2021 Q3 Sales Trends Report

We’ll skip the cliches of “living in interesting times.” We decided that as it relates to sales, it would be more helpful to talk about trends. It helps to have a baseline for what is going on in the world of selling as you are considering strategy and focus.

Using available research, our customers’ performance, as well as contacts we have across industries, this is our information, insights, and recommendations. We have been very fortunate. Even in these interesting times, the last quarter has been a growth quarter for most of our clients. They closed over $208 million in business in those three months. (This represents the customers with whom we have current contracts, it does not include past clients.) Our work with them across many industries has been helpful in putting this quarterly oversight together.

What markets are hot and not

  • Manufacturers are no longer selling. Instead, buyers are pounding on their door. Manufacturers are stuck in the middle of the ocean, thirsty and no water to drink. Supply Chain Management (SCM) issues, (now even my 14-year old knows what SCM means), are having delays of raw materials and components. When the materials and components come, companies are short on skilled labor and semi-skilled labor to hit deadlines.
  • Construction, architects, engineering, CMS, and other businesses driven by building are growing counter-cyclical. They have tons of business, although to outside observers projects should be at a stand-still. Industrial, warehouse, education, and healthcare are driving much of the building. Housing continues to be ballooning. However, there is a high risk of a bubble-pop problem. The inflation of material costs is still being absorbed by the buyer.
  • Professional services companies including IT, accounting, legal, consulting, and other services, are being bought. Headcount is a driver for this – it’s sometimes easier to buy than hire. In addition, portfolios of customers during an economic lull leave smaller companies with cash-flow issues. The future is good for those providers who are cash strong and can wait for a brighter future within the portfolio and personnel in the purchase.
  • Medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and outsourced services have moved from a system-wide decision-making model back toward a facility decision model. The pandemic-related purchases are centralized, but the remainder of the buying decisions are often occurring at the facility level for the reason of urgency. Centralized buyers are being overwhelmed with compliance issues in relation to purchases to support mandated services.

A general observation: The media headlines focus on labor and SCM as the driving causes for product delivery challenges and inflation. Yes, it’s both. However, SCM problems will diminish as the choke hold for growth releases over the next 6-12 months. It will be the available labor that will be the sustained issue past the 12-month period.

Buying processes: In the past, there was a straight-line graph as it related to size of opportunity to length of the buying process. Throw that away. The buying process is either light-speed fast or plodding. There is not much in the middle. Urgency versus risk are the drivers. If the house is on fire, no one is looking at pulling weeds in the garden. When you find the prospect’s fire, the decision is made quickly. That’s good news if your company can show how it puts out fires fast. A rule of thumb for the current market is if you do not see a close date opportunity within 40 days, you can either throw gas on the urgency and make it less than 40 days or you can move on to other prospects.

What we are advising companies to do

  1. Accelerate your Opportunity Response Team (ORT) – When a prospect opportunity comes on the radar, you must hit it with a team selling at the speed that matches the urgency of the prospect. This is a unique process – you must double the speed of the sales process as compared to past approaches. As you know, we at Hunt Big Sales are process zealots. That having been said, your ORT has to be moving twice as fast as before. Buyers for real deals are buying twice as fast.
  2. Eliminate opportunities fast – Problems prospects have are either on fire and have urgency to solve, or they are “someday we should…” initiatives.  In general, the 40-day rule is a good one. When you “eliminate” opportunities, just put them back in the prospect list and chase them again in 30 days to see if the urgency has increased.
  3. Focus only on the Executive Sponsor – Buyers’ tables are not buying right now. Buyers’ tables are stopping all buying when they can. They are overwhelmed, understaffed, and scared. When you get an Executive Sponsor, they must drive the decision. Do not let there be a meeting within the prospect company regarding what you’re selling unless there is an Executive Sponsor present. You’ll deal with the buyers’ table for sure, but the “must happen” push has to be from the Executive Sponsor.
  4. Sell it all – Companies are looking for turn-key solutions because they need their providers/partners/vendors to carry more of the workload. The simple answer is they do not have the people to do it and are not willing to carry the cost of new equipment or systems. Showing low switching costs, especially personnel related, is successful in closing.