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My Predictions for Sales in 2013

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Each year at this time I get asked to write my predictions for sales in the coming year. Can there be anything that suggests more that sales is a fashion business than making predictions about what next year will look like? A year is too short of time to predict anything when it comes to sales and selling. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spot the trends that seem to have legs.

Here are my two predictions.

The Coming Flight to Relationships

There are two parts to this trend.

First, your dream clients no longer want to be treated like they’re a transaction. We’ve chased the bottom for too long. We’ve sold lower prices, lost margin, and in the process, we’ve made it more difficult to get our clients the outcomes they need. Since they’ve treated us like we’re commodities, we’ve treated them like they’re a transaction. And it isn’t working for either of us.

The tide is turning. Or maybe it’s already turned. Your clients no longer want you to treat them like they’re a transaction. Your clients want to be treated like they’re important. They want to buy from someone who cares about them and who will really help them achieve the business outcomes they need.

We humans are relationship-building creatures.

We value intimacy, someone who really knows us and knows what we need. Intimacy doesn’t easily scale.

We value caring, someone who wants to help us get the outcomes we need. Caring doesn’t easily scale.

We value initiative, someone who is proactive and who thinks about how to help us in the future—even when we aren’t thinking about our future. Initiative doesn’t easily scale.

This relationship stuff is personal. It’s deep. It’s important. Relationships are made up of the stuff individual salespeople do and that differentiates them in a crowded space. It’s this stuff that allows them to create a higher level of value (but more on that later).

And there’s another reason relationships are important: consensus-building.

Buyers have been buying more and more on consensus for decades. But that trend seems still to be growing. More and more, the people we used to refer to as “decision-makers” are looking to their team to rally around some idea before they are willing to sign off on it. This is true even when the purchase order is relatively small.

If you are going to build consensus, you are going to need relationships up and down your dream client’s organizational chart. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard where the solution was right and the deal was lost because the sales team couldn’t build consensus within their client’s company.

Relationships are only going to grow in importance. And they’re going to be the key to making my second trend work.

The Coming Flight to Value

Your clients are going to be willing to pay you more next year.

Yes, you read that right. They are going to be willing to pay you more money than they’ve paid you in the past. Here’s why: Your dream clients are not getting the outcomes they need.

Your clients wanted to commoditize you. They wanted to make you a transaction. You responded by allowing them to underinvest, fearing you would lose on price. And so did your competitors. Now your clients are unhappy because they need better results. Results they’re not getting.

If you want to take advantage of your dream client’s willingness to pay more, you have to do something about it.

You have to justify your price by showing how a greater investment will give your clients a greater return. You have to help them justify the higher price to the rest of their organization by providing them the stories and proof providers they need. Most of all, you have to be willing to create the value that is worth paying more to obtain in the first place.

This last point is important: You have to create more value if you want to claim more value. You can have a bigger slice of the pie, but you have to help make the pie bigger in the first place.

Your dream clients know that there is a difference between price and cost. In their heart of hearts, they know that cheapest and best are never found in the same offering. But you have to help them make the trade-offs.

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

You are going to hear countless predictions about Big Data and other giant trends in 2013. But relationships and value are already completely within your control. You can go out and make these two predictions come true for you by putting them to work in your sales game now. You can make these self-fulfilling prophecies.

And why wouldn’t you?

What could you lose by investing the relationships you need? What could you possibly lose by creating more value for your clients and learning to help them keep from underinvesting in the outcomes they need?

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  • Robert Terson

    I enjoy all your material, Anthony, but this was an especially effective piece. I hope your predictions come to pass, because establishing strong Relationships with your clients/customers and providing them great Value are, and always have been, the “secrets” to top-tier sales success. So, I think you’ve proven what I often say to the young salespeople who call me for help, which is: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Sure, there’s been a lot of changes that have taken place in the 45 years since I began my selling career, no doubt about it; but the basics, the cornerstones?…they’re the same.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Bob! I don’t believe these fundamentals ever change.

  • figmentations

    The tricky part is that when transitioning from a transactional to a value-based mindset, that takes a much bigger time and effort investment than most people are accustomed to giving. That extra effort can make you look and feel unproductive if you aren’t patient enough to let it work itself through.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I think I agree with you. I notice too many sales organizations looking for quick fixes and easy answers. The fundamentals may appear to be slower, but they’re really faster.

  • Sean McPheat

    The knee jerk reaction for any client in a “poor economy” is to try and squeeze as much out of you and pay for as little as possible.

    But this in itself is a false economy! You normally get what you pay for and a cheaper tactical solution (vendor/transactional) can never outperform a more strategical approach (relationship/trusted advisor partnership)

    The best solutions are created when you can offer some quick wins in amongst a strategic solution – you get the best of both worlds. But the message is clear and has been clear from the day selling was invented….

    “It’s a value game”

    You need to build the value so much that when you reveal they price the prospect has built up a figure in their mind that is about x 3 the actual amount when you reveal it.

    Now that’s value!

    Value and relationships rock!


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      So true, Sean. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

  • Marc Zazeela

    So right Anthony.

    Humans are no different today than 100 years ago. We are still social beings who crave contact and interaction. Algorithms and data are no match for that.

    Computers cannot measure human emotions and feelings. Only other humans can. While there may be some of us who are content to isolate themselves in an all digital environment, I suspect that most of us would go crazy after a time.

    Happy selling.


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Or maybe a couple millennia ago.