How the New Wave of Tech is Making Old School Sales Obsolete

LinkedIn Report Reveals the Unprecedented Disruption of the Age-Old Profession

July 31, 2017

State of Sales 2017

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog.

Social media and time-saving tech have forever changed the way all of us function both in our personal and professional lives, so it was only a matter of time before they transformed B2B sales too.

Here at LinkedIn, we observe a lot of different behaviors in terms of how buyers and sellers interact. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of disruptive technologies and novel sales practices become mainstream.

Here’s what we see:  technology is transforming the sales profession, from the way leads are generated, to the conversations that happen once the “digital handshake” is made. To a large extent, it’s accelerating connections, shortening sales cycles, and bringing a new level of transparency that is unlike anything buyers and sellers have ever experienced.

To shed light on the evolving sales landscape, we conducted our second annual State of Sales Report to understand the impact social networks, business collaboration software and other technologies are having on the overall sales ecosystem.

We commissioned CensusWide, a market research agency, to survey over 2,000 U.S. based B2B sales pros and buyers, to capture a 360-degree view of the technologies and strategies that leading salespeople are using to stand apart from their peers, and how these approaches are landing with buyers. Here’s what we found:

Sales Tech Is No Longer A “Nice To Have,” It’s Table Stakes

The digital sales stack is now firmly established at the foundation of successful sales organizations. This year’s survey shows that companies are receiving the message loud and clear and accelerating tech use in sales strategies accordingly:

  • 98% of top salespeople report using sales technology on the job
  • 90% of salespeople report that sales technology is either “important” or “very important” to closing deals
  • Inside sales professionals are the most tech savvy, with 46% using CRM tools and 40% using productivity apps

Social Media Critical To Modern Way Of Selling 

  • Last year, we learned that 70% of sales reps were already using social media to build and nurture relationships — a trend continuing to gain steam in 2017.
  • Across the board, salespeople who actively use professional and social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook are seeing a big impact.
  • 62% of top salespeople — those who exceeded their projected target revenue by more than 25% — strongly attribute closing more deals to incorporating social networks into their sales strategy
  • 94% of salespeople who are familiar with social tech say it provides them with valuable insights for connecting with customers and prospects
  • 70% of salespeople expect to invest more time leveraging social tech strategies in the next twelve months, a striking 45% increase year-over-year

On the decision-maker side, leveraging social networks is having an impact, too. This year’s survey found that buyers prefer working with salespeople who use professional and social networks to better understand their needs and provide more tailored and timely offerings.

  • 77% won’t engage with salespeople who don’t have insights or knowledge of their business
  • 62% look for an informative LinkedIn profile when deciding whether to work with a sales professional, and 85% consider it important for them to have existing connections with people at their company
  • 69% of millennial buyers are more likely to speak with a sales professional who has a professional social media presence

With Sales Tech -- Millennials Lead the Way 

Last year’s study revealed that millennials use sales technology at higher rates than other generations across the board. This year is no different, as the under 35 years-of-age crowd continues to lead the way in early-stage adoption, while more seasoned professionals are slowly catching on:

  • 56% of Millennials are using collaboration tools such as Box, Google Docs, Microsoft Office and Dropbox, compared to 40% of Baby Boomers
  • 40% of Millennials use productivity apps like Asana, Smartsheet and Trello as part of their daily role, compared to 17% of Baby Boomers
  • 39% of Millennials use enterprise communication apps like Slack and Salesforce Chatter in their day-to-day role, compared to 15% of Baby Boomers
  • 61% of those that have been in service for between 6-8 years use collaboration tools, compared to 48% of those with less than 2 years’ experience

Buyers Discredit Negative Media Portrayals of Salespeople  

We found that perceptions of salespeople are changing as well. Results show that 
decision-makers increasingly view salespeople as trusted advisors — a far cry from the overtly opportunist image that once overshadowed the profession.

  • 79% agree that the negative Hollywood portrayals misrepresent the profession
  • The top three terms used to describe how the media portrays salespeople are “sneaky” (38%) “devious” (35%) and “aggressive” (32%)
  • Among decision-makers, the top terms used to describe salespeople are “aggressive” (43%) “trustworthy” (31%) and “high integrity” (24%)

While sales tech has changed how the profession functions, relationships have always been — and still remain — at the heart and soul of sales. While tech is no substitute for the human element, our State of Sales report shows that when used strategically and appropriately, it helps overcome hurdles and brings buyers and sellers together for the greater good of both.

To read the full report, download The State of Sales Report.