There’s a lot of change in the air, and it has everything to do with sales. How are the dizzying evolution of technology, social distancing and globalisation coming together to shape the sales strategies of the future? Let’s take a look at what matters now and how startups are navigating the shifting world of sales.
#1 More technology, more hyperpersonalisation
These days we can outsource a lot of sales functions to technology, especially the more repetitive ones. Sales automation tools can handle routine tasks and help level up sales success: McKinsey’s Maria Valdivieso de Uster writes that 40% of traditional sales tasks can now be automated. StartupSalesflare knows all about that. Their CRM technology helps sales reps focus on what they do best: selling a product or service. All the admin and stuff that goes with it is reduced to a minimum. For example, Salesflare integrates with a lot of the most-used apps, including Gmail and Outlook, so you can manage everything on a single app.
Technology offers an enormous added value in sales, but of course it has to serve a higher purpose. A lot of companies think that once they’ve automated certain aspects of their sales process, the job is done. Nothing could be further from the truth: successful automation is a delicate balance between what you leave to the machine and where the human element comes in. Customers want a personal touch, so you don’t want to come across as too robotic. On the other hand, if your sales lack the streamlined efficiency that automation provides, you could end up with frustrated customers and unhappy employees.
That’s why you have to automate thoughtfully and strategically. By collecting as much data as possible, you can build a sales approach focused on hyperpersonalisation and building a relationship with the customer. As our mentor Michael Humblet says: “The goal of technology is to simplify a lot of the work so you can evolve towards hyperpersonalisation: using data to provide more personalised products and services. Because that’s the only way to get in the door and build trust.” In the end, just as marketing is about getting people’s attention, sales is about earning their trust. While technology itself can’t build trust, it can support and liberate us so that we can concentrate on this most human of needs. And if anything, recent times have shown us that the technology evolves, the more we need a human approach.
#2 Thought leadership matters
So you get it by now: the goal of sales is to build lasting relationships with your customers. That brings us to thought leadership, which is even more important to creating trust with customers. To remind you: a thought leader is a person or company who is seen as an authority in their field, someone people turn to for expertise. The kind of people who are asked to speak at webinars and events to share their insights on a topic with interested audiences.
When economies are down, people spend more time researching their big buys. That’s the moment for companies to step up and focus more on educating potential customers in the early stages of the buying cycle. This helps inform their buying process and position their brand as a trusted advisor who understands their problems and can offer a solution. That’s why it’s more important than ever to be seen as a thought leader and a reliable source of information and solutions.
So, do you want to give this thought leadership thing a go? Start by figuring out what you’re an expert in, which is ideally of course related to what your company does. Then create content that reflects who you are and that speaks to your target audience. A little counterintuitive advice: ditch the self-promotion. It may be tempting to make your visual and written content all about showing off your company, but this isn’t what truly draws people in. Don’t fall into this trap! Instead focus on showing your customer how you can meet their needs. Also, be consistent. Make sure your branding is coherent or people will get confused and disengage. Finally, learn how to use video to show people what you’re all about. Do we have to mention that at Start it @KBC we’re pretty big fans of video ourselves, for thought leadership among other things?
#3 Accelerate international sales, but tweak your strategy
In this day and age, the whole world is your potential customer, so you have to focus your efforts internationally. Belgian companies may start out testing their product locally or nationally, but they’ve got to keep their eye on the global game. It helps that Belgium is the perfect test market. Small and densely populated, it’s ideal for getting products out fast and deciding whether they’re going to catch on. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a lot of companies to get more creative, we’ve seen new opportunities come up. For example, with all of us working remotely, why shouldn’t sales staff get to do that too? Scaling to other markets has never been more accessible.
Of course it’s still important to have the right go-to-market approach. Just because your sales strategy is a hit in Belgium, doesn’t mean it’s going to work in other countries. Katrien Herdewyn of fashion startupElegnano learned this first-hand. “The American market lives from one seasonal sale to another,” she told our partner Netwerk Ondernemen recently. “They’re used to selling at a discount. That demands a different sales approach. In Belgium people are willing to spend a lot more on a pair of high-quality shoes. This made it even more important to share the story behind Elegnano and to explain why they are priced higher, especially the nano-technology aspect.” Framing is everything!
What do you think the sales trend of the future is? Let us know!