Selling in 2023: Key Challenges and Trends Shaping the Future

Elen Udovichenko
December 14, 2023
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2023 sales trends

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The year 2023 was quite a rollercoaster. It was hard for the sellers, but even harder for the buyers.

With the budget cuts and layoffs, B2B buyers became more thoughtful of their spending. So buying cycles took longer on average (around 3 months and 1,000-1,400 touches per opp according to some sources), involved more stakeholders, and required more price negotiations.

As businesses started consolidating their software stacks, tech sellers also saw a drop in inbound, high-intent leads. So it definitely took some active selling to create those opportunities for products and services that aren’t considered mission-critical.

As we’re nearing the new year, sales teams should adapt to this new reality to thrive in 2024.

We have analyzed 1,000+ posts from the top LinkedIn sales voices to discover the most common challenges they faced this year to paint a clear picture of how you should adapt in the coming year. 

For a full breakdown of the key trends that ruled 2023 get a copy of the Sales Almanac.  

Banner with 2023 Sales Almanac cover

The struggles of standing out

Long before the notorious “death to mass email” Outreach message to the users started making waves on LinkedIn, SDRs had been already struggling to reach outbound prospects.

Some even claimed that the old playbooks were broken and put the Predictable Revenue model under scrutiny. What they meant by that is that the assembly line approach to sales pipeline generation is no longer viable and effective. And that is absolutely true.

With more touchpoints and multiple channels involved, reaching the buyers and standing out from the crowd was harder by day. Disingenuous personalization with variables (or even visuals) didn’t seem to be enough anymore.

This partially explains the rise of new technologies like AI personalization that many SDRs saw as a perfect tool to cut through the noise. Some salespeople got really creative with voice notes and physical mail, sending handwritten messages or even donuts to the prospects. 

Some SDRs still saw results with traditional channels, like calls. Given that most SDRs have been focusing on emails primarily over the last few years, this old-school approach might have regained some sense of novelty. Yet, the key to any channel and strategy for prospecting in 2023 was to keep your interactions personal and warm (even if you're using sales automation tools to streamline some of the most time-consuming sales tasks).

As a result, more sales professionals came to understand the potential of social media for lead generation. They started building their personal brands on LinkedIn to leverage their network and social selling to reciprocate deals. But it’s not just about the sheer size of your network.

Personal, meaningful relationships turned out to be the foundation of building a healthy pipeline in 2023. This meant salespeople had to prioritize targeting with everything they did and strive to qualify (or disqualify) prospects as early as possible. This led to the growing popularity of MEDDIC methodology and the redundancy of qualification approaches like BANT

Screenshot of a post from Kyle Coleman about BANT
Source: Kyle Coleman on LinkedIn

Moving forward, your qualification should boil down to two questions: Is the problem big enough? And can you solve it? 

So rather than prospecting more, SDRs should focus on becoming better at selling and offering more value. This brings us to this year's key B2B sales trend — increasing buyer-centricity.

Buyer-centric selling

The challenges we faced in 2023 led to the evolution of the B2B sales process and customer interactions in general. The new approach prioritizes helping over selling and offers a higher level of buyer-centricity.

The age-old “always be closing” mantra was replaced by “always be helping” making authenticity, relationships, and value the new sales ABCs, according to Adam Jay

Rather than aiming to sell your product (often at all costs), salespeople should now focus on helping their buyers solve a problem. So you can approach your discovery process as an opportunity to discover buyer’s needs and diagnose those problems.

"People don't buy products, they satisfy desires. Desires are strong feelings about wanting something or someone. So our job as salespeople is to identify the desire(s) that will motivate action." — Hannah Ajikawo, CEO & Founder at Revenue Funnel

Having a good understanding of the buyer’s immediate needs, you can present your value proposition from this perspective making it more relevant and appealing to each buyer. 

So, rather than training sales reps on the product features, sales leaders should train them on their ideal buyer’s needs. Start with the issues, challenges, and opportunities that your ideal clients face and then show them how your product can help them.

