26th November 2021 |   Journal Of Sales Transformation

Rod Barthet, CEO, Kyocera Document Solutions UK; Iain Masson, RVP UK & Nordics, Showpad

Iain Masson
Iain Masson, RVP UK & Nordics, Showpad

Q: What are the top-three new agenda items that sales leaders will be thinking about for 2022?

IM: Buying behaviours have evolved tremendously throughout the digital age, seeing the most accelerated growth specifically throughout the pandemic, and sellers must rapidly adapt accordingly. Working and living in the same space caused many people to rethink what is important to them, leading to behavioural shifts that must be incorporated into sales strategies.

In the modern selling environment, sales leaders must learn how to attract and retain buyer attention. In order to adapt to these new ways of working and living, sellers have to be conscious that attention is an invaluable commodity – and buyers will not give their time to just anyone. Revenue-enablement platforms, using video messaging to strengthen interactions with buyers and connecting with them on social media are all examples of innovative ways to engage with and capture the attention of prospective buyers.

In 2022, sales leaders must think about how to appeal to buyers’ newfound thirst for authenticity. It’s crucial for sales professionals to be efficient, informative, and yet empathetic: they must demonstrate to buyers that they are trustworthy and transparent, otherwise they will likely not be successful.

Many organisations have shifted to a virtual-first sales environment, and buyers are more informed than ever before through independent research. Another item at the top of the agenda for 2022 will be how to differentiate your offerings from the competition in the digital world and create a frictionless buying experience for prospects who are considering your product or service.

Q: What are the top-three technology trends that will be on sales leaders’ agendas for 2023?

IM: In 2022, we will see sellers utilising video messaging more frequently to attract the attention of potential buyers. After 18 months of online video conferencing causing widespread “Zoom fatigue,” sellers must look for new ways to engage with buyers whilst still maintaining a personal connection. According to findings from Aragon Research, 80% of prospects will open a piece of video content but ignore any other type of content that they receive, suggesting that video is a strong medium to bridge the gap between the inconvenience of live meetings and the potential disconnect of written communication.

We will also see sellers utilising analytics to find trends and get smarter about their sales approaches in 2022. It’s increasingly important to predict customer behaviour and actively monitor engagement, in order to grow your business and make the most informed decisions.

Finally, we will see a greater focus on revenue enablement as the pathway to modern selling. The main aim of revenue enablement is to help revenue teams as a whole do their jobs better and create valuable and lasting connections with potential customers. Revenue teams include sales, marketing, professional services and other revenue-facing parts of the organisation. In order to build a modern selling organisation and culture, it is crucial for these team members to come together to orchestrate meaningful interactions with buyers – as sellers are no longer the first touchpoint for informed customers.

Having your head in the clouds may be the right approach!

In a rapidly changing world, business leaders must be prepared to leave their comfort zones and embrace new product propositions if they want to remain successful in the months and years to come, according to Japanese manufacturing conglomerate, Kyocera.

Rod Barthet, CEO, Kyocera Document Solutions UK, explains that, for organisations in the technology sector, certain tools and solutions thrived during the pandemic and continue to do so, with video collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom the most prominent examples. Meanwhile, other areas of the industry struggled with the closure of offices, schools and universities, including printer or desktop computer manufacturers. Businesses have had to adapt quickly, as the way information moves through the organisation has become much more dynamic and multifaceted.

For Barthet, having a diverse range of products and services that cover a variety of different areas is key to surviving in the new working world, and helps future-proof the business against further major disruption down the line.

He told the Journal: “The past 18 months have shown that technology organisations can be just as vulnerable as companies in any other sector. The positive we can take from the upheaval of the pandemic is that there are lots of lessons we can learn to ensure we’re well-prepared for similar events in future.

“Organisations in all sectors need to increase their digital adoption, transform their processes and find new ways to innovate, and technology companies need to be there to deliver this. With this in mind, technology leaders need to take a long hard look at the services they offer and realise that focusing on a narrow product proposition or service offering means their business isn’t as resilient as it could be. In effect, we no longer need change to prosper; we need to evolve to survive.”

The shift to permanent hybrid and remote working models has also played a significant role in this need to diversify. It is expected that by 2023, just under a quarter of the workforce will be working remotely full time.

Barthet continued: “There is a wealth of opportunities in this changed working world for businesses willing to seize them. If, for example, your service has always revolved around hardware (printers, computers, physical storage devices and so on) then now could be the time to consider expanding to software as well, especially with the continued growth of cloud. This is something we have focused on as a business over the last five years, and has been a hugely effective way of anticipating and preparing for the challenges of tomorrow.

“Developing cloud-ready software will allow an organisation to extend its reach, build links with new customers and partners, and open up new revenue streams. It is through this kind of innovative thought and engagement that successful companies will continue to add value and remain relevant to their customers and partners in the long term.”

He concluded: “Adaptability is the name of the game in the post-pandemic era. Things are returning to some sort of normality, but much of our working lives won’t be the same as before. Make the effort to diversify and leave your comfort zone, and there’s every reason to approach the future with optimism.”

Q: What’s the current situation with respect to AI in sales?

IM: Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been spoken about in the sales world for many years, and the pandemic accelerated usage of this technology. Time Is a precious commodity and resource. The main value of AI is that it can potentially shorten the sales cycle and automate processes that might be taking salespeople away from reaching out to prospective buyers. To be effective in the world of modern selling, sales leaders must make use of the technology that is available to save time while also targeting prospective buyers more effectively. Even though not all organisations will be investing in automation and machine learning, all sales leaders must stay up to date with current trends and consider how they might incorporate them later down the line to stay competitive.

Q: Have you noticed a change in the skill sets required for salespeople, since the onset of the pandemic?

IM: Sales leaders must be more tech savvy than ever before, and they have to be aware of the B2C trends that are capturing the attention of the younger generations. This was true before the pandemic, but since its onset the urgency has increased. Sellers need to have an understanding of social media platforms, video and advertising trends. They must also have strong emotional intelligence, empathy and communication skills to demonstrate that they are trustworthy and authentic.

The pandemic has shown the ability of people from different industries, but especially sales, to move mountains in a short period of time. It has shown a true capacity for innovation in the sales field. Moving forward, sales leaders will need to have a firm understanding of new technologies that are used to enable modern selling: from video and sales enablement platforms to AI and machine learning.

Q: What are the key skills for a) salespeople and b) sales leaders going forward?

IM: Selling was already becoming a more digital process before the pandemic, and the pace has continued to rapidly accelerate as the world adapts to new ways of working and living. Showpad’s 2021 Modern Selling Study found that 92% of B2B sales and marketing professionals believe that remote workforces will remain the norm, which demonstrates that salespeople will need to adapt their communication and selling tactics accordingly. Sales leaders need to ensure that sellers have the adequate skills and training to equip them to be successful in the modern selling environment. The most important skills today for salespeople are empathy, focus, and brevity. Both sales leaders and salespeople need to be ahead of the curve, understanding what prospects require early, and delivering a direct sales approach that is personalised to their needs. Buyers are increasingly intolerant of cold outreach and need relevant, comprehensive information fast.