2014 showed a clear decline from years before. The percentage of companies with a less-than-50% conversion rate increased from 43.3% to 49.8%. This is a significant increase that points to a larger, and more sinister, trend. (“2014 Sales Performance Optimization Study – Find More Analysis,” Velocify)
What’s the reason for this inability to meet sales goals at both the rep and organization levels? Barry Trailer says that the relative success following the recession may have led to a sense of complacency that has damaged the results of the sales industry as a whole.
“There is a certain level of complacency that has set in. Things have gotten better, and as a result of that we think people have relaxed a bit from 2008-2009. Everybody was focused and measuring. We think people are back on their heels a little bit right now.”
Sales Training: Longer, Stronger, and More Social
And yet, there are areas where businesses are aggressively attempting to turn the tide of this sales complacency. According to the new CSO Insights Report, 52% are adding personnel to Inside Sales departments, and 85% of those are investing significantly in order to make sure their new hires are trained to meet the current market demands.
Although leads and revenue generation are clearly at the motivational center for this shift, there is also another reason why there is such a widespread investment in training new hires. Prospects have instant access to a wealth of information on products. By the time they are ready to buy, they don’t want to know about your product, they want to know that you understand their business. This means that sales reps need much more information about potential clients and their product benefits before ever making their first sales call.
“We’ve seen full rep ramp-up time nearly triple in the last 7-8 years. People don’t just want to hear about products. They want to know what you know about their business. That used to come a few years into a sales rep training, not on day one.”
(Ken Krogue, “2015 Trends Report: Sales Process, Strategy, and Social Media Trends.” YouTube)
The Dawn of the Social and Technological Age
Finally, social media has finally come into its own as a sales tool, according to the CSO Insights report, as both a customer service and lead-generating tool. Many top-tier companies are now providing in-house training on using social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for B2B marketing purposes. In addition, these organizations are teaching reps how to “scrape” social media outlets for lead generating data that can result in a more qualified pool of prospects.
But, social media is not the only area where lead generation has moved into the future. Businesses are incorporating both video and text messaging in their 2014-2015 sales efforts. A full 20% of sales reps now actively text message clients and prospects to share new services and incentives, with an additional 35% actively creating video marketing to bring in new clients.
Of this new shift towards social and technological selling, Trailor said, “The shift in investment is huge. Also there is a huge investment in mobile CRM and social. It’s all very much happening.”
What do you think?
While training and lead generation are at the top of many sales organizations’ priority lists, it is imperative to tighten the CRM belt in order to start making sales goals. Those who create focused, lean sales processes that integrate social media, new technology, adequate training, and CRM usage will have a better chance of surviving economic sway in the future.
If you’re interested in reading the 2015 study (it costs money), you can find out more at the CSO Insights website.