The Big Sales Trends for 2023
If you're curious about the latest developments in sales and what they’ll mean for you in 2023, you've come to the right place!
From the impact of global economic conditions to the rise of new processes and automation, we discussed the key factors that will influence sales success in the coming year.
Aaron Evans (Top 20 Global Sales Enablement Influencer) and our host, Joe Ducarreaux shared thought-provoking ideas on what’s hot and what’s not in 2023.
Webinar topic detail
In this really enjoyable chat, with Aaron Evans from Flow State, we discussed some big topics for the year ahead, such as:
– Key skills to thrive in 2023
– How to balance long-term and short-term initiatives in an uncertain economic climate
– Techniques to turn cold leads to warm leads
– Processes – out with the old and in with the new
– Building value through intent data
Read more about Big Sales Trends for 2023 on our blog here
Joe Ducarreaux: Hello, welcome to this essential B2B coffee time talk with me, Brand Awareness Manager for Lead Forensics, Joe Ducarreaux and Sales Enablement Influencer, Aaron Evans. How are you doing today, Aaron?
Aaron Evans: I’m very good, thank you, Joe. Thank you very much for having me. Very excited to have our conversation.
Joe Ducarreaux: Aaron, let’s jump straight into it. So, you’ve posted some very interesting content recently and one post I’d like to start with is the skillset needed to thrive in the new year, in 2023. You highlighted your top three things as knowledge and expertise, stakeholder management and buyer indecision. As someone with over 10 years of sales experience, what would you say would be the areas of upskilling or even reskilling that sales leaders should focus on this year?
Aaron Evans: I picked those three specifically because the lens that I’m always looking through….. which is the lens that’s always neglected in sales and actually across modern organisations, I find …… is actually the lens of the buyer. Over the last maybe 15 years or so, particularly in SaaS, we’ve ignored the buyer and what we’re seeing at the moment is a bit of a buyer backlash taking place.
If you read any of the literature, any of the reports, any of the research that’s going on at the moment, the buyer’s just not happy with the experience they’re getting from sales. LinkedIn did a really interesting report this year, the state of sales report, and there was one particular, quite innocuous graph that really jumped out to me and that was actually the skills and the attributes that buyers look for in sellers and the skills and the attributes that sales managers look for in sellers. They’re a complete disconnect. So, you’ve got all this really interesting stuff, a mixture of soft skill, knowledge and basically sales behaviour, mixed with the manager side and they were completely different. The ones that really jumped out to me were basically years of experience, industry expertise was another one, active listening was another one. Again, the more you read about it, the more you realise that actually we’re just not servicing buyers’ needs. Another place where this is born out now is actually in the buyer journey. Not the sales process, ignore the sales process, because it’s largely meaningless. Like we’re always talking about the sales process, buyers don’t care about sales processes, they care about buyer journeys. When you look at the buyer journey now compared to maybe 15, 20 years ago.
First of all, the salesperson is getting involved much later in that process and the role that they’re playing in that process is much more diminished as well. Also, the length of time in which they’re involved in the buyer process is diminished. So ultimately, the way the buyer perceives the seller now is basically right, I’ve made a decision. I’m picking your product. Can you just make this easy for me and just do what you need to do so I can purchase this? Whereas you go back 20 years ago, what the salesperson was doing was influencing right up to the awareness. Where the buyer didn’t even know they had a problem and the salesperson was obviously educating them on the problem, educating them on the impact that problem can have. So this kind of distilled down into three really important skills. So that first one that we spoke about which is around industry expertise. I’ve been saying this a lot, is that buyers are really craving this from sellers at the moment. They want them to know what the problems are, what the challenges are, what the icebergs are in the distance, what their customers are doing to solve these problems, how they’re going about overcoming these challenges.
That second one around stakeholder management. Post pandemic, we’re seeing that the amount of buyers that are involved, a certain amount of decision makers that are involved in a buying process is just growing and growing. It’s up to 12 at the moment, I think. So the ability to be able to manage a buyer group, influence a buyer group, align a buyer group and allow the buyer group to actually prioritise solving that particular problem is a non-negotiable now.
