Sales software changes as rapidly as the sales landscape, which is to say at light-speed. The best way to stay current with sales technology is to look to the future.

While no one knows exactly what 2017 will bring, we predict that the future of sales software will introduce more customization and the power of big data analysis to all industries. Let’s take a closer look.

Analytics

Customers flood the internet with data signals every day, and much of that we give freely to the websites we visit (whether consciously or not). From digital body language to our email addresses and insights on the types of content are most interesting to us, every search, click, and form entry on the internet can be translated into data.

What’s new with this data for 2017? How we use it to guide sales decisions. In the near future, more businesses will use analytical tools to combine customer data with unstructured communication, industry benchmarks, and artificial intelligence (read: algorithms). Our insights there will help us understand the sales cycle, personalize outreach, and reduce the time to convert. The current generation of sales software is making these functions smarter and more accessible by helping users of all technical levels learn the ropes.

Automation

Piggy-backing on all of this data collection and analysis, we will continue to see a lift in automation across marketing and sales departments — even the smaller ones. Automation allows teams to follow up instantly on customer behavior and to personalize experiences from banner ads to emails to suggested products.

Sales automation works hard on those menial tasks that fill your day, so your teams have more time to hone their strategy at critical touch points and move leads down the funnel. Most of these features will find their home in CRM sales software, but some may also come with best-of-breed tools for lead management, email, dialing, or reporting.


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Text Parsing

In a nutshell, text parsing takes the unstructured data and turns it into a standard format that can be searched and understood by a computer.Text parsing is becoming more common in business intelligence sales software, but we predict that the mining of unstructured text data from social media, forums, and email will become a staple in the sales automation tool belt.

Think of a text parser as an automated triage system for all your text communication. Sales teams will be able to use this advanced capability to understand a customer’s feedback (is a tweet response positive or negative?), automatically filter those responses to the correct channel, and notify your teams about urgent matters. Sales and customer support can both become more agile in their customer responses.

Gamification and Dashboarding

Employee motivation has evolved beyond simple bonuses and pay raises. Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves money, but a little healthy office competition never hurt anyone, especially when sales goals are at stake. Gamification software boosts employee motivation by making goals and data transparent. Dashboards provide instant feedback to participants, including leaderboards and sales metrics.

Thanks to gamification software, your sales team can engage in friendly competition that improves your ROI. Some companies offer small bonuses like monthly gift cards for winners, while others rely on the intrinsic motivation of building the business and meeting personal goals to motivate users. Many companies use shared dashboards or leaderboards to publish company metrics and team goals, building transparency and employee trust.

Social Media

2016 saw continued growth for time spent on social media. Global counts say people spend an average of 118 minutes logged into social networks a day, and 80 percent of that is on mobile devices. This means that B2B and B2C sales teams have an amazing opportunity to connect and convert through this channel.

Social media helps customers feel like they know a brand, because it’s a way to connect with a person rather than a logo. They show the human side of a business, and a whopping 66 percent of marketers find LinkedIn to be their most effective social media channel for sales. 49 percent of marketers are using some sort of automation to connect with their audience. 2017 will show continued growth in sales software that analyzes and connects sales with their social media audience.*

*Studies found from Statista, Marketing Land, Content Marketing Institute, and Email Monday

Account-Based Everything

Sales and marketing teams that use marketing automation software for many of their tasks will find that they have more time to dive deeper into customized marketing, sales, and customer support processes. We’ll see more teams focusing on groups of decision-makers at key accounts — resulting in higher conversions and more customer advocacy.

Sales software has come a long way since the spreadsheet. We predict that 2017 will continue the growth of analytics and continue to blur lines between the sales and marketing. By breaking down the silos and employing the right technology, teams can better understand buyers and their needs.

This post was written by Tamara Scott, an analyst at TechnologyAdvice. She writes about technology, business, and SEO in Nashville, TN. Find her @T_Scottie on Twitter.