At a time when new technologies are transforming virtually, every aspect of our professional lives — from the way we do our jobs to the very nature of the work — a significant shift in sales tech is happening right in the heart of sales.
According to a LinkedIn survey on sales technology, adoption and success, investment in sales technology is increasing, and it’s being invested in emerging technologies like social tech. B2B sales tools are expensive. When companies commit to purchasing sales technology to integrate into their businesses, they are spending millions, not thousands, of dollars.
To examine these trends and take stock of the state of sales technology today, LinkedIn commissioned CensusWide, a global research fieldwork and consultancy company, to conduct the State of Sales 2017 report. Two online surveys were conducted between April 13th – 28th. The first was to a sample of 1086 professionals from the USA who primarily work in B2B sales. The second was a sample of 1015 business decision makers from the USA who have influence over purchasing decisions. Both samples were aged over 21 years old and employed at companies of different sizes and functions.
Investment in sales tech is increasing
More than half of all sales professionals (55%) surveyed expect their company will increase technology investments in 2017. What’s more, for top salespeople, those who exceeded their projected target revenue by more than 25%, this figure jumps to 73%.
According to the survey, 90% of sales professionals report that sales technology is either “important” or “very important” for closing deals. Respondents say it is the insights that technology can provide on their prospects that make the biggest difference. By leveraging professional and social networks, salespeople can gain a clearer understanding of customers and their needs.
The survey also found that top performing salespeople are more likely to use a multi-layered, technology-first approach that leverages sales intelligence tools for deep research, CRM to manage relationships, and enterprise communication tools to work across their team.
Social tech leads the way
While social networks are used regularly today, and is proven to be instrumental in helping top salespeople exceed their targets, indications point that it will be used more frequently in the future.
Also, reaching out to prospects through cold calling is not as effective. A third (32%) of business decision makers would respond to a cold call less than ten percent of the time. However, they are more likely to respond to someone that was introduced through their professional network.
The report indicates that leveraging social networks continues to be a powerful tactic that is resulting in meaningful impact and bridging buyer-seller gaps. Being in tune with a buyer’s social media activities makes it easier to connect the dots and deliver a more tailored, customized experience from a place of real context. In fact, this experience is so important that 64% of B2B decision-makers said they wouldn’t engage with a salesperson if the communication was not personalized.
As a result 70% of sales professionals expect to invest more time leveraging social tech techniques in the next twelve months. This is a striking increase from the 48% who felt this way in last year’s study.
Moreover, 9 out of 10 sales professionals surveyed who actively use social tech techniques today agree that it helps them (1) connect with the right prospects at the right time, (2) build stronger relationships with customers, and (3) establish a stronger professional brand.
Social networks are an important tool for B2B decision makers, too. A strong majority of respondents (62%) say they look for an informative LinkedIn profile when deciding whether to work with salespeople. Additionally, 85% of those surveyed consider it important for salespeople to be connected to other people at their company, and 56% believe it’s important for salespeople to reach out through LinkedIn.
Millennials are early adopters
The study finds that while millennials are leveraging a variety of sales technology tools as part of their daily sales strategy, their more seasoned counterparts are also adopting these tools, albeit to a lesser degree.
In particular, collaboration tools such as Box, Google Docs, Microsoft Office and Dropbox are now used by 59% of millennials, compared to 40% of Baby Boomers.
However, younger sales professionals are championing productivity apps at much higher rate. Tools like Asana, Smartsheet and Trello are more frequently used by millennials with 40% using them, compared to 24% of Generation X, and 17% of Baby Boomers.
39% of millennials are using enterprise communication tools such as Salesforce Chatter and Slack. In contrast, only 15% of Baby Boomers are using these tools to talk internally with colleagues.
From the client-side perspective, millennial decision-makers are turning to social media more readily. According to the survey, 62% of millennials regularly look up sales professionals on social media, compared to 54% of Generation X and 31% of Baby Boomers. Additionally, 69% are more likely to speak with a sales professional that has a professional social media presence, compared to 58% of Generation X and 33% of Baby Boomers
Technology builds trust
The report suggests that salespeople no longer aim for the steak dinner and the hard sell; these days they opt for a softer, more strategic approach by mixing both online and offline experiences and establishing themselves as trusted advisors. Social platforms make it possible for sales professionals to build a professional brand which shows the full scope of who they are and their industry knowledge. It’s through social that buyers can get a good sense of who the seller is, not view them strictly through the lens of the deal that’s on the table.
When asked what would make decision makers more likely to engage with a sales professional with whom they were introduced through a colleague in their professional network, 45% stated that the most important factor was that they mention specific information relevant to their current job. Sales technology helps establish trust because it enhances the seller’s ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a prospect.
In fact, more than three-quarters of decision makers (79%) agree that the negative portrayals of sales don’t do the profession justice. They are more likely to describe sales professionals as “trustworthy” and “fair”.
And for sales professionals themselves, trust is paramount as well. According to 39% of respondents, trust in their relationship with a client is the single most important aspect of closing a deal. By comparison, 33% of respondents cited “return on investment” as most important, and only 13% report “price” as the key factor.
Hence, sales technology is changing the game for sellers. It is making them more efficient and productive, while helping them transform their position with buyers, and evolve their role from vendors to advisors.