Top 5 SME Business Trends in 2017

1. Subject Matter Experts Become The New Rainmakers

Subject matter experts who understand and can help guide the sales process drive growth in top performing B2B companies.

Consider three different buying personas: an order taker, a salesperson, and a subject matter expert (SME). The order taker merely takes an order, and provides a price and delivery schedule. That function can be easily performed by Amazon (often with better results).

Of the remaining two personas, which one would you want to encounter as a customer? Would you want the person with a mission to sell something to you, or the expert who you might be willing to pay to meet with because of their deep expertise?

When I present these options to executives, they often resist the notion of meeting with a salesperson, but would willingly meet with the SME to gain insight.

Whereas you can hire new salespeople right out of college, SMEs can be harder to scale. However, most organizations have a stable of SMEs who currently do not play a role in growing revenue. The best organizations offer integrity-based sales training to build a sales culture within the organization and empower the SMEs as keys to growth.

Businesses used to throw bodies at sales goals, and accepted that most of the people would fail. With SMEs, businesses place a premium on proper lead qualification and narrow focus on the right opportunities to make efficient use of scarce, yet highly effective resources. SMEs won’t tolerate wasting time pursuing bad opportunities.

 

2. Sales And Content Marketing Become Fully Integrated

As customers and buyers continue to do more online research, top performing organizations continue to integrate sales and content marketing. The goal is to ensure that when customers search for risks, challenges, and implementation strategies associated with your solutions, they will find your content to address their questions.

When I purchased my Tesla, I did research online, and scheduled my test drive the same way. The Tesla consultant coordinated the test drive and helped me select the right options (in many cases talking me out of features I didn’t really need). I then completed the purchase form online using a tablet in their store in a shopping mall. Ultimately, I placed the final order via Internet browser, from home.

Tesla provided articles and videos to help educate me as a consumer, and build trust surrounding the purchase. Through its marketing, Tesla established an innovative brand that helped me conclude that they have a long-term vision and position for the company.

As Marcus Sheridan teaches, top companies engage their front-line sales teams to identify topics for content marketing, and the content marketing team helps sales professionals to effectively use content in the sales process.

The people at SalesMango also have an interesting take on this concept.

 

3. Brick And Mortar Stores Without Expertise Disappear

Brick and mortar stores that merely offer merchandise without expertise or curation will continue to suffer.

Nordstrom gives fashion advice. Home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot offer education. But why does Costco work so well? Costco customers have come to believe that the retailer curates a narrow set of the best products at a great price and stands behind them with exceptional service. If they offered 15 alternatives for a given need, they’d fail. By curating quality and delivering value, they build trust.

Brick and mortar retailers that let you find things on your own will continue to lose market share to Amazon and others. If you have to discover the products on your own, it’s easier to do so online. USA Today reports on vast numbers of traditional retailers closing stores. If you look at the stores listed, they all fit the model of retailers that offer products without expertise. The Balance shared similar information.

 

4. Subject Matter Experts Get Sales Support

With a shift in subject matter experts (SMEs) to grow revenue (Trend #1), organizations understand that SMEs might not have the ideal professional or interpersonal skills to drive the buying steps for customers. Without proper support and training, SMEs could miss opportunities. However, customers still prefer to work with SMEs over traditional salespeople.

Top organizations recognize that SMEs often have broad roles in the organization. Their time is valuable, and you cannot afford to have them work inefficiently. This means three key components drive SMEs’ success:

1. Build and reinforce skills to understand the sales process to better appreciate how customers make decisions and how to “sell” with integrity;

2. Deploy sales support professionals who manage proposals, track details, and ensure continuity with clients who are primarily serviced by SMEs; and

3. Implement automation tools to keep important tasks from falling through the cracks and ensure focus on the right opportunities.

The sales departments will evolve to support SMEs. Top organizations surround SMEs with resources and tools to help manage follow-through, assign tasks, and track progress. This support network prioritizes follow-through based on rules, and ensures that the organization can be responsive and proactive at the right times. Tools like Salesforce, Contactually, and Infusionsoft provide dashboards and notifications to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

 

5. Recurring Revenue

Companies continue to shift from single, up-front payments for products to recurring revenue for a service. Financial markets reward predictable, recurring revenue. Whether it be monthly or annual, smart companies recognize that recurring revenue with a high renewal rate demonstrates perceived customer value. High renewal rates become an incredible marketing message.

Look for innovative vendors to waive long-term contracts and put their money where their mouth is. When sellers either feel a need to lock you into a long-term agreement or get payment up front, they are implying that you might find a better alternative. If the vendor assumes the risk of delivering and maintaining value by not requiring the long-term commitment, then the customer will reward the seller with more trust.

Just look at what John Legere did with T-Mobile. They went from being on the verge of disaster to thriving by removing contracts and listening to customers.

If you give your client the choice to renew or leave every month, then you’ll have your finger on the pulse of your market.

 

(Modified from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ianaltman/2016/12/06/top-10-business-trends-that-will-drive-success-in-2017/2/#1124bf74349b)

 

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