The Future of
Five critical projections for the Next Decade
By: Howard Stevens and Geoffrey James
Based on 20 Years of World Class Sales Research Across 80,000 B2B Customers and 7,300 Sales Forces
Over the past two decades, we’ve seen the Internet move from dial-up
medium of email and brochure-ware into a broadband medium capable.
There’s been a massive migration of all sorts of information onto the Web,
along with the introduction of entirely new business models for selling.
Sales organizations and experts are only beginning to understand how to effectively
use this new technology and that it will take another decade (at least) before the full
potential of even today’s level of technology will be entirely realized.
Eventually, there will come a time when the world of business (in general) and the
world of selling (in particular) will view the Internet, with all its technological marvels
and capabilities as being as “invisible” as the telephone is today.
In this “post-Internet era,” knowledge workers and executives will no longer compare
the Internet to the other forms of communication and technology that they’ve used in
the past. It will become something entirely different, with its own rules and compre-
The purpose of this chapter is to identify the most important trends that will play
themselves out over the next decade (i.e., from 2013 to 2023). Understanding how
sales technology is likely to develop is crucial to planning how and where to invest
resources to position a firm for long-term growth.
In general, the pace of change in sales technology is accelerating, especially with the
explosion of growth in tablet devices and social media. Sales managers who take
heed of these changes and quickly adapt to new environments and adopt new tech-
nologies will be far more likely to succeed than those who wait until the trends play
Projections are so Critical
Sales groups tend to be early adopters of new technology. In some cases, like
email and the smartphone, it’s been the salespeople themselves who have em-
braced the new technology. In other cases, like Sales Force Automation (SFA)
and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the impetus for new technol-
ogy has come from sales management.
Not surprisingly, sales groups often pioneer technologies that later become
more widely applied across the corporate landscape. A prime example of this
is “cloud computing.” Computer scientists had been suggesting that computer
power could be provided using a public or private utility since 1950s1
it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Salesforce.com proved that the concept was
practical and economical.
In the previous chapter “Selling in the Internet Age,” we discussed the relation-
ship of current sales technology to current sales techniques. However, that
chapter deals with present reality and the short-term future as lagging compa-
nies and sales groups adapt to that reality.
While that information is obviously useful, for long-term planning purposes it’s
important for executives with sales responsibility to understand the likely paths
that sales technology will take in the longer-term future.
Ten years ago, one of the co-authors of this book published an article in
Selling Power magazine entitled “Salesforce of the Future.” That article made
the following projections:
1. The Internet will NOT replace B2B sales professionals. In 2001, most
pundits believed that online ordering and industry exchanges would allow
companies to sell directly to one another, without a pesky salesrep or margin-
gobbling reseller. The article predicted the rise of a hybrid sales model, where
the Internet would only become an important component of an overall sales
strategy and that companies would gravitate “towards hybrid B2B business
models that combine offline and online sales methods.”
2. CRM will extend into the entire marketing and sales cycle. In 2001, most
CRM applications addressed individual aspects of selling, like contact management.
The article predicted that future CRM systems will provide salespeople with B2B-
type data such as customer visits to the website, call-center requests, service escala-
tions, product availability, and the status of customer-specific manufacturing runs.
Ryan; Falvey; Merchant, “Regulation of the Cloud in India”, Journal of Internet Law (October 2011)
3. Outside sales would be wireless connected. In 2001, most salespeople
carried a cell phone and a laptop, usually synchronizing the data at the begin-
ning and end of each day. Wireless was simply too unreliable for a more real-
time system. The article predicted that within 10 years, everyone - customer
and salesperson alike - will be able to connect and retrieve a wealth of informa-
tion, regardless of where they’re located and that much of that access would
come from smartphones and tablets (called “Personal Digital Assistants” in the
4. There will be a wealth of add-on sales tools. In 2001, the latest in sales
technology was pretty much CRM, email, and PowerPoint. The article predicted
that “the wired and wireless Internet will enable companies to offer sales tools
that the sales reps of the past could only dream about.” Today, products like
Salesforce.com have become both repositories of and channels for various
kinds of add-on technology.
