The top 2023 sales trends (and what they mean for you).
Posted on January 2nd, 2023 to Uncategorized
“There’s nothing new in sales.”
The phrase above is something I often hear myself saying to business owners — and, for the most part, it’s true. To be good at sales, what you need today is what you needed yesterday: A unique solution to a challenging problem, coupled with the ability to effectively communicate its value to your ideal customers.
At the same time, the world does evolve and change, inviting us to shift the approach and tools we use to sell.
As a quick example, think about email. Before the ability to attach a contract or case study to an email, we spent much more time meeting with clients in person — which, while arguably better in some ways, put a cap on the amount of customer volume we could handle. Today, with tools like email, the cloud, and Zoom, we’re able to serve more customers and turn a healthier profit.
While the trends and tools for 2023 might be less disruptive than the rise of email, paying attention to them will still give you an edge this year, so let’s dive in.
According to a November 2022 Wall Street Journal article by Lindsay Ellis, millennials now hold the largest number of decision-making roles in corporate buying — and just as they disrupted the workplace a decade ago, they’re now disrupting B2B sales by ushering in a new generation of buying habits.
I encourage you to read the entire article, but I’ll highlight a few of the most salient points for you, a business owner, here:
1. Expect a longer sales cycle.
Your sales cycle length is the amount of time between first contact with a qualified lead and signing a contract. Knowing this metric can be hugely beneficial, as it helps you with planning and also provides feedback on where and how to optimize your sales process for greater success.
According to the WSJ article, millennial buyers are slowing down the process, taking more time to research solutions on their own, as well as involving more people in the decision-making process.
> What does this mean for you?
You being a subject-matter expert, not a classically-trained salesperson, a longer sales cycle is likely good for you (even if it doesn’t seem so at first). The #1 problem I see in my clients is their rushing through a B2B sales cycle, having just one or two brief meetings with one or two people before sending a full-blown proposal. This hurried approach often leads to endless follow-up, diminished close rates, and even getting “ghosted” by potential customers.
Now that your B2B buyers are taking more time to make decisions, and involving more people, challenge yourself to embrace their pace. If you had more time and access to more people in your sales process, how would you use it to your advantage?
Note the quote from veteran sales leader Dale Taormino in the article. She says, in today’s sales environment, she sees her role as “more of a quarterback,” calling the shots and helping to coordinate the plays.
What would it look like for you to take more of a proactive leadership role in the sale?
2. Buyers want access to senior leaders.
When millennials hit the work scene, the world freaked out. It seemed like every business article was about millennial workers and their entitled demands for more meaningful work, more feedback and more professional development. As a person born in 1979, I fancy myself a “geriatric millennial” and mostly align with millennials on these aspects of work. As such, I wasn’t surprised to read that millennial buyers expect to meet with a service provider’s senior leaders before signing a contract.
> What does this mean for you?
I hope you, as a business owner, will see this 2023 trend as yet another reason to not rush into hiring salespeople. Unfortunately, I see this mistake all too often — a founder who hates sales, or thinks they stink at it, decides to bring in a salesperson, hoping it will solve all their problems. In the end, hiring salespeople too soon creates a whole slew of new problems, much harder to fix than figuring out how to sell in the first place.
Here’s the bottom line: You should be your first salesperson — and, even after you hire a salesperson, you should lead the sales department. The reasons why are too numerous to name in this post, but in relation to 2023 sales trends — if today’s buyers are demanding access to you in the sales process anyway, there’s even less value in hiring sales talent to take over your sales process.
If you’re a founder who has already built a sales team, ask yourself: How am I showing up in the sales process? When do I appear and what value am I adding? You may also want to look at your close rates and start experimenting. What happens when you show up more in the sales process — do your close rates increase? Does your sales cycle shorten?
3. Webinars are out. Meaningful peer connection is in.
If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you know I think it’s critical for you to have an “Invite” — a means of gathering your leads, current and past clients, and sometimes even your referral partners and colleagues, to provide value. When you have a compelling Invite, you not only see an increase in sales activity, but you give yourself the gift of a consistent, highly-efficient and operationalized way to nurture your business — an absolute must for busy founders and small businesses.
However, for an Invite strategy to work, it has to be the right vibe to attract your busy buyers. I was thrilled to see the WSJ highlight something I’ve been saying for years: Especially to attract senior leaders, your Invite must place your buyer in a group of their peers where they can learn from one another.
> What does this mean for you?
Forget webinars and how-to sessions where you and your thought leadership are on display. Rather, gather a group of your buyers who can tackle the biggest challenges together, sharing their experiences and giving each other actionable insights. As the host and facilitator of such an event, you will be seen as a hero, while simultaneously gathering invaluable market research and deepening trust with potential clients.
If you’re feeling skeptical about this strategy, or if you’re thinking, “That wouldn’t work for my buyers,” I would advise you to think again. Once you find the right value proposition, the saying is true: If you build it, they will come.
There you have it, my top sales trends for you to look out for this year. What trends are you seeing during your sales cycle, and how will you shift to meet the times in 2023? Leave a comment below!
If you have questions about 2023 sales trends, or any other facet of B2B sales, I invite you to attend the next Sales Roundtable. Each and every month, I gather a group of business owners to tackle their top sales questions and challenges, and I’d love to see you there. Click here to register.