Thanks to the proliferation of digital content and social media, today’s b2b buyers are relying on an extensive research process to determine where to invest their time, energy, and resources.

Rather than jumping on the first visible option, buyers are casting their nets wide—digging deep into the challenges that they’re tackling and reaching out to multiple salespeople, vendors, consultants, and fellow industry leaders. In addition to learning about your product, they’re developing an understanding of your values, success stories, and unique positioning.

Monitor these trends to navigate this landscape and craft your best possible sales strategy.

Trend #1: Phone is inefficient

Takeaway: Replace voicemails and calls with case studies, planning docs, and tips sheets

RingLead points out that sales reps spend approximately 15% of their time leaving voicemails, and according to InsideSales, only 4.8% of sales are ever returned.

It’s not that prospects are ignoring you—it’s that they’re self-directing their own sales processes and don’t have time to hop on calls, in passing. Today’s buyers are planning before they make the decision to talk to your sales team.

Instead of leaving calls, you can improve the sales process by sharing content that can help their decision-making: case studies, tips sheets, use case descriptions, and even competitive analyses. You can best support them by streamlining their decision cycles.

Trend #2: Sales, as a job function, will disappear

Takeaway: Stop selling and start being helpful instead

Forrester projects that nearly one million sales reps—22% of the 4.5 million selling agents in the United States—will lose their jobs to e-commerce by 2020. The reason? Online ordering is displacing many sales reps at manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors—it’s often easier to swipe a credit card or put in bulk orders instead of dealing with other human beings.

Don’t let this trend discourage you.

As prospects self-direct their own buying journeys, sales leaders will begin to take on new roles as guides, educators, and research facilitators. Instead of processing orders, you’ll spend your time sharing resources, getting to know your buyers, and guiding them towards the right decision.

Sometimes, you’ll land a deal. In other cases, you’ll kickstart a new relationship. Both outcomes bring value to your business and brand.  When you’re not closing deals, you’re learning about your market—and reinvesting this knowledge into your future sales strategy, existing customer support operations, and new product development initiatives.

Trend #3: Social media presents a clear window of opportunity

Takeaway: Make yourselves available as consultants and educators through channels like LinkedIn and Twitter

HubSpot points out that 98% of sales reps with more than 5,000 LinkedIn connections meet or surpass their quotas. At the same time, research from the Sales Management Association points out that two-thirds of companies do not have a clear social media strategy.

As crowded as social media might seem, there is a strong opportunity for B2B sales reps to develop a presence, create content, and start building relationships. At the end of the day, social media is a mechanism for building relationships at scale.

Rather than broadcasting a generic message, you should feel comfortable sharing your expertise and shedding insight into the customer pain points that you tackle each day. Make yourself available and visible by writing compelling content, answering discussion thread questions, and responding to questions that prospects might be asking.

Final thoughts

Technology has placed new constraints on sales teams to become subject matter experts, become transparent, be helpful, and demonstrate more empathy. Rather than crafting the ‘perfect’ sales presentation or pitch, focus on asking good questions and listening your way to an authentic connection.

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