5. B2B sales will become more collaborative. In 2001, the archetype of the
sales rep was still that of a maverick who closes the big deal and collects the
big commission. The article predicted that would change and that sales reps
would increasingly be expected to become experts in their field who can act as
consultants, helping customers to understand their needs and then coming up
with a plan to fulfill those needs.
Obviously, since the predictions proved largely true, sales executives who read
that article were more likely to devise effective strategies over the past ten
years than those who assumed that sales techniques and sales technology
would either remain static or go in an entirely different direction.
For example, sales executives who believed the prediction that a hybrid sales
model would emerge naturally prepared for that model by investing in both
website and sales training. The sales executives who lost out were those who
continued to believe that “B2B selling means pressing the flesh” (i.e., selling
techniques would remain static) or that “B2B selling will be largely replaced by
an online marketplace.”
Sales Management will be
even more data-driven
Sales management has always been data-driven, at least to a certain extent.
Few corporate metrics, after all, are more visible than sales figures! However,
as we explained in the previous chapter, “The Sales Quality Revolution,” sales
managers can now use new sources of data to hone the hiring and deployment
of sales resources.
This trend will accelerate until it dominates sales management, especially inside
large companies that have extensive sales forces. This will be a massive change
because historically sales executives have lacked the science to support their
strategies and instead have relied primarily on their intuition for many of the
most critical decisions.
Over several decades, Chally has complied a database of several hundred
thousand salespeople whom they have assessed along with matching perfor-
mance data. Using this treasure trove of information, Chally has done hundreds
of validation studies (much like insurance companies do actuarial studies) and
thus identified what competencies actually predict sales success for different
This scientific process has shown that much of the conventional wisdom about
sales management is simply inaccurate and that intuition (as it expresses itself
as conventional wisdom) often leads to ineffective sales management.
For example, intuitively it makes sense for sales executives to focus on the
strengths of their organization in order to “clone” the winning behaviors of
their top salespeople. Indeed, the vast majority of sales training programs are
based upon the premise that average salespeople can be trained to become
top performers. However, when the data is actually examined, it’s clear that
this strategy is ineffective.
Another intuitive truth is that an “above average” sales performer will be suc-
cessful when moved into a sales management role. In fact, such promotions
are statistically much more likely to result in failure than success, except in one
specific case: when the promoted salesperson was originally a strategic ac-
Similarly, conventional wisdom says that “outside sales” and “inside sales”
require very different skill sets, making it difficult for people to move from one
role to the other. It turns out that, statistically, the best candidates to move into
any field sales position are those who are currently employed in telesales. Such
people actually perform better than field salespeople moved into a different
type of field sales!
We believe that such insights will become more obvious and more commonly
understood as sales executives are exposed to the scientific analysis of their own
sales personnel and performance data.
To this end, Chally has developed a software tool which measures and tracks
sales personnel and performance data for an individual or an entire sales
force in order to answer essential sales management questions, such as:
• What’s needed for this sales position? The tool provides precise measures of critical
competencies required to be successful at any potential sales assignment.
• Who fits this sales position? The tool accurately measures and matches the likely
performance of different combinations of managers and sales teams.
• What could go wrong? Sales failures usually result from mismatches between a
position and the competencies of the person asked to do it.
• Who will perform well in this job? Motivation is often a crucial element of sales
success. The tool can determine who is “hungry” and motivated to succeed for
each specific role.
• How is my team performing? The tool uncovers whether or not the tasks actually
performed matching the capability or potential of the people assigned to them.
• What interventions are needed? The tool identifies cases where additional coaching
or training is required, or where a “work-around” might be appropriate.
We believe that tools like the Talent Audit will become as common among sales
managers as email is today because the application of science to increasingly large
data sets will ensure better personnel decisions. This, in turn, will reduce turnover
by increasing sales job satisfaction, make it easier to open new sales territories, and
prevent the loss of customers through sales personnel mismatches.
The extensive use of data in sales management will ripple throughout the sales
organization, changing the way that everyone uses data. We expect this “data-
driven” revolution to have the most impact in the following areas:
Sales organizations will continue to plumb new sources of data to better hone
their lists of sales leads, to better understand prospective customers, and to
nurture those prospects into real sales opportunities.
