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2 December-2019

Emerging Trends in Sales that Will Continue Next Year

Sales has been around since peddlers first pushed carts from town to town – and probably long before. Of course, the way we go about selling has changed a good bit, or it’s at least become appropriately modernized. As 2019 comes to a close, let’s take a look at a pair of key sales trends we’ve seen impacting the Triangle area of North Carolina and beyond. Here are a couple of standout evolutions in sales that we expect will gather even more momentum in 2020.

Trend No. 1: Outsourcing Sales

Traditionally, companies have hired internal sales staff to get out there and peddle goods and services. Whether the sales jobs are field-based or inside and 100% virtual (or some hybrid of the two), building and running company-led sales teams is the standard. But that is shifting.

A growing number of companies are now embracing some degree of third-party sales outsourcing. Maybe it’s just an offshore appointment-setting service paid by the booking. Perhaps it’s an inside sales team operated by a domestic vendor. Some of these services only handle prospecting work; others go so far as to close deals for clients. Or maybe it’s an entire outside salesforce that’s 100% contractor-led.

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Why are things headed this way? Well, there can be tangible value in outsourcing the role of a salesperson. Perhaps a young company is creating its sales department from scratch, and the investment in salaries and benefits and additional office space is not as easy to budget for as a month-to-month vendor expense. We’re also seeing companies embrace partial or full sales team outsourcing when launching a new product/service, or when dropping a satellite sales office in a new city. Rather than hire a sales team before product-market and/or geographical fit is fully-established, it can be safer to outsource the initial sales launch to a third-party crew. If things don’t go as well as projected, now the company is not in the uncomfortable position of having to lay people off. Overall, outsourcing sales can be a creative and flexible way to de-risk the event of ramping that first revenue-producing team.

Trend No. 2: Sales Working with Marketing

Sales and marketing teams can sometimes have a contentious relationship inside companies. Sales might say, “Without us, no deals get closed, and no revenue comes in the door.” Conversely, Marketing’s take might be, “Without our demand generation work and lead qualification, you’d have no sales opportunities to close.” We’ve encountered multiple, unpleasant versions of this “chicken vs. egg” argument over the years, and there is no clean resolution when teams have dug in on opposite sides of the fence.

Thankfully, regardless of where you fit on the “Sales<=>Marketing” spectrum, we are seeing more of our clients encourage and engender open communication and collaboration between sales and marketing. During 2019, we had more sales leaders than ever reach out to connect/refer us to their internal marketing peers for help with hiring. Additionally, we had an increasing number of marketing leaders tell us that part of the position responsibilities for new team members would be participating in weekly sales stand-ups. With one of our customers, a sales leader actually contacted us this year about hiring a marketer for his team to help with sales enablement. He could see that without marketing’s creative, content, and events skill sets, his reps would not be able to hit their quarterly targets. Sales + Marketing = Revenue.

In the end, you can’t have one team without the other. Sales needs marketing, and marketing needs sales. The most successful revenue leaders understand this dynamic and build stronger revenue-generating organizations as a result. An encouraging trend, indeed.

Bonus: Not a Trend!

We’ve read a few articles recently about a trend favoring sales compensation plans heavily leveraged toward salary, or some that are 100% salary with annual team/company bonus incentives. Why would companies make this shift? Well, the logic seems to be either that salespeople are drawn to higher salaries and will be recruited away more successfully with a more significant base. Or, the thought has been that sales is closing a higher percentage of weak deals and manufacturing unnecessary customer churn to increase commissionable payouts for themselves.

The good news here? This is not a trend. So rest easy, revenue generators that love crushing quota and hitting comp accelerators. On the whole, top salespeople will do the right thing, will close the best overall deals, and will be motivated to win by compensation plans structured as base+commission. 50/50 splits are the most common structure, but regardless of the breakdown, talk of a trend away from commissions is more of a clickbait fad.

What trends do you see in sales heading into 2020? If you want to share some thoughts or if you’re looking for a new position or a key, revenue-related hire, contact us ASAP.