In 2020, we saw a paradigm shift in several industries and how quickly the sales team had to acclimatize to evolving sales trends. There is a growing awareness about the need to invest in new sales technologies such as CRM apps and AI. Yet a survey by Datawell found that only 1 in 5 sales teams have the right tools.
The message is quite simple: Efficiency may be of prime importance for survival. But when people are demanding more from businesses, selling and managing a sales pipeline will be about establishing authentic human connections.
Let’s deep dive into the top trends that are likely to affect businesses and the way they empower their sales teams in 2021.
1. Tailoring sales incentive strategy with the changing environment
Buyer journeys today are longer, omnichannel, and require regular updates and multiple meetings with the customer before purchase. The adoption of e-commerce, and utilization of inbound sales and marketing strategies further complicates sales. Hence, many companies cannot rely solely on traditional sales attribution models anymore. More and more businesses are implementing incentive programs throughout their organizations, especially for their sales reps, in order to boost sales productivity across different selling channels.
In fact, we are also seeing new actionable attribution models across such companies –
- Companies are adding new and specialized sales roles
- Companies are adopting novel methods of team-based selling
- Companies are also investing heavily in new digital channels
Based on this classification and borrowed from research by McKinsey, we have summarized and augmented a few innovative sales incentive schemes:
|Role-specific incentives||Only one sales incentive scheme across the whole sales team||Inbuilt incentive templates and consulting for incentivizing different behaviors in sales consultants, account executives, account managers, sales representatives, sales managers, regional sales managers|
|Split incentives||100% credit for only one sales rep||Offer team-based incentivization in terms of - |
- Goal-based incentives
- Merit-based incentives
- Monetary or non-monetary incentives
To encourage group goal-setting, collaboration, and teamwork
|Pipeline incentives||KPIs, targets, and payouts referring to deal closure only||Behavioral incentivizing - Instead of incentivizing closing of deals, reward the stages of the opportunity pipeline, number of demos given, number of quotes provided, the number of discovery meetings|
|Omnichannel incentives||Only direct sales incentivized||Incentivize the sales team for engaging with customers and selling on several channels such as chatter and social media. Integrate with revenue intelligence platforms such as Gong to replicate sales rep success|
|Advanced analytics-based target setting incentives||Basic business intelligence used for target setting||Using data warehouses, data lake, and data mining technology to hyper-personalize buying journeys and sales processes|
|Globalization||Team-wise allocation of incentives||Sales incentives now have to find ways to bring global sales teams together that are now distributed and working remotely from different parts of the world. The complexity of designing and delivering such incentive programs needs to be considered|
The complexity of new sales incentive strategies makes managing them manually nearly impossible. Therefore, companies will need to adopt specialized AI-powered tools and incentive solutions to meet these contemporary requirements.
2. Sales meets conversation intelligence
Conversation AI is a new frontier in sales automation and incentivization. A robust conversational intelligence foundation can provide an organization with relevant data, reporting, analysis, and insights that can be derived from and aligned across businesses to drive decisions and investments. The process is simple, nimble, and brilliant.
- Every sales call from every member of the sales team is recorded. A conversation AI tool “reads” or parses through conversations, transcribes and analyzes the outcome of the call to distill “hot buttons” or key themes, questions, and emphasis points
- The results are used to generate insights for the entire sales team
- Sales leaders can use these insights to identify key conversations, topics, and even cadence – these elements can be most effective at closing deals
These analyses can uncover trends such as “how does your product compare with that of competitors?” Targeted incentivization becomes easy and laser focus on what you want your sales folks to do. You can use it to set sales targets, maximize channel capacity, encourage deal pursuit, measure win/loss, and forecasts/actuals.
Organizations can provide a personalized and individualized experience that builds relationships with customers. Each interaction can feel like a 1:1 conversation that is context-aware and informed by past interactions.
3. Hyper-personalization of the overall buying journey
Traditionally, many sales deals have been organized around the sale of individual products, not customer needs. Hyper-personalization takes the opposite approach: rethinking almost every element of the business – from sales incentives, product marketing, and underwriting processes to sales goals – from the customer perspective.
Companies now get a copious amount of first-party customer data through their CRMs, websites, social media interactions, direct mails, and surveys. This data can help their sales teams design individual journeys for their customers and also reduce their dependence on sales reps as individuals with diverse targets because now everybody starts out with the same set of data and there is precisely one way to encourage sales reps to amplify their sales pursuits since all of them have the same level playing field and it is the discretionary effort that counts count towards helping them achieve their sales targets.
4. Social selling will build ubiquitous relationships
Sales strategies like social selling are helping reps gain access to buyers at critical moments in the buying lifecycle. Social selling is the practice of using a brand’s social media channels to connect with prospects, develop connections with them and engage with potential leads. Think of social selling as a tactic for relationship building. Social selling creates opportunities to connect with prospects on social media, where they are already actively engaged in conversations. Using social media sales tools allows sales reps to go a step further and identify leads who are looking for similar products or talking about their competitors or industry. That means they can reach out to a pool of prospects who are already interested in your offering by authentically connecting with them.
5. Teams will need better deal coaching
Embracing artificial intelligence for sales is great but still can’t replace human expertise. Human interactions bring prospects one step further in the sales journey and these interactions can be nurtured through industry experts and veteran sales leaders. Incentivizing sales managers to provide the appropriate coaching to the team members can be done through hyper-personalization which can be done through segmentation. Sales managers need to segment their sales reps based on their behavior and deliver individualized training.
Deal coaching can be hyper-personalized based on three criteria:
- Based on observable traits – Providing training resources based on demographics
- Based on criteria and behaviors – This is the most effective kind. Segmented based on criteria such as high performers, critical skills, or sales behavior
- Based on the needs of the sales reps – Managers need to understand their needs, and actively help towards meeting them. This is the highest level of hyper-personalization that maximizes training outcomes
Ultimately, the key to better incentivization for sales teams in 2021 is the evolution of the sales cycle with new journeys that include multiple channels to connect better with customers. Companies will need to rely on conversation AI tools to help them understand customer demands, and hyper-personalize not only buying journeys but also the training needs of all the sales reps. Companies need to position themselves so they can take advantage of these trends. Moreover, they will need to have a robust incentive management system to stay on top of the complexity that the widespread globalization of sales reps brings with it. However, taking advantage of these trends will not be an easy task – companies must tailor their B2E incentive programs to suit their business needs and their sales reps’ motivation to sell their products.