That last one is born out of research that’s taken place over the last couple of years which was published in a book called The Jolt Effect by the brilliant Matt Dixon, who was the co-author, of the Challenger Sale way back in 2011. Now the kind of central theme to that book is that, between 40 and 60% of your pipeline is just never gonna come in and the reason is because of indecision. Now, this indecision isn’t driven by status quo, so it’s not the prospect saying actually what I’m doing at the moment is better, I won’t buy your product. It’s actually a fear of messing up. They’re petrified about signing a contract and they’re all going wrong. The adoption of the product not working or the implementation not working and it’s their name on the contract and they’re petrified of that fear of messing up. Those three skills there, I think are absolutely non-negotiable going into 2023 and in most cases it’s not a upskilling, it’s a complete…..you’ve got to give these salespeople these skills because they just simply don’t have them at the moment. Particularly in SaaS. In SaaS, we’ve basically built salespeople who are product experts. If you grab five SaaS salespeople and say, talk to me about your product, the detail, the depth, the expertise, the technicality will be really high. If you grab the same five people and say, what are the three biggest things affecting your industry, they’ll look at you quite bluntly, like I don’t know, to be perfectly honest with you! People don’t come to your product for product expertise. They come there for the sales experience of actually learning something, being challenged, their thoughts being changed, their perceptions and their perspectives being changed as well and we’re just not giving that to them at the moment.
Joe Ducarreaux: So just moving on to something that’s obviously gonna be at the front of everybody’s mind going into this new year, the state of the global economy. Do you have any tips for our audience on how to balance long-term and short-term initiatives in these uncertain economic times at all?
Aaron Evans: Yeah, look, I think there’s two things I’d say. Number one, obviously budgets are gonna be scrutinised a lot and this kind of goes back to what I was saying before, the ability to have higher level conversations with people who can make those decisions and actually create or influence budget is absolutely critical. But the second part of this is actually about how your product helps. We’ve got to start helping organisations connect the dots between what your product or service does and how it actually starts affecting the organisational goals and objectives as well.
Far too many people sell at an operational level, so that saves time, saves effort, saves resource. . People just aren’t going to buy on that anymore. They’re going to buy when they sit there and go, we’ve got tough market trading conditions at the moment. We need something that’s actually gonna help us achieve these big scary goals that we’ve set during very tough, difficult times. The ability to not only position your product to do that, which most products should do but also get the right voices in the room to achieve that is really important.
Now, I’ve also got a theory about this. I think what sales do is, they actually become more logical. in tough times. So what they’ll do is they’ll start building more ROI calculators and prospects and customers don’t want that. They don’t want an ROI justification, which seems counterintuitive when you think about tough trading conditions. What they actually want is more of an emotional experience….. so, the thing that I’m purchasing, I feel confident in what I’m buying, I feel confident it’s going to help me achieve what I need to achieve and obviously, I feel confident in my ability to make a decision as a buyer as well. If you read Professor Robert Zaltman, he explains that 75%, or sorry, 95% of purchasing is actually emotional. We’ve stripped that out of selling over the last maybe five or six years and we focus purely on the rational and the logical part of selling. That’s why we see all these like built in ROI calculators and these ridiculous numbers that salespeople come up with, which the buyer doesn’t believe, to be perfectly honest with you. They’re always sceptical about these numbers anyway. We need now to appeal much more to the emotional part of our buyers and more importantly, give them confidence in themselves in the decisions that they’re making. Because if you thought it was bad before we enter a tough trading time, it’s only gonna get harder. So it’s all about the emotional side of it and the confidence that we’re giving those buyers as well. If a buyer is asking for an ROI calculation, of course, give it to them. But our first port of call shouldn’t be…. excuse me, can I sit down with you for half an hour and walk you through this detailed spreadsheet that I’ve built that’s gonna spit out a number that both of us don’t really believe in? It’s like they don’t care about that. I’m just being really honest with you, but the salesperson cares about that. Now the kind of theme that you’re probably picking up on as we speak about this is that there’s a lot of shit that sales are doing that the buyer doesn’t care about, but sales really cares about it. We’ve got to stop doing things buyers don’t care about. Again, when you read the statistics, most of the things that sales are doing at the moment is putting the buyer off.
