The Sales Acceleration and Automation space is really just starting to heat up, and 2015 is set to be the year it really explodes. Just take a high level look at Marketing Automation for a second. Two multi-billion dollar acquisitions in ExactTarget and Eloqua, two big IPOs in Marketo and HubSpot, and a nice acquisition of a bootstrapped company in Pardot. I see Sales Automation following in similar footsteps and we’re just now starting to scratch the surface.
As we near the end of 2014, what better timing than now for a Sales Hacker Bold Prediction article. We’ve spent the past year following Sales Automation and Acceleration trends and wanted to share our top 10 B2B Sales Trends We Think Will Hit Big in 2015.
#1 – The Year of The SDR
For a long time, the Sales Development Representative, also known as the SDR has been a role in which people care about vanity metrics and is almost solely activity driven. Managers caring only about things like the number of butts in seats, number of dials, talk time, etc. Training for an SDR has been minimal, and is dated in most cases. Sales has changed so much in the past few years, it can be hard to keep up. Traditional software hasn’t made their lives any easier, until now that is. More and more people are starting to put higher value on good SDRs. Companies are figuring out how to keep them motivated and focused on their career paths. Software is being built for the SDR. Events cater to the SDR, like our conferences and series events and our friends over at Salesloft are throwing a User Conf/SDR Conf in Q1 called Rainmaker.
The SDR role is the beginning of a career path in sales. Time to start getting these new salespeople set to succeed from the get go. This makes 2015, The Year of the SDR.
#2 – The Great Bundling of 2015
Ok, this one is pretty bold, but I do believe it will happen towards the end of 2015, if not, definitely in 2016. There are way too many small tools out there and not enough full platform plays. Tools that schedule emails, make appointments, send reminders. Some of the bigger sales software companies are building them into their more robust products, yet I still find myself using the alternatives. A lot of these companies are ripe to be acquired and bundled. Do we need this many outbound emailing or prospecting tools? At what point do they get swallowed up and integrated into something bigger. I recall having this convo with numerous sales execs in 2014 and we’ve all agreed it was due. Question remains, how and when? I believe we’ll find out sooner than later. Check out our Ultimate Sales Tool Guide from earlier this year.
#3 – The Big VCs Will Place Big Bets in the Sales Automation Game
When you hear about the top tier VCs like Sequioa, Andresen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, etc you usually think about the hot new mobile, social, or Bitcoin startups like Snapchat, Whatsapp, or Coinbase. However, this soon may change. Sales Automation is going to follow in the footsteps of Marketing Automation, which had multiple big exits, as mentioned above. The companies that have really changed the space over the past 2-3 years are set up to raise B rounds now, which finally brings the big players. Sales is a half-a-trillion dollar market employing over 5 million people and growing wildly.
#4 – Smarter Inboxes
At some point, we’ll hit a breaking point with the way sales automation is running right now. There are way too many canned and thoughtless messages going out from sales people and soon, people will want a smarter inbox that filters the good from the bad. The relevant from the irrelevant. It’s only a matter of time. This is why it’s always so important to segment lists and find unique info about your accounts before you send out emails.
#5 – Browser Extensions Galore
This trend actually makes a lot of sense. It’s really cheap and easy to build a browser extension and I can stay in the window and use the Internet normally. I’m actually not sure why companies haven’t incorporated this into the product sooner. In 2015, I think we’ll see more sales acceleration, enablement, and automation companies taking advantage of the browser extension. As it is, a few of my favorites are already utilizing it (Salesloft, Datanyze, Connectifier). We can’t wait until more companies take advantage of this. Looking at you Toofr 🙂
Most software companies try to force the user to live in the environment that suits them (CRM, their own app, your Gmail/Outlook account). Browser extensions let us use the product where we see naturally fit, and within our workflow.
#6 – Outsourcing
Automation is making our jobs a lot more efficient, but there are still parts of the individual’s sales process that are tedious and mindless. Yet, companies are still hiring people to do it in-house and are paying up to $60K in base salary alone for these roles. We’ve been taking advantage of outsourcing in our sales processes for a while now and it’s starting to go mainstream. There’s so much you can do with Virtual Assistants that work for $3.50 an hour.
Companies will finally start to take advantage of outsourcing and even more specifically, outsourced lead gen. Either that, or sales offices will move fully to Phoenix or another cheaper city with talent. Many companies (Yelp, Zenefits, Paypal, Entelo, etc) are already taking advantage of those fantastic ASU grads! Of course, no article is complete without a little shameless alumni promotion.
A Sales Hacker favorite on Outsourcing from 2014 by Matt Ellsworth, Using Scraping and Virtual Assistants to Create a Massive Lead Pipeline.
#7 – Training
Training has always been focused on the F500 or top companies that have money to spend. I think now you’ll start to see more training geared towards the earlier stage startups that have no clue what they’re doing. They never had the access these big companies had. Now you’ll start to see VC firms invest in this training for their portfolio companies. Consultants are focusing on this area now too. What they can’t take in cash, they can take in equity, which is a more long term play.
A Sales Hacker favorite from 2014 by top sales trainer Jeff Hoffman, Getting Around Gatekeepers.
#8 – Science of Sales, Metrics, and Repeatability
Sales reporting has been around for a long time, but reporting is only as good as what you do with the information. With the new enhancements made in email campaign software, call script software, pre-meeting research, and all things that help you in the actual deal, you’re now provided metrics we had never seen before. With them you can create new solutions to existing problems. There are a lot of new metrics to play with in the sales process that are now being reported with much higher accuracy, and anything you can measure, you can improve.
In 2015, sales execs begin to uncover how these new tools provide deeper insights than ever before, and find the best ways to take action.
A Sales Hacker favorite for Sales Metrics from 2014, 5 Metrics for Growing a Team Effectively.
#9 – Hiring
Hired.com just raised a massive round and announced their arrival in the sales hiring marketplace. SaaStr Jobs is almost ready and looks to change how SaaS startups hire their executive teams. More and more companies like GoGoHire and Emjoyment are popping up to make this process easier.
We should start to see a smarter way to recruit and hire talent. But I don’t mean just through software. We need to look deeper into the candidates and make sure they’re right for our sales orgs.
For inexperienced reps, we need to get them the training they need to succeed. For the ones that already have jobs, they need a way to reach the startups that need their help. We’ve seen numerous successful reps at large companies go on to run sales successfully at early stage startups. I think we’ll start to see that happen more, but we need a way to provide them with access.
A Sales Hacker Favorite on Hiring from 2014, How Guidespark does Fast-paced, Hiring, Onboarding, and Coaching.
Extra Bold: Oracle will buy Salesforce, make Benioff CEO.
Just kidding! I’m not sure how it didn’t happen in the past though. With Ellison knowing he was going to step down, Benioff would’ve been the top replacement. I believe Salesforce will surpass Oracle 10 years from now, but Oracle could’ve made this move a while ago and it might’ve cemented their future. However, Salesforce is still heavily reliant on Oracle databases, so they could be paying them billions per year regardless.
Well that’s it for 2014. Sign up for updates – we’ll have some exciting stuff to share shortly (like the upcoming Sales Hacker e-book).
We wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday. Surround yourself with good people, good food, plenty to drink, and take some time to reflect and plan ahead. We don’t get a chance to do it very often. Hope to see you in 2015!
One Last Thing
If you’re an engineer or team of engineers working on solving problems for salespeople, we want to hear from you and potentially help however we can. There are still so many product opportunities in this exciting and white hot space. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org