In the past, generating high-quality leads using traditional methods was expen-
sive and chancy. For example, mass-market advertising, even with a strong call
to action, was lucky if it generated even a trickle of prospect inquiries.
Similarly, direct mail campaigns, even when targeted to the optimal demo-
graphics, were lucky if they got a response rate in the 3 to 4 percent range,
while road shows and seminars involved pricey travel and meeting space rental
even if nobody actually showed up.
In the future, lead generation will be driven entirely by the data available about
a customer and even about that customer’s customer. Cold calls will become
completely obsolete in the sense that the salesperson will always possess
detailed information about the customer and the customer’s business before
contacting that business.
More importantly, sales teams will be able to cross-compare the data available
about a prospective customer with the historical data about conversion rates
with similar salespeople selling to customers with a similar profile.
Using data to drive the lead generation process will inevitably result in a lower
cost of sales because data-driven sales leads will be pre-qualified as potential
customers, long before any human effort is put into developing the lead. Since
salespeople will possess complete information on prospective customers,
they’ll target advertising, direct marketing, and event marketing toward cus-
tomers who are likely to buy.
We project that salespeople will use new sources of data to better understand
their customers’ business models and buying processes. This, in turn, will make
it easier to develop opportunities in a cost-effective manner.
Salespeople are already using a variety of communication tools to keep in
touch with their customers. These tools include some that are in common use
today (e.g., email, social networking, web conferencing) as well as others that
are just beginning to become part of the sales environment (e.g., messaging,
These communication tools already allow salespeople to remain in contact with more influencers
and decision-makers, both more closely and more frequently. The increasing availability of data
will allow those communications to be better timed and more to the point.
To understand why, it’s first necessary to understand how the buying environment is changing.
In the past, companies tended to stovepipe the buying process. Generic purchases (like office
furniture) went through a centralized purchasing department, while the decision for specialized
products (like computer hardware and software) lay with the experts, like the corporate Informa-
tion Technology (IT) group.
In the past, then, B2B selling consisted of finding the person who needed the product, convincing
him/her that he/she needed it now, and then hand-carrying the purchase order to the person who
had signature authority to release the funds.
Today, however, most B2B buying decisions involve multiple stakeholders, influencers, and decid-
ers, all of whom must be convinced that a purchase makes sense. At the same time, increased
focus on corporate governance has encouraged the creation of highly complicated purchasing
The continued “complexification” of buying processes will make it necessary for salespeople to
keep track of multiple individuals and organizations with multiple agendas. This will only be
possible through the accumulation and utilization of detailed information about each customer
We project that the gathering and reuse of customer data will turn customer service and sup-
port from a business function that responds to customer questions into one that anticipates and
prevents customer problems.
Customer support is a big problem for many companies, often because they don’t understand its
importance to the customer, thereby creating situations that fester and cause customers to find
According to a classic cross-industry study by the research firm CRMGuru, sales managers believe
that customers move to another vendor either because they found a lower price elsewhere or
their product needs changed. In fact, “bad customer service” was cited as the reason for chang-
ing vendors by nearly 3 out of 4 of the customers surveyed.2
In addition to losing current customers, bad customer service can also prevent the acquisition of
new customers through the proliferation of negative “word-of-mouth” on social networking sites.
However, the Internet and cell phone networks also allow vendors to constantly gather data
about how and when customers use products. By monitoring and analyzing this data, vendors
can identify potential customer service problems and take corrective action before they occur.
This is already happening inside some markets. For example, companies that provide computer
power over the Internet (e.g., “cloud computing”) regularly monitor and analyze the peak usage
patterns of their customers in order to assign resources to those customers before they encounter
a slowdown that might result in a customer service complaint.
Roman, Ernan. Poor Service: Key Factor in Customer Churn. Huffington Post. July 25, 2012
As more products become “intelligent” and “connected” (i.e., have
computers with communications capability built into them), the
vendors of those products will continue to have more ways to gather
data and use that data to keep customers happier.
We project that the ability to communicate more frequently and more
effectively with customers will make it easier to build strong relation-
ships. However, customers will continue to differentiate between
“real” relationships and “social networking” colleagues.
