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The Next Generation of Sales Is Here: Are You Ready?

6 min readApril 19, 2021

Sales has changed more in the last ten years than it did in the previous 100 years. As Marc Andreessen famously said, “Software is eating the world,” and sales is on the menu too. There has been a fundamental shift leading sales teams to embrace sales automation. However, this new technology is turning sales reps into coin-operated machines. This obsession with over-automation is killing the human element in sales.

We are now in a world of human-centered selling where it’s about empowering both sales reps and managers to reach their full potential as individuals, not clones. Too many sales teams have created robots programmed to regurgitate sales scripts because the data tells us if we say this line five minutes into the call, we’ll book the meeting.

There are tons of problems that we can solve with technology, but the most impactful one is helping people.

And that’s what we’re in the business of: helping people.

When sales managers are supported with tools, technology and processes that empower them to be better coaches for their reps, rather than numbers-focused drill sergeants, they will do their best work. And when reps are supported rather than asked to parrot sales scripts and send off hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of templated emails to a list of cold prospects, they will provide a better buying experience to customers.

But not everyone wants to change.

This will mean leaving behind some of the technology that sales managers and teams have come to rely on. They see sales purely as a numbers game. Send 1,000 cold emails. Book 50 meetings. Turn ten meetings into opportunities. Close one deal. Rinse and repeat.

But there’s a better way.

How the Next Generation of Sales Leaders Use Technology

Today’s most advanced companies are creating the future of sales by taking a different approach. These sales leaders are using technology and AI to augment the human element in sales, rather than suppress it. They’re taking data, normalizing it, then using it to provide insights into the next best action. They’re using technology to help their reps work smarter, not harder.

This is true revenue acceleration.

Data Won’t Solve All Your Problems

We’re drowning in data but starving for insights. It’s not about how much data you have, it’s about what you do with that data. If it doesn’t deliver a better customer experience, then it doesn’t matter. So, don’t collect data for data’s sake. The data must inform your team and your reps what they can and should do next to help customers.

Fundamentally people need to understand that no technology will ever be a silver bullet and solve all sales problems.

That’s why learning, development and helping people is at the core of everything we do. In fact, the first institutional money that Revenue.io took was from Bryant Stibel, Kobe Bryant’s firm. He always emphasized coaching, training, and trying to be your best. So for us the idea of coaching is not an afterthought, it’s the first thought. You could say it’s in our DNA.

Using Technology to Truly Help Sales

There will always be a place for coaching. Call reviews will never go away. But what if a rep could start to coach themselves? At Revenue.io, we’ve seen our reps set up their own notifications because our AI is surfacing insights so they can self-learn. Now, in real-time, on their next call, the rep will get a notification based on what was said (e.g. “There’s a high level of interruptions on this call. Slow down and pause between questions,”) or a nudge based on what wasn’t said (e.g. “It’s five minutes into the discovery call and you haven’t asked what CRM they’re using,”).

It all goes back to developing your people and giving them the tools to excel at their craft. This delivers on the original promise of sales technology, that it would help sellers be better at their jobs rather than take away the human element or drown everyone in vanity metrics.

After all, sales is the heartbeat of a company, and you must create happy and successful reps. Yes, your Salesforce needs to be running smoothly and you do need some data. But at the end of the day, your people are your biggest investment and your biggest deciding factor for success.

Data can’t sell your products for you. Your reps can.

The Next Chapter of B2B Sales is Going to Look Different

So how can you make sure that your sales team is ready for the next generation of sales? By focusing on making these five changes:

  1. Place more importance on human capital than automation.
    This isn’t to say that automation is bad. But before you implement any new automation, first stop and ask your sellers: Will this be helpful to you? Will it make your day better? Will it help you to sell more? If the answer is no and it’s just creating more meaningless data, then skip it.
  2. Move from focusing on the sales process to truly becoming customer-centric.
    Rather than just focusing on how to sell more, focus on how customers want to be sold to. For instance, 97% of buyers say that it’s important for a sales rep to demonstrate strong knowledge about their needs. Make sure that reps are encouraged to take their time and really listen to what each prospect wants.
  3. Focus on revenue ops to connect all revenue teams (sales, marketing, success, support, finance, etc.) and make sure those teams work together to help the customer.
    According to Salesforce, 78% of customers expect consistent interactions across departments, while 59% of customers say it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company. Clearly there’s a disconnect here, and the answer lies in aligning all your revenue teams.
  4. Small data will trump big data.
    If you have technology that makes a record in Salesforce of every email that’s sent by employees at your company, then you have big data. But if you have technology that takes into account which emails work best and then suggests to your employees who they should email next and what messaging they should use, then you have small data. Big data is useful for overall trends, but small data is what will help reps in their everyday lives.
  5. The winners will be focused on helping people. Period.
    This is where meaning comes into play. For reps to feel fulfilled in their jobs, they need to know that the products they’re selling will help their customers. And they need to know that they themselves are helping prospects throughout every step of the buying process. Selling things just to sell them is unsustainable, but selling things to truly improve people’s lives is game-changing.

The Fate of Sales Teams That Fail to Change

Most sales professionals today find themselves in an endless struggle to consistently hit quota and, more importantly, find meaning in their work. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And it’s not your fault. After all, the traditional sales model focuses 100% on the volume of leads, opportunities, and closed deals, without leaving any space for the human element of selling. As a result, reps and team will miss revenue goals, and people won’t fall in of love with the proud profession of sales.

It’s time to stop trying to do more of the same. More calls. More emails. More LinkedIn messages.

The future will belong to the sales leaders who put their teams and customers first. By investing in technology that’s truly helpful, sales reps will have the tools they need to succeed and be able to focus on what really matters: building meaningful relationships with their customers.

It’s time to embrace the next generation of B2B sales. Whether or not your sales team will be a part of it depends on your ability to deliver great experiences for both customers and employees.