Let’s talk about this rationally. So number one, contacting the buyer – sending them emails. So email went up 70% during the pandemic, response rates dipped by 30%. That’s the buyer telling you, I don’t like the way that you are contacting me. Then we put them into our funnel, as we call it. Then we start getting four or five different stakeholders interacting with them during the purchasing process. You’ve got the SDR, you’ve got the AE, you’ve got the value engineer. Then I’ll turn around and go, I can’t even build a relationship with you before you’ve purchased the product, let alone when I purchased the product. Then we get all the way to the end of it, which is the buyer indecision. 60% of opportunities are ending in no decision. The buyer is telling us, I don’t feel confident making a decision with you.
So the easiest thing to do in sales in 2023 is do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. It’s never been easier to be a quality salesperson in my experience.
Joe Ducarreaux: So just building on that slightly then, you mentioned what the buyers need to see is making decisions on the emotions, feeling confident in the solution that is being offered to them. What methods do you use to help build that value? When you are, say, with the prospect on the discovery call, what things do you put in place to fully put across that I’m understanding your needs rather than, what we were saying before?
Aaron Evans: That’s a really good question. But you’ve got to remember that value is highly subjective. Most of the things we buy, we don’t buy for the reasons that you think we buy. If you read Alchemy by Rory Sutherland, which is in my opinion a masterpiece that every salesperson should read, because what it fundamentally tells you is that value can sit in different places. I’m a big believer, and I think the buyer is saying this as well, that the value they want is the buying experience. So what do I mean by that? There’s so much content and so much marketing and so much content marketing out there at the moment. Knowledge isn’t the buyer’s problem from that perspective. They’ve got a lot of information, too much information. Brent Adamson sums it up perfectly, which is they’re looking for a needle in a needle stack at the moment when it comes to making a decision. So not only is there too much content, but the quality of that content is really high as well. They don’t know how to discern the signals. This is the perfect opportunity for a salesperson when the buyer comes to them, to sit down with them and help them understand this information, help them make sense of what’s going on, help them understand what the challenges and the problems are at the moment. Walk hand in hand with them and say, whether you purchase my product or not, I’m going to help you make the right decision. I’m going to help you buy something that’s going to be additive to your organisation. That’s the value the buyers want at the moment and if it happens to be your product that can service that, they’ll buy it.
Now, by virtue of taking them through that journey, they’re likely to buy your product for that reason. Now, what we’re talking about here is a very different set of skill sets though; which is knowledge, which is expertise, which is buyer centricity, all the stuff that the buyer is looking for at the moment.
So by virtue of going through that journey, you’re actually creating value in the buyer’s eyes, if that makes sense. Now, having a deep, intimate understanding of their challenge and their problem is really important. But actually, I’d add this……. telling them what the problems are that they don’t know about is far more important.
So here’s an analogy for you and hopefully this lands with you, Joe. I don’t know if you’re a homeowner or not, but I was in a position not that long ago, where I was getting my bathroom done and I got a plumber in, he was brilliant, he was a really good plumber. There was one point where I was sitting in my kitchen having a coffee and he came downstairs and said, look, I just wanna let you know about something. You’ve actually got a crack in your immersion tank and what’s going to happen is, water is going to leak down and it’s going to get into your bathroom, but more importantly, it’s going to get behind the tiles that you’ve just put up there. I’m going to have to come back and remove all the tiles, re-plaster the wall and put the tiles back on again. It’s going to be a nightmare. Don’t worry. I’ve got one of my guys up there now working on the immersion. I’ll pop it on the bill, no problem at all and I turned around to him and said, mate, thank you so much, I really appreciate that.
