Where Is Sales Technology Headed in the Future?
The Future of Sales Technology Solutions
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke.
Sales technology has made some remarkable strides in the past years—so many, in fact, that these resources might seem like magic. Technological tools are nowhere near done advancing, though. We consistently ask vendors where they think their categories and sales technologies in general are going. This isn’t included as part of Vendor Neutral certified profiles, but, taken together, it gives an interesting view of the future.
5 Areas of Sales Tech Growth to Watch
It’s important to note these views are pre-pandemic. Much of what we’ve seen, though, indicates pandemic-driven changes are just accelerating things already in progress rather than taking anything in startlingly new directions. Working from home, for example, has simply sped up the digital direction.
To get a better sense of the future, we asked over forty vendors this question: In 100 words or less, what do you see as the next big change in your market over the next one to two years?
With more than a few exceeding that hundred-word limit, over sixty areas were covered in their responses.
Sales Technology Direction: And the Winners Are…
Many future directions were only named once—sixteen of them, to be exact. We’re interested today in looking at the top five with at least two similar answers.
- AI (Artificial Intelligence) in Sales Tech
This comes as no surprise. Many vendors, well over twenty, have some sort of AI in their solutions already. While natural language processing is the most common, many vendors look to AI to better recommend content and actions or to predict buyers’ next actions. AI largely depends on a lot of data, which derives from analytics on deals and actions. The amount of data available to a user of any of these solutions will vary.
Some key comments about AI:
- “In the near future, AI will look at a group of sellers, identify their behaviors, and close skill gaps, to the point where business can reduce the need to hire new people, and with the integration of training and learning into sales enablement, AI can now look at what they are selling, what customers are buying, and direct training content to them, based on need.”
- “Providing optimized, data-backed guidance to sales teams on what actions to take, when, and how to take them. This will then branch out to other departments, informing best practices, based on the various tailored results desired, all learned by the system.”
- “The use of AI, data insights, and content recommendations will help sales reps become more aligned with their customers at every stage of a deal and allow them to evolve into trusted customer advisors.”
- “Artificial intelligence (machine learning) will greatly help determine top leads by analyzing user behavior data to more accurately determine buyer intent. It will also help direct which channels to use for the best result (telephone, email, SMS, others) and the ideal contact cadence. AI will also refine what language and tone to use at each stage of the sales cycle.”
With eight responses, consolidation really covers two areas. The first is consolidation of vendors. There’s actually been less of this than one might think over the last few years, but with at least a temporary reduction in revenues, there might be more about to happen.
The second is consolidation of functions or the blurring and merging of categories of sales tech solutions. A good example is how many prospect outreach solutions involve some level of content management and how many involve sales enablement/content management. At the same time, many sales enablement solutions have robust engagement analytics to show how content is being consumed by buyers and sellers. What separates them is sophistication of list management and driving and tracking seller actions against a list of prospects.
Some key comments:
- “The sales enablement market will continue to consolidate in the next one to two years as vendors continue to evolve from core content management to full end-to-end sales enablement platforms, which support sales readiness and guidance within a typical sales workflow.”
- “The consolidation of platforms and simplification of tech stacks to help support efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. Streamlining fractured systems and platforms into a unified single pane of glass. Enabling work from anywhere.”
- “In the coming years, a focus on componentized content (rather than static documents) will enable reps to deliver more relevant and personalized content, driving better engagement and outcomes for sellers. As more organizations adopt sales enablement solutions, the deeper collaboration between sales and marketing will significantly reduce or eliminate wasted content that gets developed but goes unused.”
- “Consolidation of content & system-centric sales enablement technologies into the sales engagement platform as a single source of action. This delivers the most seamless and educational experience throughout the buyer & customer journey.”
Integration is one of those terms that means many things to many people. Here, we’re focused on how solutions integrate horizontally. Think sales content management and prospect outreach.
- “Management must be able to prove ROI of learning and learning tech investment from within the product or to show this by integrating with external systems (CRM, HC, BI tools, etc.).”
- “Most tech today will have to adapt and provide a solution or service beyond a singular functionality.”
- “We see the sales enablement functionality becoming more embedded within a company’s CRM, allowing for greater data insight and tighter alignment between sales, marketing, and the customer.”
4. Technology Investment
It comes as no surprise that six vendors encouraged continued investment in technology. The focus here, however, is on how sales tech can give real value to improving the sales process:
- “We see a powerful intersection of technology and service-enabled solutions. Technology will be a catalyst for the ease-of-use and the stickiness of training and sales methodologies for organizations to get to 80 percent or higher usage among salespeople.”
- “Digital transformation of learning experiences that puts the learner and analytics at the center of learning design and technology that can show measurable impact on business outcomes.”
- “There will be an increase in attention given to using technology to enable people to be effective relationally, to make specialists better versus less necessary, and to provide fuel for decision-makers.
With four responses, this aims directly at the heart of the matter: no sales tech matters without the right analytics. Maybe even more than AI, getting real intelligence from all the various data collected by sales tech solutions should drive the value of the investment.
- “One of the trends we expect to see spike over the next few years is proficiency in sales leadership’s use of data as decision support. We’re just now beginning to get our minds around the vast amount of data we actually have and the information we can track. The collection and use of sales performance intelligence will differentiate sales organizations and help them become more effective as they prepare their teams to compete in dynamic markets. This is especially critical as domestic and global economies might require sales organizations to pare down and do more with less.”
- “Clients are looking to provide a deeper understanding at every level. Sellers need improved guidance. Managers seek better insights. Executives want to make better decisions. All of these roles are seeking evidence from data to improve their efforts.”
Using Sales Technology Today and Beyond
While AI is perhaps the most distant sales tech dream, every other view of the future targets goals and benefits that are available and actionable now. Especially in this climate, making the sale is increasingly contingent on the sellers engaging and measuring that engagement in more dimensions, and sales technology solutions can facilitate that…today and into the future.
Steven Wright, Chief Analyst
is Vendor Neutral’s Chief Analyst Steven targets how new technologies and practices can better equip B2B sellers to focus on customer’s needs. He looks for the intersection of technology and methodology to help organizations better enable sellers to improve customer understanding and sales progression via analytics and prescriptive actions that improve sales. With over 20 years of experience in sales enablement as both a practitioner at companies such as IBM and an analyst at Forrester, Steven focuses on improving sellers’ skills at all levels and has worked with hundreds of companies, both customers and vendors. Steven currently manages Vendor Neutral Certified Profiles, which offer buyers detailed profiles of sales technology solutions to simplify finding the right tech for their needs.