In 2023 the change was everywhere, from the way we engage prospects to our views on Customer Success, based on our research for 2023 Sales Almanac.
But with AI taking over cold outreach and email providers cracking down on mass emailing, this year is about to bring even more disruption, especially in an extremely competitive and saturated space like sales development.
To help you meet any challenges head-on, we’ve asked 15 sales thought leaders to share their 2024 predictions and suggestions to nail outbound sales this year.
Key sales development trends and predictions for 2024
Standing out from the crowd has been a challenge for the past few years. Now, with AI and competition, it seems almost impossible. As a result, SDRs are revisiting their strategies to come up with more creative ways to connect with buyers.
This defines the key sales development trends for 2024 and beyond, including:
The usual way of personalizing things is changing to emphasize building real relationships, as buyers want genuine connections. This shift is making people rethink how they've been personalizing things for a long time.
Salespeople are using social selling to get noticed in a busy market. They see the need for new ways to catch people's attention and engage with potential customers effectively.
SDRs are moving towards an "allbound" approach for generating demand. This means working together on different fronts for a more complete and effective way to reach out.
Now, let’s hear about these (and more) trends directly from the experts!
1. Start with buyer-centricity
The key trend from 2023 that seems to become only more prominent, buyer-centricity, should be at the core of everything we, sellers, do. Think of the age-old approach to assessing your cold emails, asking yourself whether you would open it if you were the recipient, and apply it to every other aspect of your sales development efforts.
“We (sellers) need to worry less about how we want to sell and worry far more about how buyers want to buy. We need to be really honest with ourselves, inspect the various sales processes/methodologies we have, and ensure that we're architecting them for buyers. This is a pretty different mindset from what defined popular sales strategies 10-20 years ago, and we all need to adjust.”
2. No more quality vs quantity dilemma
Sales development, especially outbound, has always been about balancing the quantity of the prospects you reach out to with their quality. According to Rahul Wadhwa, the Co-Founder of the School of SDR, we should forget about this dilemma — in 2024, salespeople will need both to succeed.
“In B2B sales, the dynamic is set to shift from choosing between quality and quantity to embracing both through ‘quantity of quality.’ SDRs leveraging AI are on track to become ten times more effective, matching the productivity of top-tier AEs, earning them the title of ‘10x SDRs.’ This tech-empowered approach will enable personalized, high-quality engagement on a large scale, signaling the end of the traditional quality-quantity trade-off.”
3. Human connections over AI
The latest AI advances seem to have solved this problem, allowing SDRs for more relevant engagement at scale. Yet, it also undeniably amplified the noise in the market, according to David Bentham, VP, Global Sales Development at Cognism:
“As people try and shift to AI for outreach — the volume of poor outreach with increase and personalisation will become even more important.”
But personalization, especially automated, can’t fix the poor outreach problem. As algorithms and automation inundate the space, SDRs are more compelled to reintroduce a human touch to their approach. As Kimberly Pencille Collins, VP, Strategy + Enablement at #samsales Consulting, put it:
“With the increased use of AI, being human and authentically connecting in sales conversations will become more important than ever in 2024. Sellers that use AI tools to support their own voice rather than use it to replace it, will be the ones that soar.”
No matter how advanced, AI can never build personal relationships and connect with your buyers on emotional level — the task that Michael Hanson, Founder & CEO at Growth Genie, sees as the key to surviving for SDRs:
“With the rise of AI and ChatGPT, sellers that act like robots reading off scripts, sending templated emails will be replaced by robots. Sellers that can stand out, connect with buyers on an emotional level will be the only ones to survive.”
And not only that, introducing a more “human” approach to outreach is vital to stand out in 2024, as Helena Klaus, Co-Founder at SDRs of Germany, shares:
“I predict with all of AI coming next year sellers will have to adopt a much more 'human' approach with humor, gifs, and cold calling styles to sell outside the box.”
4. Precision and relevance rule supreme
Aside from the genuine personalization and overall human touch, effective cold outreach should be laser-focused and tailored to the needs and interests of a certain audience. Otherwise, you won’t be able to break through the noise of AI-generated mass outreach, according to Chris Ritson, Co-Founder at Flexprts:
“With the introduction of AI, automation gone crazy and now the changes Google and Yahoo made to email the future of SDR belongs to those who can be relevant to the people they reach out to everyday. Without that they’ll fade into the mass AI written junk 99% of people write and send.”
Needless to say, high-volume outreach won’t be effective in 2024. On the quality vs quantity dilemma, Jacob Karp, Strategic Enterprise Sales at Rubrik, suggests prioritizing quality at all times:
“Volume-based prospecting will continue to have low success rates. Prospects and buyers are nearly unreachable after years of poorly created, volume-based outreach. In 2024 and beyond, well-researched, relevant outreach will net the best results. Quality over quantity, even across lower segments.”
