What B2B sales managers should know before setting sales goals in 2020

Setting sales goals for 2020?

There are numerous internal factors you first have to take into consideration: from future product development to sales performance this past year.

On top of that, you must consider what effect sales trends — aka external factors — will have in 2020. Not only should these sales trends influence the sales goals you actually set, but they’ll also play a role in achieving your goals.

For example, sales reps acting as trusted advisors promises to be a major sales trend in 2020. If your goals for the year are product-centric, you’ll have a harder time hitting targets because potential customers are more interested in your advice and insights.

To help you proactively consider external factors as you set your sales goals for the new year, we’ve analyzed the climate of the B2B industry in 2020.

Note: To provide context for the following sales trends, we’ve rounded up common types of sales goals and S.M.A.R.T. examples of each one:

  • Revenue: Achieve $1 million in sales during 2020.
  • Customer retention rate: Increase customer retention rate by 50% during Q4.
  • Deal size: Increase deal size by 35% through upsells.
  • Win rate: Achieve a 35% win rate in 2020.
  • Customer lifetime value: Improve customer lifetime value by 20% in Q1.
  • Activities per month: Achieve 15 demos per month per sales rep in Q1.

Consider how the following trends might affect your own sales goals.

5 B2B sales trends that will affect your 2020 sales goals

We scoured the digital world for reports, statistics, and trends from 2019 for the following sales trends. A recurring theme that we found was companies forming deeper customer relationships, with sales reps meeting customer needs.

Based on our analysis, 2020 promises to be a year where B2B companies focus more closely on strengthening customer and employee relationships.

We dive into five of the most compelling customer B2B trends to help you set your 2020 sales goals. Each section also includes which sales goals types are most likely to be affected.

Transition from solution selling to insight selling

Whereas sales was once based on solution selling — the sales rep simply sold a product (the solution) to a customer — it has evolved to where the customer also expects proactive service and superior sales experience.

According to the 2020 Walker Customer Survey, “insight selling” – offering customers the “big ideas” and vision they need to skillfully face the future – will be required.

Walker isn’t alone in this assessment. 79% of business buyers say that a sales rep doubling as a trusted advisor when it comes to adding value to the customer’s business is absolutely critical. Customers want more than your product — they want your expertise to help their business succeed.

This set-up is mutually beneficial. As you prove to be a valuable partner to customers, you increase their loyalty and secure their investment in your product.

But how do you help your sales team become trusted advisors? Well, sales reps must become more educated about their customers and offer personalized insights to improve their businesses. Here are ways to accomplish that:

  • Offer innovative sales training to help reps educate customers. To offer specialized advice, sales reps must know customers inside and out. Hold workshops that teach reps how to ask their customers challenging questions and actively listen to their responses. Have your sales reps shadow customer service to get a better idea of customer problems. Also ensure that metrics are customer-focused in order to avoid reps unnecessarily pushing solutions onto customers.
  • Hire industry experts who provide creative ways for customers to improve. Hires don’t always have to be experienced salespeople. Sometimes it makes more sense to hire people who are industry specialists. They personally understand the challenges that your customers face and the industry trends at large. Instead of asking, “What factors are impacting your industry?,” they proactively engage customers with questions such as, “Are you aware of [market change] that is impacting clients like yours?”

According to the founder of a communications company interviewed in the Walker Study, “We must be able to predict what the customer wants next. Today, it is more reactionary, after the fact. In 2020, customers will expect firms to be ahead of them, knowing what they need before they themselves have shown the need.”

What type of goals does this trend impact? Deal size, win rate, customer retention rate, activities per month.

Invest in training for new hires

More people will choose sales as a career in 2020. According to the Sales Education Foundation, the number of colleges and universities with sales programs is increasing rapidly. In 2007, only 27 colleges and universities had top sales programs, all located in the U.S. By 2017, the number of top sales programs increased to 136, with 17 international programs.

Capture up-and-coming talent and implement training to help new hires transition smoothly into your sales team. The right training helps reduce employee turnover, which is high among sales departments. Proper training also ensures that sales goals can be met when new reps stick around for the long-term.

Sales Hacker’s State of Renewals report found that more than half of their survey respondents said that new hires receive fewer than two weeks of training in their first 90 days, no matter if they were SDRs, AEs, or managers. These same respondents cited steady turnover.

The lesson? Onboarding training — introducing new hires to the company — is currently inadequate. Here are a few ways your own onboarding training can improve:

  • Implement field training. 65% of adult learners remember what they learn by doing. Rather than training in the classroom or online, offer “on-the-job” immersive programs in which junior sales reps are paired with experienced coaches performing real-world sales.
  • Create a shadowing program for your sales team. Your sales department shouldn’t operate in a silo. Involve new hires in other departments so they understand how internal processes work and how you communicate to customers. This can be accomplished through shadowing, such as listening in on customer service calls.
  • Schedule 1:1 meetings with new hires. As a sales manager, hold regular 30-minute meetings with your new reps (e.g. once a week starting out). Come prepared with an agenda and discussion points. Find out what they’re struggling with and determine ways you can help. Set small goals each week to track their progress.

If you constantly have to hire new sales reps, you’re going to lose money trying to get them up to speed. On top of that, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet sales goals. Avoid these issues by equipping your hires to succeed from Day One.

