Selling is hard, and it’s not getting any easier.
The buying landscape continues changing in favor of the buyer. Consumers have access to vast amounts of information, helping them make educated buying decisions without ever having to talk to a salesperson.
Business development and outbound sales teams have to prove to potential buyers that there is still value in speaking with them.
Sales teams have to go beyond the common sources that prospective customers use to find information:
- Product reviews
- Customer testimonials
- Free trials
- Google searches
- Help articles
What does all this mean for business development going forward?
Keep reading to learn about business development trends to watch for in 2021.
5 Business development trends to track in 2021
To be successful in 2021, business development teams must get back to basic sales fundamentals. Sales team leaders will lead the charge and have to train their sales reps to go above and beyond for their prospects.
Here are 5 business development trends for 2021:
- Put the right tools in your toolbox
- Promote business development — emphasis on development
- Be equal parts compelling and human
- Align outbound with marketing
- Know when to go all-in (and when to fold)
1. Put the right tools in your toolbox
Consumers aren’t the only ones that benefit from the changing buying landscape. The development of digital software tools can help a sales team scale up their productivity across the sales cycle.
Implementing a new software tool for your sales team can be a game-changer.
Areas that software tools can improve include:
- Contact organization → Customer-relationship-managers or CRM tools keep contact records, interactions, and next steps in order
- Output → Auto-dialers, email automation, and scheduling software help save time and increase the number of touches per sales rep
- Discovery and qualifying calls → call recording software helps you identify issues and improve call quality with the ability to listen to your own calls
- Prospect research → LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Outreach.io, and other sales engagement tools provide sales reps with valuable prospect information
- Data uniformity → tools like TextExpander allow you to pre-program call note formats for uniform data entry
Simple text shortcuts with TextExpander save time and ensure a uniform system of data entry for your sales reps, improving visibility and organization.
At ActiveCampaign, we saw an opportunity to scale up our call output. Sales productivity tools have allowed our outbound reps to extend their outreach far past what you could manually do in an hour’s time. As a result, we’ve been able to scale our outbound team faster!
However, be careful! Sales productivity tools can be a tremendous waste of money and resources if you don’t think through your choices. The outcome depends on your sales team’s needs, and how the new tool fits into your current stack.
Using more software tools just because you can isn’t going to improve your sales team’s performance. Instead, focus on filling in gaps or strengthening the weak points in your sales strategy.
Identify the gaps and inefficiencies in your sales process to make smart software choice and take advantage of the powerful business development software tools available.
2. Promote business development — emphasis on development
Development means enabling, aligning, and empowering your reps to do their jobs better — not just “how do I hit my goal in the easiest way possible?”
It’s easy to get lost in the constant evolution, and the things that are different from week to week and month to month.
As sales leaders, sometimes you need to strip that away and remember why you’re here in the most basic form: to teach sales reps how to sell. You’re here to teach them to be consultative and not just the people who push features and functionality. You need to help them develop their sales skills.
What does “development” mean as a business development trend?
- Continued training on the product or service
- Microskill training from high performing teammates, as well as higher-level sales professionals
- Setting challenging quotas and measuring progress with personalized feedback
Focus on enablement was one of the strongest business development trends this year. Remember that these are developmental roles!
When you train your sales development representatives (SDRs) and business development representatives (BDRs), they take that knowledge and apply it to their next roles and beyond. Everyone wins.
3. Be equal parts compelling and human
“You have all of 10 seconds to clearly articulate your value proposition to keep people engaged longer. There’s a high likelihood that without a compelling reason to stay within those first few seconds, people will click away.” — Jennifer Havice in Finding the Right Message
This principle is the same in business development. In a cold call scenario, you have (at most) 30 seconds to be compelling. You have even less time if you don’t make a human connection.
This means that SDRs and BDRs have to call with a business perspective for each prospect. Using the same, generic message on a list of 100 contacts won’t get you anywhere.
Your message should be tailored to their business and their needs. Personalize your outreach and put some thought into it. Telling a sales prospect about an irrelevant feature is the quickest way to end a call.