Building a long-term customer relationship is intensive in terms of
time and resources. The salesperson must maintain a connection with
current customer contacts, even while expanding outwards into new
opportunities within the customer site.
While the potential payoff is enormous, it can be challenging for a
salesperson to maintain a deep understanding of a customer’s internal
structure, business model, and operational politics as the customer’s
firm changes and grows.
The communications capabilities inherent in today’s selling environ-
ments reduce the amount of time and effort expended in ongoing
customer communication and therefore in the building of long-term
relationships. Armed with detailed data about decision-makers and
stakeholders, salespeople can more easily keep customers informed
and move sales opportunities forward.
However, regardless of what technology they’re using, humans will
remain human. Because of this, we predict that customers will con-
tinue to value personal contact and face-to-face meetings, especially
in cases where the business relationship requires a great deal of trust
between the participants.
In other words, the majority of salespeople will work in data-rich
environments, interacting with customers primarily through the tele-
phone and Internet, with access to an enormous amount of informa-
tion about customers, industries, and the competitive marketplace.
Customers will look to these “plugged in” salespeople to make sense
of the massive amounts of information clutter existing on the Web and
become “trusted experts” rather than just advisors.
However, there will remain some environments, such as high-ticket
B2B purchases of complex solutions, where there will be a need for
face-to-face meetings involving salespeople and experts from the sell-
er’s firm. These individuals will also work in a data-rich environment
much of the time, but they’ll also require the traditional in-person skills
that have been mainstay of the sales profession for nearly a century.
However, in the future, even face-to-face will become more digitally
based, with real-time interactive video conferencing.
• Sales management will use
new sources of data to make
management more scientific.
• Extensive pre-qualification
of leads will become
• Salespeople will use multiple
data sources to move
• Customer service will become
better integrated into the
• The majority of salespeople
will be online, with an elite
few that meet customers
CRM will become
ubiquitous but invisible
Historically, CRM has had a higher failure rate than most other types of
corporate software. In 2001, for example, Gartner announced a study that
found CRM implementations experienced a 50% failure rate, a finding echoed
(and then some) in 2002 by the Butler Group (70%) and the Selling Power CSO
CRM failures do not result from failures in the hardware or software. Compared
to many other applications, CRM does not create a heavy computing load nor is
it particularly complex to implement. CRM systems fail when a majority of users
decide that the systems in question are more bother than they’re worth. The
technical term for this is a “low adoption rate.”
This is not a trivial problem. A centralized CRM system for a large sales
organization, when implemented as part of an overall Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP) system, can easily cost millions of dollars. Even when the system
itself is less expensive, sales groups still incur the cost of training people to use
the system, costs that are lost if the system doesn’t take hold.
Furthermore, many CRM failures have been accompanied by the creation and/or
maintenance of a “shadow” system where the “real” sales tracking takes place.
Such systems range from spreadsheets on a sales manager’s laptop to contact
management programs squirreled away inside some sales manager’s PC. Since
such ad-hoc systems are prone to error, they often end up causing problems of
their own (like lost data), making the failure of the “official” CRM system even
more of a disaster.
Sales managers have tried various methods to increase CRM adoption rates
in order to reduce the likelihood of a failed implementation. One approach
(popularized by CRM guru Barton Goldenberg) has been to offer salespeople
rewards for CRM usage. More commonly, sales managers have tried to refuse
paying commissions until the salesperson in question has entered all the
required data. However, despite such drastic measures, CRM failure rates
haven’t improved much. In 2009, for instance, Forrester Research estimated the
CRM failure rate to still be at 47%.3
Computerization vs. Automation
The continued failure of major CRM implementations leads us to the conclusion
that the concept is fundamentally flawed.
There are two basic and mutually inconsistent approaches to using computers
in business environments: automation and computerization. While these
terms are often used interchangeably, they actually describe very different
philosophies about how computers are most effectively deployed.
With automation, computers are seen as a means to monitor various processes
within a company, centralize control of those processes, replacing humans with
computers (or robots), and thereby create greater efficiency. Automation is
always driven from the top downwards, with the Information Technology (IT)
group playing a leadership role in pushing adoption of the new technology
through the rest of the company.