Screenshot of a post by Sara Jones about the difference between a good and a bad demo
Source: Sara Jones on LinkedIn

Diagnostic discovery allows you to better understand your customer behavior and lays the foundation for a more tailored customer experience. But it also enables the buyers to take an active part in the process, not just be led by the sales reps.

Enablement drives deals forward

Enablement takes center stage, replacing persistence with assistance throughout the sales process. So, rather than pushing your potential customers to the next stage, you allow them to have a say in the process. This can be as easy as asking them directly about their expectations or preferred timeline. 

Kevin Dorsey also suggests an interesting approach to “make them hold it” — not only picture using your product but getting to try it in practice during the demo or as a POC stage. As a result, they will be less likely to “give it back.”

But above all, enabling your buyers means removing the pressure and allowing them to engage on their own terms. Even if that means letting some of them go if there’s no fit.

At the same time, you should still be present throughout your buying process (preferably with a mutual action plan). This requires a good understanding of the main steps/activities and where your assistance is really needed.

Flowla can help you align with your buyers throughout their journey, offering a seamless guided experience as they move to each next step.

Get started with Flowla for free (no credit card required) or sign in if you have an account to go to your dashboard!

Complex selling requires a thoughtful approach

When it comes to more complex, high-ticket deals, the role of buyer enablement tools is even more significant. But there are also more aspects sales teams should keep in mind. 

Multithreading was probably the most important part of any B2B sales strategy in 2023. 

"Make no mistake, your buying committee is indeed a committee, especially in 2023. And statistics show that win rates improve when the right amount of strategic multi-threading takes place." — Jacob Karp, Strategic Enterprise Sales at Rubrik

As deals don’t just take more time, but also involve multiple stakeholders, each caring about different things, it’s crucial to find an approach to all of them. While sellers are naturally inclined to focus on decision-makers, having an internal champion can be even more important. 

This is where human connection comes into play again. Complex B2B sales require a tailored strategy and a long-game plan but also a lot of trust-building and value to be delivered. That is why offering personal guidance or an even more personalized experience is a good idea to improve your customer service and reach your revenue goals.

Offering a discount can’t speed up a complex deal. However, having a good champion and a clear action plan can reduce sales friction and facilitate your buying process!

From enablement to success

This year, there has also been a paradigm shift in how businesses see the function of Customer Success. From being considered an afterthought or an altruistic pursuit to becoming an organizational ethos and revenue growth mechanism, more organizations have come to understand the business role of customer satisfaction. 

Yet, this doesn’t mean turning your customer success teams into salespeople. Instead, they should focus on growing your account value by fostering strong relationships

"That better way to make your CS org a significant contributor to revenue growth is understanding the expansion opportunities for customers at various progress milestones along their journey and guiding them through those milestones." — Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success Growth Expert, Consultant, and Thought Leader

Customer success (and expansion) starts with proper onboarding. Your main goal here is to help customers see the value they subscribed for asap.

Screenshot of a post by Ziv Peled with his customer journey visualization
Source: Ziv Peled on LinkedIn

However, churn is not just a CS problem, it’s a business problem. That is why senior leadership should be involved in customer service and proactively seek feedback early and often. This is the first step to turning your CS into an account retention/growth engine.

To be effective, CS requires a combined effort from your team and the client (and has to be valuable to both of them too). This is why it’s important to educate your customers on the role of customer success and customer support teams, outline mutual responsibilities, and set expectations.

Wrapping up

In a nutshell, the previous year has been quite a rollercoaster! But since we’re all on this ride, we might as well find a way to enjoy it going forward.

Considering all the sales trends and changes we’ve witnessed this year, the success in 2024 lies in embracing change, prioritizing authentic relationships, and adopting value-based selling. And buyer enablement becomes your secret weapon.

Curious to learn more about the 2023 sales trends? Get a free copy of our Sales Almanac and explore the greatest thought leadership, practical tips, and predictions from Top Revenue Voices on LinkedIn.

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