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The Nine Most Significant Changes to Sales Since 2005

Recently, I was thinking about how much "things" have changed in the last few years. It occurred to me that just the last half decade has brought a lot of it. The time since 2005 has had some surprising impacts on sales… 1. New ways to maintain, manage, and multiply relationships. Today, we’re able to remain in close contact with people we would have lost touch with in the 1990s. Sometimes, that can be a bad thing.  In fact, according to one study, as many as 20% of British divorces cite online social networks as a cause. This connectedness has serious implications for your sales team. 2. Social networks (online and off) as a critical source of info. Not only are we able to maintain, manage, and multiply our relationships, but we can also now use them to get (and share) more information. People put much more value on the information they get from their friends whom they perceive as unbiased (or at least with their best interests in mind). This is true of our “online” networks, too. Think about the number of people a recent college graduate can contact because of her Facebook account! The average person has 130 friends on Facebook. Social media means people don’t lose touch with each other the way they did in the past.

3. Every market has become more crowded. Whether you’re selling heavy equipment, software, gears, or soft drinks, your marketplace has almost certainly become more crowded. I think that’s because it’s cheaper now than ever before to start a business. Technology has made markets more accessible. Of course, a crowded market means lower prices. Unless your sales team knows how to get a premium price. Today’s difficult economy has eliminated some of that competition, but not all of it. 4. Buying decisions have been pushed higher up. This has become more true in the last three years. Decisions that used to be made by mid-level managers are now made a step-or-two higher. This, I think, is because of the economy. I don’t see it changing. People are spending money again, but they’re still trying to figure out how to do it in this “new” economy. 5. Larger groups of people are being asked to make decisions. In order to spread risk, and to ensure nothing gets missed, committees are more frequently assigned to make purchasing decisions. This has serious implications for the way your sales department approaches opportunities with their prospects. How much attention do they pay to the people who aren't in the room, but have influence? 6. It’s harder to get face-to-face with prospects. Prospects are becoming more guarded with their time than they’ve been in the past. It’s more difficult to get face-to-face with them. It’s becoming more important to justify your reasons for asking for their time. 7. Prospects have access to more information than ever before. In the past, it was almost a sure-bet that your prospect had less information about your offering (or possibly even their problem) than you. That’s not the case anymore. Today, you can’t be sure what your prospect knows. Until you ask. 8. Personal positioning has become easier and more essential. Salespeople can more easily become the trusted business advisors their prospects expect and their customers demand. The first step is to listen. Are your salespeople listening to the "twittersphere"? Might their customers benefit from a blog about how to better use your product? Could your sales team publish one as an account management tool? 9. People who understand technology increasingly in the “drivers’ seats.” People who can harness the power of technology have the opportunity to drive revenue. The Sales 2.0 movement acknowledges the fact that technology enhances a salesperson’s ability to facilitate a buying decision. Salespeople who know how to use technology to their advantage will see a higher return on their investment of time. What else? What have I missed? How else has our profession changed? @JebBrooks