With computerization, computers are seen as a way to make individuals more
more powerful and capable. Computerization involves the elimination of rote
tasks, but generally by replacing those activities with higher-value activities.
Computerization is always driven from the bottom up, with the IT group
reacting to decisions made elsewhere inside the company.
Put another way, automation empowers management-computerization
empowers employees. Because these concepts are, in a certain sense, mutually
at odds, it’s not surprising that there have multiple battles inside the corporate
world for “control” of computing resources.
It was in the midst of this push-pull conflict that IT groups began introducing
what soon became known as Sales Force Automation (SFA) and later renamed
as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Such systems were designed
as repositories of customer contact information and a way to track sales
activity through various stages of a pre-defined process. By 1995, the software
category was well-established enough to justify the founding of companies
focused primarily on CRM, such as Seibel Systems.
Why CRM Systems Fail
Early CRM systems, however, had many problems, most of which were the direct
result of the “automation” focus of the software. Among salespeople, these systems
were seen (justifiably) as an attempt to enforce more management control over
sales activity and to establish corporate ownership of the customer data (like
contact information) that salespeople gathered during their sales activities.
While salespeople have generally fought automation, they’ve consistently
been early adopters of computerization. For example, prior to around 1990,
sales groups were early adopters of (initially) standalone word-processors and
(later) personal computers. Like other corporate organizations that purchased
these forms of computerization, sales groups were often forced to do “end
runs” around IT groups, which tended to be hostile to “uncontrolled” computer
power, preferring instead to promote centralized automation.
In more recent years, this preference for computerization over automation has
manifested itself in the rapid adoption, within sales groups of smartphones and
tablets, both of which have changed the way that salespeople (and other types
of users) interact with technology. Even more than the PC, such devices tend
to push the complexities of data processing into the background in favor of
presenting an easy-to-use interface.
Sales managers have also been early adopters of new technology. For example,
while CRM was originally offered as an in-house application, with all the
inflexibility and top-down control that such an implementation implies, the
trend in CRM has been toward “on-demand” applications like Salesforce.com.
Such systems are not only less expensive than their more traditional forebears,
but they are more modular, making them much easier to customize to match
the individual requirements of any particular sales team.
Extensions to the Concept
At the same time, CRM systems have become “smarter” in the way that they
use existing information on the Internet, which can greatly reduce the amount
of clerical work required of the sales team to build up a useful amount of
information. In the future, tablets and smartphones will make interacting with
CRM even less burdensome as CRM continues to become more customizable
and therefore better able to match individual and team requirements.
For example, Chally has begun building what it calls “sales transformation
dashboards,” which provide detailed information about personnel, their success
rates, their deployments, their activities, etc., with measurement algorithms
customized for each selling environment.
Using this technology, a sales executive can not only track overall performance
of the sales organization, but also predict where salespeople are likely to fail or
succeed in the future, depending on where they’re assigned. A sales manager
starting up a team in a new territory can establish the characteristics
of that territory. The system can then recommend, based upon
past performance and competency profile, the combination of sales
manager and sales reps who would be most likely to be successful
developing that territory.
Using data in this way is far beyond the original scope of CRM, even
though it uses CRM data as an element of the analysis and decision-
What emerges is a sales technology environment where the
accumulation of data (including CRM data, but extending to many
other types of data) becomes highly automatic and where that data
is used in highly creative ways throughout the sales, marketing, and
support organization. CRM thus becomes more of an enabling form of
rather than an application purchased to provide a specific function.
In other words, as computerization proceeds apace and automation
moves into the background, we believe that the entire concept of CRM
will become largely meaningless because the data that was its raison
d’etre will simply be assumed to exist, in the same way that Ethernet
and email are simply assumed to be a part of the overall environment.
For CRM providers, the downside of this trend is that they’ll either need
to expand their offerings or change them substantially in order to
support the new environment that’s emerging. This will cost money to
develop and open up opportunities for “disruptive” technology from
other vendors. On the other hand, the move toward a computerization
model (and opposed to an automation model) will greatly increase
adoption rates and success rates.
• CRM has experienced low
adoption rates and high
implementation failure rates.