Do your research and take a consultative approach,
“What are you truly trying to accomplish with your business? Here’s how we’ve partnered with other businesses around that. Here are use cases from businesses who have also done those things with our help.”
If you balance the human aspect with a compelling message and find the sweet spot in the middle, you’ll win 15-20 minutes of their time at a later date.
“I know I caught you off guard, but I just need 30 seconds to tell you why I called and how we’re helping similar people with these critical business functions. If it makes sense we can set up a 15-minute call to discuss everything further.”
4. Align outbound with marketing
The biggest opportunity for business development overall is outbound. To get the most from your outbound sales efforts your sales message has to be aligned with your marketing strategy.
- Brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Credibility and thought leadership
Moving to a more unified strategy creates consistency in the buyer’s mind. Long customer lifecycles win in the SaaS and subscription model — and customer longevity begins with marketing and outbound sales.
Marketing and outbound sales have to combine for a unified outreach strategy that shows potential customers the value of becoming an actual customer.
Things change, industries shift, and products evolve but at the end of the day it’s about positioning your company and sending the right message.
What do you do differently that sets you apart from your competitors?
Your marketing efforts should tell that story, and your outbound business development reps should continue the story.
Business development doesn’t stop when a customer signs a contract. Provide support and onboarding services for new customers. Teach them how to use your product. Show them how to get the most value from it.
5. Know when to go all-in (and when to fold)
The sales landscape is always changing, especially outbound sales. Today, business development trends could be short-lived or become best practice. What’s more, something that doesn’t work for one company could become another company’s best practice!
The only way to know for sure is to measure your team’s activity. Access to information doesn’t only benefit the consumer — today’s software tools measure a vast amount of key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Number of calls per day
- Amount of sales pipeline generated
- Average length of a successful call
- Number of emails sent
- Cold calls per connection with a prospect
- Number of connections per meeting set
- Number of meetings set per new customer
Take the data and dig into it to find trends. Where is your strategy working? Double down on those tactics. Which areas need improvement? Adjust and iterate as necessary. Then measure the results and test again.
Business development trends are best approached like the scientific method:
- Identify a problem → “Our reps aren’t generating enough pipeline.”
- Do some research → “On average, it takes 30 cold calls to connect with a prospect, and 1 of 3 connects leads to an in-depth discussion.”
- Create a hypothesis → “If the BDRs had a software to help them connect with more prospects, then we would generate more sales pipeline.”
- Test the hypothesis → “We’ll pilot an auto-dialer software on half the team, and compare the results to the group who doesn’t use the auto-dialer.”
- Measure the results → “The group using the auto-dialer connected with 58% more prospects than the control group. That led to a 20% increase in generated sales pipeline.”
- Draw conclusions → “If we extend the auto-dialer to the rest of the team, we’ll generate enough sales pipeline to hit our yearly goals.”
Using the scientific method is the best way to discover solutions to the problems in your business development strategy. (Source)
Today’s sales software tools make it possible to measure the effects of any changes you make.
When you’re deliberate about which metrics you want to improve (and why), you’re much more likely to identify the problem areas make changes that have a positive impact.
Sometimes the changes you make don’t work, and that’s okay! Knowing what doesn’t work can be as helpful as knowing what does work. Be sure to keep an eye on the changes you make and monitor the results. The earlier you know the effects, the better.
Evaluate and adjust your overall business development plan quarterly if not monthly. The outbound sales landscape changes fast, and regular strategy audits help you stay on top of business development trends.
Conclusion: Business development trends in 2021
In the digital age, things change and evolve faster than ever. With uncertainty becoming the new norm, doing the right things is critical for the success of your business development strategy.
Doing the right things means:
- Positioning products that solve critical business problems for customers
- Being consultative and aligning a solution that fits your customer’s needs
- Not overselling them on anything
- Providing information, support, and value for your prospects at every touchpoint
Doing the right things is easier when you follow the business development trends outlined above:
- Give your sales reps the tools they need
- Train, educate, and develop your sales reps
- Balance a compelling message with a human touch
- Align your outbound marketing with your outbound sales
- Double down on your successes, and make adjustments to your shortcomings