“The year 2024 is all about precision and personalized outreach. Ditch "spray and pray" for a deep analysis of prospects and their businesses, and time your outreach with compelling events.
Prioritize quality, embrace personalization, and increase appointments. Create messages that are tailored to their needs, their web presence and their personality. Welcome to hyper-personalization at scale, where quality and personalization drive success.”
5. Embracing tech-assisted sales
People getting immune to generic, mass outreach isn’t the only downside of automation. As inboxes get more crowded, email providers keep looking for ways to fight back, including the additional anti-spam measures coming into effect in Fabruary. Yet, Troy Munson, Sr. Enterprise AE at Proofpoint, doesn’t see it as the “death” to outboound:
“I do not think that outbound sales is going anywhere (outbound email specifically). However, I do believe that there will be a birth of new outbound technology. I think there will be new email deliverability companies that will compete with Outreach and SalesLoft so people can mass email but do so safely.”
As with the new deliverability tech, salespeople will eventually need to make AI a part of their workflows, without compromising on quality. So the concept of “people with robots” rather than people vs robots is what Stephanie White, Senior Director, Revenue Enablement at Loopio, sees as the logical next step of sales tech evolution:
“We'll stop thinking about people versus robots, and begin to more widely embrace people with robots. AI will become more prevalent in the tools and tech already used in businesses. Ability to adapt quickly to changing customer needs will be critical. Those who adopt tech to complement their skills will be more successful, spending their human effort on the human element of the sale.”
6. The evolution of engagement strategies
Along with the sales tech, the strategies and tactics used by SDRs will evolve to cater to the current needs of both a seller and the buyer. Leslie Venetz, Founder at Sales Team Builder LLC, sums it up pretty well:
“We'll see Value Based Segmentation become a more popular strategy for personalization at scale. We'll see personality insights emerge as the new frontier of personalization (see: Humantic.ai). We'll see more folks returning to cold calling as a valuable channel. We'll see micro-communities and community-led growth continue to be leveraged as an engagement strategy for B2B brands.”
Recognizing the difficulty in standing out, more sales professionals will turn to social selling as a means to break through the noise. Sales reps will tap into nearbound channels, like social networks, to connect with prospects more effectively, according to Will Taylor, Head of Nearbound Partnerships at Reveal:
“For every new company that starts (now even easier with AI), 100s more cold outreach will be sent. The only way to break through noise is NOT by playing on the same field, with the same tactics, as the thousands of others. Instead, using nearbound strategies in existing, trusted networks will gather warm introductions (or intel + influence) in order to build a defensible business and close revenue faster.”
As a result, the metrics salespeople use to track their performance need to change too. Eimri Bar, Co-founder at Bloom, shares his opinion on the new KPIs for sales development teams, perfectly defined as “trust points”:
“We're entering the era of 'trust points' > 'touchpoints'. Traditional KPIs are evolving:
🔴 The old KPIs are about 'Touchpoints'
— Impersonal ads
— Ebook downloads
— Cold call attempts
— Empty email follow-ups
— Empty social media engagement
🟢 The new KPIs are about 'Trust Points':
— Showcasing expertise through personal branding
— Genuine engagement on social media
— Facilitating relevant connections
— Meaningful conversations
— Value-driven content
— Micro offline events
— Podcast invitations
📉Old KPIs = Quantitative 'Touchpoints'
📈New KPIs = Qualitative 'Trust Points'”
Indeed, more than ever, expertise & relationships drive sales forward in 2024. Sales teams are discovering that helping customers meet their needs not only distinguishes them in a crowded market but also builds trust and lasting relationships, as pointed out by Vaibhav Namburi, Founder at SmartLead:
“Social validation will prove to be your differentiator when going head-to-head with competition. Customers aren't just buying good offers, but guarantees. The cheapest guarantee your team can offer is a dominant online presence which in-effect builds trust improves your conversion rate.”
Preparing for what’s next
While we still have 11 full months to see how sales development evolves and how many of our predictions come true, one thing is certain — buyer-centricity will be the main theme in everything we do.
From your very first interaction with the prospect to the experience you offer during customer onboarding, prioritizing the needs and preferences of your buyer and adjusting your tactics accordingly will give you a competitive edge and posision yourself as a trusted advisor, not just another seller. And the more complex and long-winded your sales process is, the more important this will be.
Handpicked revenue content delivered each month.
Subscribe to In the Flow & keep up with the latest from the revenue world, curated just for you.