What type of goals does this trend impact? Overall business growth, deal size, revenue, win rate.

Involve the sales team in content marketing

Companies are increasing their spending on content marketing, and for a good reason. According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.

In addition, another study found that 9 out of 10 B2B product or service buyers say that online content has had a moderate to major impact on their purchasing decisions. Sales teams need to get more involved in 2020 to ensure that the right content is available at the right time for customers.

Unfortunately, content is often created in a vacuum. Marketing is unaware of sales conversations or what questions customers are actually asking. Sales teams then become frustrated when content doesn’t match their needs.

Maybe a prospect asks for examples of how other customers have succeeded with your product. If the sales rep doesn’t have the right resources, such as case studies, this could be a missed sales opportunity.

Your sales team should work with marketing on writing and/or providing feedback for

  • Lead generation content. Your sales team needs the right content to attract leads. This includes things such as eBooks, videos with a built-in lead generation form, and email courses.
  • Bottom-of-the-funnel content. Top-of-the-funnel content generates awareness for your product. Bottom-of-the-funnel content (e.g. case studies and webinars) speaks to problems that potential customers have and shows how your product or service is a solution.
  • Product-related content. Content like product updates, how-to integration videos, and product or service templates is excellent for educating potential customers about your product or service and why they should purchase.

Collaboration is key to successful sales content. A few ways to create the right content is to have members from marketing shadow sales calls so they can get a better sense of what’s important to customers. Talk with marketing managers about sales reps occasionally contributing to the blog. In addition, establish a feedback loop between sales and marketing.

Also, ensure that marketing sets up a shared resource library so that your sales team has access to all content for every stage of the sales cycle.

What type of goals does this trend impact? Win rate, overall business growth, deal size, customer retention rate.

Base decisions on predictive analytics

Historical customer data is a treasure trove for predicting how customers will act in the future. Sales managers can use predictive analytics (a type of artificial intelligence — or AI— technology) to make better sales decisions in 2020.

Predictive analytics also make your sales team more competitive. In fact, 79% of high-performing teams currently use predictive analytics. Incorporate this AI into your sales process to help you understand your customers better and achieve sales goals in 2020.

Numerous predictive analytic tools and software can pull data from your CRM, emails, and marketing automation software to tell you how likely customers are to purchase. Use predictive analytics for things like:

  • Lead scoring. Predictive analytics compares current leads with past ones to determine how likely they are to convert. Sales reps then know to spend more time on leads who have a higher chance of becoming a customer.
  • Sales forecasting. Inaccurate sales forecasts can hurt your entire company. If you overestimate sales, you could spend money that you won’t make back, and if you underestimate sales, you’re left ill-prepared for the coming quarter. Predictive analytics uses things like past customer behavior to accurately predict future sales.
  • Upselling or cross-selling. Predictive analytics lets your sales reps know good times to ask for an upsell or cross-sell. For example, if a current customer continues to visit a product upgrade page on your website, a predictive analytics tool could notify a rep to reach out.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ some kind of AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. Predictive analytics is one competitive way to base your sales decisions on data rather than guesswork.

What type of goals does this trend impact? Customer retention rate, win rate, customer lifetime value, deal size, revenue.

Train reps to offer superior customer service

Similar to the B2C experience, customers in the B2B space now expect a high-value customer experience. According to the Walker study, customer experience is expected to become more important to consumers by 2020 than price and product.

However, the Gladly’s 2018 Customer Service Expectations Survey found that even though 71% of customers desire a consistent experience across any channel, only 29% receive it. In turn, customers are more likely to churn if they’re not receiving proper care, impacting revenue goals.

It’s an area ripe for improvement, especially as your sales team heads into 2020.

Customer service isn’t limited to support anymore. According to Tony Hsieh, Founder and CEO of Zappos, “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”

Use the current gap in customer service as an opportunity to differentiate your brand. Set customer service goals and implement the following sales strategies:

  • Align with your customer service department. Sales and customer support often work separately from each other, even though both deal with customers on a daily basis. Implement strategies such as an organization plan and clear lines of communication to ensure that sales and support are offering the same messaging to customers.
  • Train your reps to offer customer service. Poor customer service affects both customer acquisition and customer retention. Check out our post that shares multiple ways for your reps to provide superior customer service: 5 best practices for offering excellent customer service.
  • Optimize your sales CRM to improve customer service. Your customer relationship management (CRM) software should be optimized to present to each employee a complete picture of every customer — from first contact to last sales call, support email, or newsletter open. This gives the customer a consistent, end-to-end experience across departments.

A consistent customer experience requires that every department work together to serve the customer, not just support. And these efforts are necessary.

When your customers receive an inconsistent experience across multiple departments, it can damage how they perceive your company, which can also affect your sales goals.

What type of goals does this trend impact? Deal size, customer retention rate, customer lifetime value.

Consider these trends before setting your sales goals

Remember the S.M.A.R.T. — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely — sales goal examples in our introduction? Factoring in sales trends helps ensure that your goals are realistic and timely.

For example, considering the content marketing trend in 2020, you could make a goal to “Increase the number of quality leads by 20% in Q1,” and track through lead generation content. Or, if you set a goal to “Improve customer retention rate by 15% in 2020,” implement content marketing strategies to help achieve this goal.

As we head into a new decade, keep these external factors in mind as you set your goals for the new year.

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