Now, what he’d inadvertently done is he’d behaved like a modern salesperson should be behaving. He’d alerted me of a problem that I didn’t know about. There was a deficit of knowledge, he knew more than I did, I didn’t even know what the immersion tank was. He had a domain expertise that I didn’t have. He then assured me the decision that was being made was the right decision and he told me the impact if I didn’t solve the problem. I didn’t even look at the bill. I didn’t even question how much he was going to charge because he’d done the right thing. He was buyer centric. Now, the reason he was such a good salesperson is because he’s not a salesperson. He’s just someone trying to help the end customer. Now that is such a valuable experience. We are not doing that with buyers at the moment. We’re not, and the buyers are telling us this, and we’ve got to stop pretending that sales is important. The buyer is important. We’re here to service and help the buyer. That’s the simple part of it.
Joe Ducarreaux: It’s a perfect analogy for almost the motto of the Essential B2B webinars and podcasts, is that people buy from people. Yeah, 100%. It just keeps coming back and back and it’s fantastic to hear. To change tack slightly, then. What tools do you use to gain the intent data needed to help with your research?
Aaron Evans: We gobble up so much research. We read pretty much every report that comes out. We try to use vendor agnostic reports. So, we try to look for companies…..I won’t name names because I don’t want to show preference….. but companies that are doing these market reports at the moment. The other research, which is really important…. There’s two types of research, which is; I send out a load of surveys to a load of senior leaders, they fill it out, I gather it and I take a cross section of that information. Actually, the research we find far more interesting is actually research where someone has a hypothesis and they try and prove that hypothesis and then they learn something along that journey. The best place to see that is in books. As an example of this, Neil Rackham, Spin Selling is a great example of what we call proper research. He sat there, he observed 35,000 sales calls over the 12 year period or the work that Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson do is amazing. Because they have a hypothesis, they go out and try to prove the hypothesis and they learn something in that process as well. So there, that for us…. that’s the real quality research that we get our hands on, that we look at. But we go one step further as well. We sit down with the authors of those books and we learn about as much as we can, and we try to learn about stuff outside of the book. So can we go beyond the book. We’ve interviewed Neil Rackham, we’ve interviewed Matt Dixon, we’ve interviewed Dick Dunkel, the guy who came up with MEDDIC. We’ve interviewed Brent Adamson. We’ve interviewed pretty much everyone who’s written a significant book over the last 30, 40 years in sales. We’ve sat down and we’ve spoken to them about it. We are learning now that some of the research from way back in the 80’s is probably more relevant now than it’s ever been, due to the market conditions and the factors that are affecting sales. So we use a ton of stuff, an absolute ton. The amount of research that we gobble up is pretty astounding and how we assimilate that research is pretty astounding as well……and we’re a two man team.
Joe: So there’s a lot of work there. It’s funny you mentioned that actually, I was speaking to Clark Boyd some time ago and he was mentioning how older techniques and older trends are coming back to sales. So that’s quite interesting that you’ve linked up with that there. A phrase that we use at Lead Forensics is ‘warm data and warm calling’. So with all this intent data available to sales teams through tools like Lead Forensics and even LinkedIn, do you think cold calling is slowly becoming obsolete?
Aaron Evans: No, I don’t. I think the only thing making it obsolete is probably the access at the moment. But I don’t think it is obsolete. And again, this is borne out in the statistics because I think 58% of the C level execs said they would take a cold call. Which is pretty astounding when you consider that email response rates are so low as well. I do think it’s harder to get hold of people but I also think that having someone know who you are, before you contact them has never been easier. Connecting with people on LinkedIn, commenting on their posts, giving them stuff. “Here’s a report that I saw last week. Have a look at this, it’s quite interesting. Tell me what you think. I thought it might be useful for you guys”. Giving away as much as you can to the buyer. It has never been easier for them to know your face. I also think this sort of catch-all term of ‘social selling’ or ‘personal branding’ I think is another term that’s used. I think it’s a magnificent thing if done right. The problem is that often the person who has the LinkedIn account doesn’t have the expertise or the knowledge to inform and educate the buyer. I think warm outreach is obviously a sensible thing to do. The problem is that because of most organisations’ pace that they move, and some of the ludicrous targets they give their sales people because of the demands that are on them because of their VC investors….they don’t get time to do proper sales practice anymore. So these poor SDRs and AEs, they’re on the hamster wheel constantly and they can’t come up for air. I do feel sorry for them. I think SaaS has poisoned the well a little bit because of VC funding. I think that having to grow by 50% every year is not achievable. It’s just not. Why even try it? The pressure that you’re going to put on the senior leaders and then roll trickle down to the salespeople is just obscene. So my advice to any salesperson this year in 2023, is actually try and come up for air and start investing time in the areas that are going to win long time with your buyers. Sending out a thousand sequences a day to piss off your buyers is not the answer to that at all, I’m afraid.
