TALKING SALES 86: 2016 sales trends – Less is more

Sales disruption 700x400                     “What are the trends that threaten to disrupt our sales success?” – Interview by John Smibert



Sue Barrett recently conducted research in order to understand the emerging trends in the sales world and she published a paper on the subject.

Sue Barrett 2016 silver background American copy 400x590
Through the research she identified 12 trends that we need to be cognisant of as we plan and manage our sales strategy.  Many of these trends have the capacity to disrupt the world of sales as we know it.  In this interview I asked Sue to highlight some of the trends that we should keep uppermost in our mind when considering our future plans.

Firstly Sue emphasised that there was an over-riding theme that emerged from the research – it was that ‘less is more’.

She explains that “There’s so much information out there, and people are wrestling with all sorts of things. They’re trying to make sense of how we go about selling, how we go about communicating with each other.” And customers are facing the same issue.  The better salespeople are getting good at simplifying this world making it easier for their own company and the customer to see the wood from the trees and making it easier for them to make decisions.

Sue provides insight into 4 of the 12 trends which are; ‘Customer zero’, ‘Value based procurement’, ‘Sales and marketing alignment’, and, ‘Shift from profit erosion’. See her full interview below.

Sue is an authoritative thought leader and an accomplished author on the selling profession. She’s also founder and CEO of Barrett and


John: Hello, I’ve got Sue Barrett with me again – welcome back, Sue!

Sue: Thank you very much, John!

John: Sue, I’ve just read an article that you wrote on the 12 trends in sales for 2016. Great insight. Could you just share maybe the top two or three of those with the audience?

Sue: Sure, not a problem. I think first if I give you the context, the theme for the 12 sales trends for 2016 is about ‘less is more’. There’s so much information out there, and people are sort of wrestling with all sorts of things. They’re trying to make sense of how we go about selling, how we go about communicating with each other and so on, so some of the trends that I’ll highlight will actually be anchored by the context of less is more.

John: And that’s so important. We get overcome with so much coming at us all the time that we really need to get to the real priorities, don’t we, and then that will drive our productivity and effectiveness.

Sue: Yes, absolutely. I think some of the highlights that we need to pay attention to for 2016 are the ‘Competitor zero’, which is about indecision, and I’ll explain more about that in one of our other posts. Clients are overwhelmed with too much information, or people by and large, and we get this thing called the paradox of choice, so they don’t make any decision at all which is very frustrating.

John: I’ve just read The Challenger Customer which is really on that whole subject; very, very important. And you’re right, it’s a classic issue. We can go invest very heavily in a sales opportunity and not get a result because the customer decides not to decide.

Sue: Well, that’s right. One of the other trends that we can look at too I think is looking at and talking about the buyer, ‘The procurement side’. As we know, procurement’s been really cursed with being price per product or price points buyer, whereas the smart procurement professionals are really looking at innovation, added value, and I can talk further about that as well later.

John: Right.

Sue: The other area too is about ‘Sales and marketing working together’ now.

John: Yes, that’s becoming more and more important, isn’t it, particularly now that we really have to think about the buying process, the buying journey, and both sales and marketing in a sales activity have got a role to play.

Sue: That’s exactly right; they’ve got to get along with each other and actually play nice in the sandpit.

John: How do you make that happen? Or you’re going to talk about that in a…

Sue: Yes, I’ll talk about that in more detail in one of our other discussions, I’ve got some tips and ideas and things we can look at there. Another interesting thing is this real ‘Shift beyond profit erosion’. The pendulum seem to have swung in such a way that everyone’s just looking to cut costs, and you can’t cut your way to growth, so organisations have to really think about how they’re going to organise themselves, because selling is about growth, selling is about opportunity. Not necessarily growing to be bigger, but where else can we grow, how can we innovate? How can we… You know, look for opportunity there. We just can’t do it through cost cutting.

John: And we’re talking about profitable growth, so we really need to look – in an economy that looks like being flat for even more years than it has been – we now need to look at how we get that profitable revenue and the profitable sales in a very competitive marketplace. That’s about getting market share, isn’t it?

Sue: Well, it’s about also micro-segmentation as well. There will be commodity plays out there, but if you actually look within sub-segments of market segments, or micro-segments if you call them that, you will find that there is profitable work to be had, and clients who actually want to work with people to generate value not just a cheap price.

John: Okay, I think four you’ve covered out of the 12. Let’s refresh on those four. The first was?

Sue: Competitor zero, so indecision.

John: Classic. Second?

Sue: Smarter buying through procurement, looking for innovation.

John: Third?

Sue: Sales and marketing have to play in the sandpit together.

John: Alignment. Fourth?

Sue: It’s about profit erosion and stopping that, and really moving forward in a really positive way to look for growth, and selling better not just selling more.

John: And in this article you wrote you had 12 in total, so I recommend to the audience to go and find Sue Barrett’s article on the “12 trends for 2016 in sales”; good value there. Thank you very much, and I look forward to talking about some of those in more detail on future interviews!

Sue: Yes, not a problem at all. And there’s actually a big, 48-page PDF that people can download when they find that link, so they’ll be able to get all the details on all the 12 trends.

John: Thanks Sue, appreciate your time – look forward to the next time!

Sue: Thanks, John – my pleasure!

(Sue has agreed to be interviewed in more detail on these trends – stay tuned).


Past interviews with Sue Barrett:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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