What Does 2018 Have in Store for Sales?

By Mark Magnacca

The past few years have taught us the future is unsure and evolving pressures can create an unpredictable market. However, emerging trends and technologies can help sales teams prepare for these unexpected changes and help them craft adaptable strategies to effectively and quickly respond to whatever is thrown their way.  

As we settle into 2018, here are the top four trends that will affect sales performance in the year ahead.

Trend #1: Selling as a team sport will replace “lone wolf” activity.

Sales reps have long been known for their go-it-alone personality type. Competitive by nature, sales reps thrive on setting their quota – and surpassing it.

In 2018, however, sales organizations will begin a cultural shift from this “lone wolf” mentality toward seeing selling as a collaborative endeavor. This change will be driven largely by new technologies, which are enabling more peer-to-peer collaboration and resource sharing – even for remote teams. Additionally, a natural next step will be the strategic shift in monetary reward structures, where sales organizations will begin to base compensation not only on individual performance, but also on an individual’s contributions to the advancement of team goals.

For the company as a whole, the business does well when the team performs well. By implementing a more strategic rewards system, compensation structures will not only drive improved performance for individuals, but will also promote peer collaboration, knowledge and information sharing, and more friendly competition to reach shared goals.

Trend #2: Process automation and AI will continue to change the role of the sales rep.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was all the rage in 2017, but, in many cases, with little actual ROI. In the coming year, automation, predictive analytics, and AI will continue to mature – bringing with them notable changes to sales reps’ roles.

For example, AI will allow certain repetitive tasks to be off-loaded to automated tools, freeing up reps so they can spend more time delivering value to prospects and customers. Savvy sales teams will learn how to leverage the power of AI and predictive analytics to provide the most relevant and timely content to their sales reps – content that is not only tailored to the prospect’s specific industry and position in the sales funnel, but that, eventually, is specific to the rep’s individual learning style and knowledge gaps as well.

Taking this one step further, Aragon Research CEO and lead analyst Jim Lundy predicts chatbots will become quite prevalent by 2021, and anticipates that internal teams will begin building their own custom chatbots to quickly serve up and deliver customized info to prospects.

Trend #3: Microlearning will become mainstream.

No one really wants to devour lengthy PowerPoint® decks or dense training materials. In 2018, traditional learning methods such as these will continue to fade, being replaced by microlearning – allowing reps to more easily consume new information while on the go.

Bite-sized pieces of information, delivered through a dedicated sales training platform, will be used to extend and expand upon the skills and knowledge taught during onboarding and sales kickoffs – allowing reps to brush up on information on a daily basis. Microlearning enables sales pros to fit learning into their busy schedules when – and where – it works best for them, and has been proven to be a more effective way for reps to learn and retain information.

When delivered in a quiz-based format (like mobile flash cards) microlearning can also provide sales managers with insight into reps’ knowledge gaps and overall understanding of key topics – helping them further refine their sales training techniques.

Trend #4: Sales learning will become distinct from corporate training.

One of the most profound changes we expect to see in the coming year – and a trend that has long been growing – is the division between sales training and general corporate training.

Sales organizations are realizing that a Learning Management System (LMS) can’t meet their unique needs and are seeking out their own learning solutions – and using their own budget to pay for them. The fact is that corporate-focused LMSs simply can’t deliver the type of training sales teams require, such as just-in-time knowledge delivery, peer-generated video insights, and practice and coaching opportunities. 2018 will be the year of the sales training platform, where more and more teams adopt modern training tools as a way to share peer-generated content, video-based mentoring and training, and on-the-go access to deal-specific messaging and materials.

Simply put, sales teams are recognizing the benefit of tailored solutions and the value and ROI they bring to the company’s bottom line.  

Mark Magnacca is the president and co-founder of Allego. Prior to joining founding Allego, Mark spent 15 years helping sales leaders to develop strategies to shorten sales cycles and distribute their best ideas faster. He has also worked as a presentation coach with a wide range of financial service companies by delivering innovative, practice-development and business-building strategies.