Joe Ducarreaux: Again, you’re segueing wonderfully into the next thing that I want to ask you about, Aaron, it’s quite professional! You had a chat last year with Will Aitken from Salesfeed, who’s obviously somebody that everybody’s aware of now, and someone we’ve had actually on Essential B2B webinars and someone I look up to for sure. You had a chat with him, which was called ‘How to Nail Video Outreach’. So rather than sending out an email, you sent a little video saying, “Hey, here I am”. One thing that came out of that conversation that stuck with me was this quote here. So, “Inbox becoming the graveyard of cold outreach”. Have you seen any success with video yourself since you had that conversation with Will?
Aaron Evans: Yeah. I love video. I’m a big, big fan of video. Again, used right, obviously. But again, I think it’s, it goes back to what we said before about this idea around emotions and the part that they play in decision making. It’s a really good format for getting across your personality.
In fact, I think it’s the best format for getting across your personality and on top of that, the statistics around it are pretty staggering. I think it’s, 68% of people watch a business related video if it’s under one minute, which is pretty crazy. God knows what it is of email. Probably, 0.1% of people will read an email to its completion. Now I know it feels like I’m knocking email quite a lot, but I think it’s one of the most misused formats in sales. I don’t know if your inbox is anything like mine, but it’s just full of outreach that I’m just never going to read. Because it’s too long, too boring, not relevant, not bespoke for me or it’s just a repetition of the same cheat tactics that you see all the time.
If everyone’s using a tactic, it’s not a tactic anymore, it’s just going to piss the buyer off. You keep getting emails with the same subject line because some gurus told you to do it on Linkedin. It’s not a good experience for the buyer. But back to video. I think video is an incredibly powerful format.
I think part of it is novelty. I think people aren’t used to receiving videos, so they get excited about it when it gets in their inbox and they’re likely to read it. I think if it gets to the point where everyone’s sending video all the time with every outreach, which is again, just pisses the buyer off. But I also think video is not just important in outreach. It’s important throughout the wholesale process. Going back to that part before when we spoke about aligning stakeholders. A two minute video, to be sent to all 11 or 12 buyers in the buyer group is a great way of aligning stakeholders. Versus trying to get them all in the same room at the same time, which isn’t achievable in 2023, or very unlikely, at least. See I think video is a really cool format. I just hope we don’t ruin it like we’ve done with every other cool thing. Todd Capone sums it up perfectly. He’s like a proper sales historian. We’ve ruined the letter because we sent too many of them. Then we got the telephone, we ruined the telephone. Then we’ve got the internet and then we ruined email and then we got video and it’s just a matter of time until we ruin video. But yeah, it’s a great format, really good. I like Will as well. Will is a very cool guy and I like what he’s doing. Very humorous and again, I think he is buyer centric.
Joe Ducarreaux: Absolutely.Yeah, his stuff is particularly good and we both share a huge passion for Star Wars, which is very good. But I think you’re right. I think the thing that video can do very quickly is immediately break down certain social barriers versus, as you say, opening up an email. Just consistently seeing, just being aware of someone who’s consistently putting out videos.
You create what’s called a parasocial relationship with them, don’t you? So you start to understand…. as you earlier pointed out, it’s a perfect explanation……. It’s a demonstration of their personality. So it immediately is a useful tool just to break down those barriers and like you say, hopefully it doesn’t go the way of everything else and get overdone.
