XANT Chief Marketing Officer Mick Hollison recently shared new research on the state of sales with Brian Burns, host of The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling, the top sales podcast on iTunes.
Brian has been selling for more than 25 years and helps companies increase revenue and reduce sales cycles by understanding how their customers make purchasing decisions.
On the podcast, Brian and Mick discussed the general sales outlook and important trends for 2016. Citing XANT’s Business Growth Index research, Mick shared valuable sales industry insights that explain why salespeople have every reason to remain optimistic in 2016.
The following is a short summary of their conversation, and you can listen to the full sales podcast here.
The start of 2016 was dubbed by many as the worst start to a year in the history of both the S&P 500 and Dow Jones. Many companies, particularly in the tech industry, saw their valuations plummet. There were a lot of contributing factors, but analysts reported that many companies were obsessed with growth at all costs, rather than striving for customer success and profitable growth.
Despite this rough start, Mick noted that sales leaders have every reason to remain optimistic about the rest of 2016 and into 2017. The Business Growth Index revealed that more than 75 percent of sales leaders predict either steady or accelerated sales growth in 2016 thanks to a projected 31 percent increase in year-over-year sales growth between 2015 and 2016.
Also, despite longer sales cycles and decreases in close rates, companies saw a 10.8 percent bump in sales opportunities and a 10 percent increase in deal sizes.
The changing nature of sales
In the last decade, there has been a significant transformation in how organizations are approaching sales. Companies are employing a greater number of inside sales reps as they fight to become more cost-effective and productive in reaching buyers.
Historically, everyone thought you needed face-to-face conversations in order to close major deals, but now we’re seeing examples of inside sales teams closing seven-figure deals without ever leaving the office.
Oddly though, while the sales industry’s demand for sales professionals outstrips the supply, sales as a profession continues to lack the respect of many other positions. Brian specifically pointed out how odd it is that sales can be one of the most lucrative fields in business, yet people don’t think of it the same way they do other professions.
Mick suggested this is in part due to the current educational system. There are a wide range of majors and fields of study, but very few universities offer courses that focus on selling. That means we aren’t building up the pipeline of sales superheroes.
Mick and Brian wrapped up their conversation by discussing a few other interesting discoveries regarding the current state of sales. Both were pleased by the growing levels of diversity, with women making up 42 percent of sales professionals and ethnic minorities representing 34 percent of sales teams.
Mick also highlighted the most desirable traits managers should look for when trying to hire top sales talent. While resiliency and ambition are typically seen as great indicators of success, sales managers should also be on the lookout for individuals with empathy.