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Top biz & tech trends for business success in 2017

 Article from Forbes. by Ian Altman, business analyst.

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.

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2. Elevated customer engagement

We have already seen a shift on how brands engage customers -- in person and digitally. Customer engagement will continue to dominate as merchants move to a more digital-based business model. Relationships matter, and we have forgotten that intimacy can exist in a digital environment through data, responses and personalisation.

Customers want brands to become experts on them and to be treated as though they matter -- which they do. Already, some retailers are delving into personalized services.

If companies show that they're personalizing their experiences, rather than just selling something, those actions will build trust, curate the quality of the product and deliver value.

Takeaway: Understand that the process is always about the customer, never about the salesperson, the brand or the store. This should be a rule, never the exception.

3. 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.

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.  

4. Using Cloud Services 

Storage of data has become less dependent on hard drives and more on the Internet. This phenomenon, called cloud computing, is an easy solution to store and access data and programs without the need for physical data storage. Having cloud-based applications, or software as a service, allows an easy access from any connected computer without the need to purchase, install, update, and maintain the software. The cloud provides a service able to dynamically scale to usage needs, while securely storing data even upon breakage of the computer. This is anticipated to expand in 2017 as individuals, businesses, and tech giants see the convenience of cloud services.

5. Crowdfunding Validates New Products

When you think of crowdfunding, you might envision films or artisan leather wallets. To the surprise of many, globally crowdfunding is tending to surpass venture capirtal by the end of this year.

Smart companies are using crowdfunding to not only raise capital, but to validate products before making substantial investments in product development.

A tactical watch manufacturer - U.S.-based - has launched seven Kickstarter campaigns to validate new designs for their line of watches. Five of the campaigns received market validation. The other two didn’t make the cut.

“When we wanted to produce our first watch, we used crowdfunding to raise the funds needed to go to market,” co-founder Ryan Bradley said. “What we didn’t realize was that we had also discovered a way to validate the market for a product before we went into production. Now, each new product idea has a crowdfunding component to validate the market. Based on the velocity or success of the crowdfunding effort, we shift our resources to meet market demand.”

Bradley still spends his days as an attorney, so staying focused on the right designs keeps their business operating at peak efficiency.

Big companies are capitalizing on this trend as well. GE Appliances created and funded FirstBuild a "global co-creation community and microfactory in Louisville, Kentucky to "harness the brainpower of the maker movement to change the way major home appliances are conceived, designed and manufactured." FirstBuild uses crowdfunding to validate new home appliance product ideas. They've already successfully crowdfunded Opal, a nugget ice maker and Paragon, an induction cooktop, on Indiegogo, both of which you can now buy through their website.

Before launching Paragon, FirstBuild assumed the killer feature was sous vide, a popular method of immersion cooking at a specific temperature. But as they engaged their community, they found a significant group of passionate consumers who also wanted to improve how they cooked using other methods, from warming to deep-frying. So they pivoted to include these features in the product design, positioning and marketing. When they launched on Indiegogo, Paragon was almost 600% funded, raising over $360,000. More importantly, they validated the product with over 2,100 backers.

From watches to washing machines, using crowdfunding for product validation allows any company to engage and learn from a small and passionate user community earlier in the process, speeding up time to market, and reducing both the cost and risk of new product innovation.

As Hebert often reminds companies and startups, “The best focus group in the world is the market itself.”

6. Businesses embrace the Millennials, instead of rejecting them

Millennials (see definition) just don't work in the same way that baby boomers do. They look for creative ways to do their job better and are constantly looking for ways to improve the processes in the workforce. This leads to innovation and helps jump-start change within large organizations.It seems that there is a trend where businesses are starting to embrace Millennials and cater to their needs. This will be seen even more as the generation takes over more of the job force in 2017.

It’s Your Turn

How do these trends get you thinking about changes in your business?

Most businesses need help to achieve the 'Three freedoms' - Financial Freedom, Time Freedom and Mind Freedom.

Get in touch with us today to explore together your challenges and opportunities and identify the best strategies that would lead to your business success.

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