Aaron Evans: I think for me though and by virtue of the fact that you’re speaking to me and you’ve spoken to Will, it shows you something. We are obviously talking about something that you think is interesting and you think is worthwhile coming on your podcast for. Now, let’s look through that lens of the buyer. If I was an SDR in 2023, I would create a content machine of just constantly talking about the challenges that my buyer faces every single day. That’s what I would do and the same thing that’s happening to us now will happen to the SDRs. Someone will think that content is really interesting and important and that will resonate with them and they’ll align to that problem. Then they’ll send you a message, in the same way that you guys sent me a message. I think this is part of the problem, is that we are trying to educate the buyer the wrong way. We’re trying to educate them by getting them on a demo and showing them a product. No. I’m gonna educate you on what you should be thinking about right now. If you’re not thinking about this, here’s what the iceberg in the distance looks like. You need to be looking at this now, trust me because I see this every single day with the customers that we’re servicing at the moment.
Joe Ducarreaux: Something else I wanted to ask you about Aaron. Chris Walker shared this graph recently. We’re going to put that up on the screen for you now. This sales marketing misalignment strategy. So there’s very much the old way, which is what we’ve spoken about… inbound marketing, outbound sales. It’s all seller focused. The new way is all buyer focused. So we’ve got here, the pipeline, the cold outbound, ABM, intent, lead gen events. These are all buyer focused buyer centric methods. Can we just get some thoughts from you on that?
Aaron Evans: Yeah. I’m not going to excruciatingly go through the detail, but first of all I love Chris Walker. I think he’s brilliant. He’s super smart and he’s a voice that we should be listening to and I really like the Refine Labs as well but the thing that amazes me is that, are we surprised? What? Why are we surprised? What Chris is essentially saying there is that we need to put the buyer first and then align our organisation to be buyer centric in the way that the buyer buys. I sit there sometimes, I heard someone the other day talking about sales enablement. They said, “we need seller led enablement”. Yeah, your enablement is there to help sell us. Why? Why are we surprised by this stuff? But it shows how far in the rabbit hole we actually are, how deep in the rabbit hole we actually are. When Chris brings this up, which I think is really smart, I really like the way he’s thinking about things and I really like the way that actually what he’s doing is he’s forcing organisations to look at themselves and bring these departments together and actually have an objective for the buyer as opposed to the organisation. Who would’ve thought? It should be buyer focused. Everything that we do should be buyer focused, right? So as an example, why are we running demos when we haven’t run the discovery on someone? Why are we not letting them know that there is a problem that they could be solving? Why are we not trying to learn more about their challenges in their organisations? Why are we doing stuff that’s US focused versus them focused, right? So yeah, I think it’s really clever. I think he’s a super bright guy. He thinks about things in the right way and I think on top of that he demonstrates that he’s got a deep understanding of how these things work. He’s in his field of expertise, in marketing, he’s got a deep understanding and I’m really glad that he shares this with the rest of the community. I think people should go and follow him. I think salespeople particularly should listen to what he says because we can keep kidding ourselves. that marketing and sales are different, but they’re not. They’re part of the same machine. We know when sales and marketing is working well because we never hear anything. We never, ever hear anything. The buyer doesn’t turn around after they’ve purchased something and go, God, I was marketed so well with that purchase. Or they don’t turn around and go.God, I was sold so well in that process, they turn around and say, oh, I made the right decision in buying this product. This is the point, that when it is humming and it’s working, you never hear. That’s the sign of a really cohesive sales marketing and strategy team as well.
Joe Ducarreaux: So the best sort of sales marketing strategy is invisible?
Aaron Evans: Yes, but here’s part of the problem, both parties want to take the credit when it does work. Marketers say we, you wouldn’t have done it without us but that’s a microcosm for the problem of sales and marketing. Let’s be real, right? If you’re talking to someone and you’re a salesperson, they’ve heard of your product, your life is much, much easier. That’s because of marketing, right? And if someone goes on and purchases the product, if they’ve heard of you and they buy it and they make the right decision and they don’t choose another product. That’s the sales organisation that’s done really well in doing that as well. So we have to realise that they can’t work without each other.
