The global economy evolved in 2019. The estimated global growth of 3 percent for the year was modest and characterized by what the International Monetary Fund called a “synchronized slowdown.” International trade tensions and a destabilized geopolitical picture were just some of the looming, long-term challenges.
Despite these conditions, some businesses are thriving. They do not see these challenges as a passing season. Instead, they see these conditions as part of a formative process that is ushering in a new economic reality in which transformative businesses will succeed. These businesses are not waiting for the winds to change — they are adjusting their sails. Their responsiveness comes from taking directional cues from 2019.
The five largest factors underpinning the changes that occurred over the last 12 months are:
- Sales Enablement Graduated to 2.0: In 2019, “sales enablement” became a term of art in the sales industry as professionals pursued a new set of capabilities to position increasingly complex solutions. Sales enablement serves this need by providing sales professionals with insights and information designed to simplify the customer’s decision process.
- Buyer-Centricity Became an Operational Imperative: Buyer-centricity has long been important to selling organizations. However, in 2019 this importance rose to the level of imperative. For many, this realization came as CRM systems began to show their limitations. New systems boasted new features and even AI capabilities; however, they rarely helped sales professionals get to the customer’s core needs.
- Agility Became Part of the Sales Model: Sales leaders learned to become agile as they embraced fluctuating business confidence in a tenuous global economy. With an agile approach, companies prioritize individuals and interactions over processes and tools. An agile model focuses on customer collaboration and responsiveness to change rather than adhering to a single, unchanging plan. This fluidity perfectly matches the customer’s dynamic buying journey in which movement starts, stops, and sometimes even reverses.
- Sales Professionals Found Ways to Position Digitally Transformative Solutions: Sales professionals learned to embrace the challenges of positioning the connected, holistic, and digital solutions underpinning the customer’s digital transformation strategy. The pervasive spread of digital transformation initiatives across businesses has been heralded as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Sales professionals adopted to this new era by developing the skills to position solutions that are dynamic, abstract, and broad.
- Sales Training Became Structured with an Academy Approach: The number of selling skills fundamental for success grew; therefore, sales leaders turned to an academy structure as they rethought their sales training programs. A sales academy consists of numerous programs, which together form a single competency framework for driving the sales professional’s performance throughout their career. This learning design also offers the benchmarking tools needed to achieve consistency in best practices. Some are even using multiyear sales academy curriculums designed to engage the sales professional through various stages in their career.
Changes in 2019 indicate that businesses will need to do more to maintain their current level of competitiveness.
Enablement strategies will need to be armed with the right content. Buyer-centricity must be visible in all business decisions. Selling organizations will need to become agile as they make these changes. Sales leaders will need to develop new skills to position complex digital products. Finally, achieving all of this will, for many, demand an academy approach to sales training.
To examine these changes in more detail download the brief, 2019: Taking Directional Cues From a Look Back written by Richardson’s Chief Marketing Officer, Andrea Grodnitzky.