Selling in 2035

by Chris Arlen on January 8, 2013

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Selling will change more than we think

What will selling look like in 2035?

Why 2035? It’s arbitrary of course, but if you were to have a child born this year, by 2035 he or she would be 22 and at an age where they might start a career in sales.

Imagine that: you’d be able to pass on your wealth of selling knowledge to help them succeed. But you could only do that if you continued to improve your skills and stay relevant through the years.

So here are several prognostications on the state of sales in the year 2035. And who knows, maybe we can become more effective today by being an early adopter of future norms.

Selling will only be Personal

Relationships will Rule the Buyer’s World

The days will be gone when salespeople close a deal with customers they barely know.

Customers will learn everything about suppliers and their offerings online, they will know what suppliers deliver and how.

The only missing piece for customers will be “the commitment”, the personal guarantee to marshall all the supplier’s resources to deliver their promises. That is “the commitment” customers will trust with their jobs, their income, their future.

As a result, customers will only buy from respected, trusted salespeople – salespeople who are friends.

To gain that strength of relationship, salespeople will communicate credibility and build relationships better and faster in 2035 than they do today.

Personal Commitment & Integrity will be THE Closers

As customers look for commitment and personal authenticity from salespeople, salespeople will close deals by putting their personal and professional integrity on the line for each deal.

Although salespeople today believe they already do this – they fall short of what they’ll have to do in 2035.

Today, they either don’t communicate very well, or don’t want to make their strongest commitment personally.

In 2035, there will be no choice -  it’s make sure customers are moved by your commitment, or no sale.

Multiple Communities serving Long Tail Customers

By 2035, there will be new technologies and social media attracting diverse micro-niche communities. Some of today’s social media will thrive, limp by, die, while others will be born as the latest-greatest-disruptive new kid on the block.

Within that future cornucopia of on-line connectivity, customers will figure out where they want to hang out, and salespeople will join them there.

This means salespeople will be members in more than one community and use its dominant social media to interact with customers. It means effortlessly waltzing between many social media the way we now sort through email in our inbox.

Selling will be to Customer-Friends – Not Companies

Customers will move from company to company on a project by project basis. Their long-term allegiance will be to the project they’ve been hired to complete.

In this role, customers will be much like salespeople are today – paid for performance and looking for the next opportunity before the current one ends.

As a result, salespeople will develop strong, lasting relationships by delivering value that makes their customers look good and nails down the next projects.

Today, many experienced (read “older”) salespeople have a cadre of customer-friends who move from company to company, bringing them along for the sale. The downside is this typically takes salespeople decades to accomplish.

In 2035, salespeople will develop their customer-friends at the beginning of their careers. Their success will depend on spotting the potential successful relationships and visibly demonstrating value early on.

Relationships are the Delivery System of Value

Because sales will be secured on the salesperson’s personal commitment to their customer, and that individual customer represents future sales – salespeople will help deliver the purchased product or service. Salespeople are going to stick around to make sure their company delivers on its customer promises – instead of handing over that responsibility to their companies’ account management.

Some Old Things will Become New Again

Targeted Mailings

Not all old-timey sales tools will go away. When everyone is inundated with tweets, inline messages and friend updates, receiving a letter in the once a week postal service will seem truly unusal and will be noticed.

But it will be targeted, expensive and very infrequent – like sending a telegram today.

Some Old Things will Become Extinct

Mass Mailings

Direct mail campaigns, including catalogs, will die out as their ROI is superseded by everyone being online in 2035. Societally, it will be déclassé to send paper indiscriminately to prospective customers, even if it’s 100% recycled and printed using soy inks.

Twenty two years from now, communication will be entirely digital – analog books and newspapers will be in museums.

Telemarketing

Cold calling will be eliminated as new technologies program customizable white lists into VoIP phone services or hardware. As a result unwanted or unauthorized callers will be automatically screened.

I don’t know why this isn’t done today but it will by 2035. Darn, I’m going to miss calling up a stranger out of the blue and asking them to buy something.

Some Old Things will Remain the Same

Spam

Unfortunately, email spam and phishing will still be with us as the cost to produce them are infinitesimal compared to the volume generated.

And there will be the one in a million victim to keep perpetrators at it. Too bad.

The Moral of Predicting the Future

It seems we underestimate how much we’ll change in the future – but change we will, and selling with us.

Which of the future norms above will you be able to develop ahead of the curve?

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