Go and start a business today and have sales as your only option. It won’t work. Go and start a business today and have marketing as your only option. It simply won’t work unless it’s very low spend or free. So yeah I think he’s doing the right thing of bringing those organisations together. But more importantly, looking through the lens of the buyer.
Joe Ducarreaux: Going on to techniques that are novel and novelty things coming up. So AI is a big trend at the minute. What part do you think it has to play for sales this coming year?
Aaron Evans: I don’t know! Let me tell you why. It’s a catch-all term for lots of different things. If you look at companies like Gong as an example, I think they’re using AI really effectively in the conversation intelligence part of things. But it’s such a catch-all term and so many products are trying to leverage AI to do something at the moment that I just don’t know. I get lost in AI because everyone is now going, our product’s got AI, we use AI… great! But what’s the outcome that’s going to drive for me? And again, I find it hard sometimes to disconnect from it just being something that a company does and the actual value that it drives into the organisation itself. But yeah, there are some businesses that are using AI in a cool way. The only one that jumps to mind actually is Tesla, which has nothing to do with a sales interview. But for example, how AI can be effective is that the product gets better the more that someone uses it. I think Lavender, I don’t know if you guys have heard of that tool or not, but the work that (inaudible) is doing at Lavender is really cool. Using artificial intelligence to make people’s emails more effective and almost becomes a kind of side by side email coach to improve the quality of the output that’s going on there. The reason I love that product so much is not only because it’s helping the salesperson, but more importantly it’s helping the buyer because again, the buyer is inundated with emails that are just nonsensical and no one wants to read them. It might actually deliver some value for the buyer as well. So yeah there’s a couple of examples of where there’s some value being given. But I don’t know, what do you think? I’m interested in your perspective on this actually, because I’m not an expert on AI. But everyone seems to have it. I feel left out because my services that I sell don’t have it. For me, I am the artificial intelligence apparently.
Joe Ducarreaux: To be honest with you, I’ve not really experienced much and particularly not in my professional capacity. The only point where I’ve seen AI implemented and I’ve gone not entirely sure that’s a great thing, is that Dali, this image creation sort of thing. I think you can separate the things, if you want to just make a cool image for your socials or whatever, absolutely fine. There is this weird cognitive dissonance in my head…… and this is sounding quite lofty and perhaps we’ll take this out of the conversation to be quite honest with you…..but the idea of machines creating art, which very much is the only thing that we can do as human beings, that machines can’t. There’s a weird cognitive dissonance for me there. But in terms of sales and selling and that sort of thing I’ve got I’m probably less sure of what I think than you even Aaron.
Aaron Evans: I’ll say this about it, is that this year, according to a paper that was published, an academic paper, this year was the first year that SDRs overtook AEs in hiring. So there are more SDRs being hired this year than there were in 2021 or in 2022, I should say. There were more hired than AEs. Now, I’m gonna make a prediction. I think the SDR role will be made redundant in the next 10 years. The reason is because the SDR is getting involved in deals that should be tech touch and then not getting involved in enough deals that should be (inaudible) led, like (inaudible) roles deals. I also think that we are going to see a rebirth of the 360 salesperson, who does their own sourcing of leads, does their own cold calling, does their own sales process. Maybe not the account management, the CS side of it, but I think the SDR role is very close to being made redundant in the next 10 years.
Joe Ducarreaux: Hopefully we get to speak again slightly before that, Aaron. But let’s come back in 10 years’ time and then we’ll see how close we got. Okay, so we’ve spoken about things that we can put in place and things to do proactively and positively for the coming year. What are the trends that you want to see left behind, leave them behind in 2022?
