For the first time in almost two years, there is more optimism about what will come in the year ahead. The last two years have seen the sales landscape transform with more virtual and digital interactions. Will that continue? Will we revert back?
Based on what we’ve seen since 2020 and 2021 the digital transformation will start to normalize and many of the technologies we have been using will adapt to the hybrid models and focus on how we can communicate and meet in client and seller interactions faster.
We created a top-five list of the biggest trends we will see in B2B sales along with how you can leverage these trends starting today.
1. Social Selling
Social selling has strengthened over the last several years, with forced work from home being the major catalyst most sales professionals needed to embrace the opportunities that come with it. The last two years especially have seen individuals become “LinkedIn influencers” in unique ways. New industries are finding their voice in what can sometimes seem like a noisy environment, which is one of the main reasons we will see social selling continue to grow this year.
As more people find their groove with connecting, conversing, and posting, we will start to see smaller hubs of individuals congregate around micro-niche topics and under-represented industries. Influencers will begin to show up in areas surrounding industrial manufacturing, energy services, commercial construction, and agriculture, just to name a few. They will grow their following significantly in a short period of time because until this point no one was showing them the possibilities of using social selling to connect with a space that often felt this wasn’t a platform their customers were in.
As a new generation of workers enters their careers, they likely connected with the companies who hired them through platforms such as LinkedIn. They are familiar with social media and find it natural to start relationships here. These individuals will start in influencer buying roles and eventually migrate to decision-makers. Start the conversation with them as early as possible and those long-term relationships will naturally grow.
Do this today:
Connect with prospects, clients, and companies in these spaces. It’s not a matter of “if” they come on social media, but “when” and as they do. Their normally quiet feed will slowly be filled with your content and conversations.
Naturally, people will start to converse with you publicly and privately in your direct messages.
2. Slack Groups and Online Forums
When the standard networking and in-person meetings were unavailable, there left a gap on where to turn when we had questions or wanted to be part of the general conversation. Most of the time we learned an interesting piece of advice when someone else was asking the question. What came in its place is the interest in smaller online communities. There are now more people than ever contributing, or just “listening in” to plenty of online forums, communities, Reddit channels, and Slack groups.
2021 had many people adding themselves to these private groups from the contagious Reddit subreddit Wallstreet Bets which saw a staggering growth of 10 million new users from its initial 1.78 million at the beginning of January that same year. This group gained notoriety with the promotion of Gamestop shares (GME) and AMC. The excitement and conversation drew more people to these relatively smaller communities and found the initial investing conversations drew people in and other related investing topics kept people there.
It wasn’t just Reddit, one of the biggest acquisitions announcements at the end of 2020 was the purchase of Slack by Salesforce, which became official in July of 2021. This purchase positioned Salesforce strategically to take advantage of the work-from-home environments many companies were determined to navigate.
Public Slack communities have been popping up for years and can be amazing places to network online for those who enjoy a more intimate conversation. There are some large groups, such as Women in Tech Sales, to much more niche ones such as Logistics & Shipping, Aviation, and various ones surrounding music, psychology, and movies. You’re sure to find something that suits your favorite conversation topics from various curated lists, such as this one.
You don’t need to wait to find one dedicated to your ideal clients. Manufacturing companies can create their own and invite their clients and prospects to it, such as this great example. There’s no better way to have the undivided attention of the people you want to speak to than to provide them a forum to ask questions related to your industry and additional channels to discuss any other fun topics of interest.
Do this today:
Find two new Slack groups to join. People who are maximizing this opportunity will find themselves a part of 10 or more channels. Use your social networks to also ask people to send you the links to their favorite public slack groups. The best part of this approach is you already know someone there and can immediately tag and start a conversation. Consider creating your own public Slack channel for your clients and invite your prospects to join. Ensure you’re creating value and not using the channel to be self-promotional.
3. 20-minute meetings
With the rise of virtual meetings came the crash of meeting durations. Sitting in front of a computer all day, and let’s be honest, with the ease of being distracted by our phones, pets, and kids without detection, dramatically lowered our attention capacity. Being forced to sit in front of long meetings meant we found ourselves mentally checked out and multi-tasking to keep our eyes open and brains functioning. Thankfully this combination gave rise to shorter meetings, albeit on a more frequent basis.
Sales professionals who saw themselves exceed targets over the last two years noticed the correlation between more meetings, more clients, shorter meeting duration.
Virtual selling and the 20-minute meeting became the new standard, especially when inviting a new client to meet for the first time. 20-minutes felt acceptable and brief enough to be meaningful without hindering a large part of the day.
But with brevity comes discipline. Sales leaders are spending more time coaching on how to accomplish a lot without much time.
What is the exact stage of the sales process we are in?
What are the exact questions we need to ask?
What information from the client will help us to move the sales stage forward?
Do this today:
Prepare a list of questions to ask in every sales meeting based on various stages of the sales conversation. Start with this great list of lead qualifying questions.
Work on your role-playing and continuous practice on keeping meetings short. Find groups, such as the KO Sales U workroom, or practice with your sales team.
4. Conferences & Trade shows - Not The Same As It Was
Finally, the time has come where the lists of the top tradeshows and events for the year are coming out. In some states, trade shows returned several months ago, but many others only started to return in the last quarter.
There is pent-up demand for the return to these in-person events. They are fun, entertaining, educational, and most of all it’s not behind a computer screen. But the challenges that have been with conferences and trade shows before the pandemic haven’t changed. Trade shows are a lot of work, oftentimes for little payoff.
We need to look at them differently. Instead of trying to build and meet new prospects for the first time in person, we need to connect with previously engaged people in person.
Focus on building online relationships then transitioning them to a brief in-person meeting and then move them to virtual.
Companies leveraging online relationships and communities to connect and build the first client-seller interactions in person will see tremendous success with conferences. Trade show exhibitors and hosts will be focused on booking initial 20-minute meetings as the next steps in those relationships and ultimately showing a greater return on investment (ROI) from those events. ROI will now be measured as the immediate number of meetings booked during the trade show.
Sales professionals and companies should use these events as an opportunity to connect with possible partners, collaborations, and to educate themselves in new choices in the market. Most buyers don’t compare one exact solution to another but rather make mutually exclusive decisions in which decisions are based on what the best opportunity will be for the company overall.
Do this today:
Research the events you will be attending in the upcoming year and start collaborating with exhibitors to start the conversation on what will be discussed during that day. Find groups and seek out forums of those likely to attend those events and start creating those conversations now to maximize the opportunity when you are in person.
5. Video - TikTok Style
Video continues to be one of the fastest-growing mediums of communication across social media. What TikTok does that many platforms miss, is it forces the users to keep videos as short as 15 seconds. This conciseness forces a succinct message without the fluff.
Whether you are on TikTok or not (but seriously, you should be), the TikTok style of video will be something many of us will see more of. TikTok typically uses a background song and the communication is in the form of written text overlaid. People aren’t forced to turn on the audio to capture the message of the video, which makes a lot of sense. 85% of videos are watched on silent.
Whether you are creating social status videos, or prospecting videos to be dropped in someone’s direct messages (DMs) or email, use the TikTok rules: simple message in 15 seconds. If you can’t communicate a single message (or 3-5 one-liners) in 15 seconds, a 2-minute video isn’t going to do it either.
Conciseness is key in today’s market. Master it.
Do this today:
Get video ready. Download programs such as Loom, Vidyard, or any other video recording program. Include a closed caption or overlaid transcription. Practice makes perfect and starts by creating video introductions to new LinkedIn connections. Write on a paper saying “Hi” with a wave. Keep it simple.
What do you predict for 2022? What predictions do you agree with?