Each year brings new possibilities, and with that, a new set of resolutions. In 2015, we saw major growth in the sales industry, with a particularly relentless onslaught of new and excellent sales-development-focused technologies. With this in mind, 2016 will be more important than ever for the sales and marketing industries. Here are five top predictions of what’s to come in the year ahead:
1. Influx of marketing automation, technology and leadership firms will develop unprecedented sales technology. This is the year that personalization will become an accepted and widespread practice. Personalization will be a key differentiator for both sales and marketing teams. For sales development reps, this means leveraging data to better target and qualify the best possible leads through the synthesis of technology and personal conversations. With actionable data, marketers can develop hyper-personalized customer personas, leading to better quality engagements—better for both SDRs and customers.
2. The use of automated e-mail for sales prospecting will get punched in the face. Open rates for prospecting specific e-mails will plummet. Message overload is a real thing, and it’s wreaking havoc in the sales industry. Impersonalized, stale messages directed at prospects and customers aren’t effective in generating actionable outcomes—in fact, they’re getting rerouted to the “delete” mailbox. E-mails aren’t personal, and in the age of personalization, customers and prospects want to be engaged on a personal level. Marketers need to be more creative in the ways in which they connect with their target audiences. This year will be the year that marketers develop creative audience engagement strategies unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
3. Live phone conversations will be inversely proportional to the decrease in e-mail opens. For nearly 130 years, the telephone has been the main method of communication, and it’s making a comeback in a big way. As opposed to e-mails, phone conversations are more genuine and personalized, enabling sales professionals to provide a personalized customer experience rather than a mass-targeted e-mail blast. Customers and prospects seek authentic engagements, and the best way to deliver true value is through the phone. In 2016, a lot of sales professionals will go back to the tried-and-true technological beast: the telephone.
4. Product relationship management (PRM) will increase the credibility of the CRM and enhance the buyer’s journey. Like peanut butter and jelly, some things are better together, including PRMs and CRMs. In 2015, there was a missed opportunity to use PRMs and CRMs in tandem: Marketers simply weren’t using the right technologies to optimize the conversions of their MQLs. With the use of a PRM, there is more clarity around the leads tab, and the accountability to follow up on the MQLs becomes more transparent. In 2016, data being pushed from a PRM to CRM will be more accurate and comprehensive because it’s coming from the efforts of a sales development representative (a live person) rather than an acquired list that will inevitably deteriorate the health and cleanliness of your CRM.
5. Great companies will become mediocre without an innovation culture. CEOs and CMOs who don’t encourage their employees and leaders to think differently about marketing will risk mediocrity. With the rise of ad blockers and other customer backlash, it’s more important than ever that marketers keep an ear to the ground and find new ways to cut through the noise to connect with their prospects and customers. Personalization requires creativity—don’t forget your thinking cap in 2016.
Now it’s time to reassess your New Year’s resolutions, determining the ones you should keep and the ones that will inevitably fall by the wayside. Get ahead of the curve and embrace the future. In fact, it’s almost here: Will you be ready?
Pete Gracey is CEO and co-founder of sales enablement technology company QuotaFactory, based in Marlborough, Mass. He is responsible for the company’s growth, success, and helping its clients meet and exceed quota.
This article was originally published in the January 2016 issue of Marketing News.