Aaron Evans: It’s a really good question. Here’s the way I think about it. On LinkedIn, everyone’s talking about tactics. No one’s talking about strategy salespeople. What do I mean by that? You’ll get someone go “try this cold call opener” “Hey, can I borrow 27 seconds of your time?” This is called a pattern interrupt. And it’s yeah, okay and then I get 50 calls of people doing the same thing to me and I’m like, yeah I hear this all the time. You want 27 seconds of my time? No, just tell me what you want. No one’s saying strategies. So people should be saying, for me, here’s the strategy of an SDR in 2022. There’s two main things you need to achieve, right? Educate the customer on as many problems as you can and challenges and help the customer as much as you can. Here’s your overriding objectives and your goals. Here’s the strategies on how we’re gonna do it. I want to see less tactics and more strategy when it comes to sales and I think this will start infusing into organisations as well, because. Most organisations, particularly in SaaS…. and I know I keep saying that, but it’s so prevalent….. they’re just trying to get people into the funnel as quickly as they can and move them through the funnel as quickly as they can. So it’s just put more top of funnel, put more top of funnel, put more top of funnel. The problem probably isn’t top of funnel. The problem is probably happening in the middle or the bottom of the funnel. So I think businesses should go back and focus; why their buyers are entering their funnel and only a small percentage of them are purchasing their product. So it’s actually about really optimising the funnel. I think the best way of doing that is and I stole this from Todd Capone because I think the man’s a genius and he really turned the light switch on in my brain, is that we are way too seller centric and the way that we even organise our sales organisation. So if you go to any business and you look at their sales stages, it’s a demo booked or proposal sent. They’re ‘US’ led actions, we need to actually align with the buyer. So something like AIDA, which I used to turn my nose up at, to be honest with you and think, God that’s so old-fashioned. But no, this is part of the problem, we’ve ignored the buyer in this process, so we should be going back to Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. We should be going back to that, looking at the customer’s buyer journey versus looking at our sales process and actually looking for buyer led actions as being the important thing, not ‘US’ led actions. So let me give you an example of that now, Joe. Open your email, send a proposal out to every single person in your contact list. Congratulations, you’ve now got 400 opportunities at proposal sent stage. None of them are ever going to buy it. It doesn’t matter, we’ve sent proposals to them. No. That’s not important to us. What’s important is what is the buyer doing in this process? So we need to stop looking at ‘US’ led actions and start looking at the buyer’s behaviour. So I think it is happening and you spoke about that little graph at the beginning of this. Which, when you look at it, you think, oh wow, someone’s reinventing the voice. They’re just putting the buyer at the centre, as the hero of the story, not the seller or the company and this is what we need to do. We need to take the spotlight off ‘US’, put the spotlight on the buyer and start moving to the way that they’re moving. We should be the wave, they should be the thing on the wave, not the other way round.
Joe Ducarreaux: Aaron, this has been a fantastic conversation. I really enjoyed hearing what you have to say on what’s coming up for 2023. I’m gonna have to challenge you now because you’ve given out so many incredible sort of actionable tips and bits of advice and predictions even.
I’m going to ask you now for one top tip. If you could give one top tip to everybody who’s watching this, listening to this, what’s that top tip for them to focus on for 2023?
Aaron Evans: Become an industry expert monster. Like an absolute monster where every time someone talks to you about your industry, they learn something and they get value from the conversation. That is it, Right? If you’re in sales enablement and you’re listening to this, go and build proper programs around industry, business acumen, how buyers buy, the challenges that are being faced in the market. And every single conversation you have, challenge your buyers, bring up this information, educate your buyers, let them know that you know more than them. Because that’s what they want. That’s what they care about, speaking to someone who knows more about them or can help them overcome these challenges. That is what I’d say. It’s boring, it’s dry, but you should be interested in that and you should learn as much as you can about that. Oh, and also when you call someone, say, Hey, can I get 27 seconds of your time? So they can (inaudible) for that last part.
Joe Ducarreaux: I don’t think it’s dry or boring at all. I think if it’s sage advice, then it can be applied and it can certainly be of value. So Aaron Evans, thank you so much for joining us for this coffee time talk.
Aaron Evans: The pleasure has been all mine. And I hope you have me back on again if I haven’t ranted too much.
Joe Ducarreaux: No, absolutely. You would love to. Thanks very much.
Aaron Evans: No worries.
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