• CRM inappropriately
attempted to automate
sales activity rather than
computerize rote tasks.
• Sales teams immediately
adopt technology that helps
them to sell more effectively.
• Tablets and smart phones
will incorporate functions
currently performed by CRM
• CRM data will be vastly
augmented by new public
and private data sources.
• CRM will become a part of the
overall selling infrastructure
rather than a discrete
Tablets will eclipse laptops
Over the past decade, “on-demand” applications (most notably
Salesforce.com) have absorbed most of the market growth in the
CRM sector, largely replacing and displanting “on-premise” CRM
applications (like the original implementation of Seibel.)
CRM implementations that use “cloud computing” (another word
“on-demand”) only utilize a Windows-based desktop or mobile
computer as a platform to host a browser. As such, there’s little
reason to have a Windows-based machine purely to run a CRM ap-
plication. This follows a trend in business computer usage, which is
gradually migrating from the traditional Windows environment for
many day-to-day business tasks toward browser-based applications
and mobile clients (i.e., programs developed for specific devices)
according to the market research firm Gartner.4
Despite several attempts, Microsoft has been largely unsuccessful
in penetrating the CRM market with a Windows-centric product,
while CRM vendors have quickly moved to service clients on other
platforms, notably tablets, which already support browsers, making
tablets functional supersets of Windows devices, at least as far as
CRM is concerned.
Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2012 and
Beyond. December 1, 2011
Tablets as “Laptop Killers”
When the iPad was originally released, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal
called it a “pretty close” laptop killer.5
There are now growing signs that that
“pretty close” was a gross understatement.
At the point of this writing, Windows devices are still the preferred way to cre-
ate documents and presentations, and Microsoft’s Outlook mail client is still the
“lingua franca” of email. However, there are growing signs that this is changing.
According to a recent survey of iPad users conducted by the sales technology
, the most common business uses for the iPad are smack in the
center of Microsoft’s Office market checking work emails (82%), doing Web
research (72%), and viewing or delivering presentations (74%).
Ominously (for Microsoft) almost half (46%) are also using tablets for “business
apps,” which presumably includes document creation. While Microsoft has, of
this writing, avoided porting Microsoft Office to the iPad, we believe that it is
only a matter of time before fully compatible applications are available. Indeed,
there are already acceptable alternatives that support 90% of the functions
required by salespeople.
The Brainshark study also revealed that 89% of iPad owners take their iPad when
travelling on business and more than one out of three of these travelers only
bring an iPad and leave their laptop at home. While 92% of iPad owners say the
device currently supplements their laptop, more than half (51%) believe that their
iPad will be their primary computing device within the next two years.
Significantly, almost two-thirds of iPad owners would rather lose their laptop than
their iPad. This kind of loyalty to a product category bodes ill for Microsoft, which
has never been able to capture that kind of loyalty with its Windows product.
Tablet Sales Accelerating
While there were previous tablets in the market, today’s market for tablets was
created in early 2010 with the launch of the iPad. Since then, sales of the device
have been phenomenal.
Within 90 days of its introduction in early 2010, the iPad managed to penetrate
50 percent of Fortune 100 companies.7
By 2011, iPad sales were already eating
into PC sales,8
and within two years after its release, the quarterly sales of the
device reached 17 million iPads, double the population of New York City. By the
autumn of 2012, it had penetrated into 90% of the Fortune 500.
Mossberg, Walter S. “Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close”. Wall Street Journal. March 10, 2010.
Brainshark. Mad for the iPad. September 18, 2012
Clevenger, Nathan. “How the iPad Conquered the Enterprise”. Datamation. July 29, 2011.
Metz, Rachel. iPad Takes A Chunk Out Of PC Sales, Say Analysts Huffington Post. April 13, 2011
When viewed in terms of cumulative sales, the number of iPads are
growing exponentially, as shown in the following table:
Can Microsoft Succeed in the Tablet Market?
Microsoft’s announcement of the Surface (a Microsoft-branded, Windows-based
tablet) and Microsoft’s continued reluctance to offer a version of Office that runs on
the iPad makes it clear that Microsoft sees the iPad as a major competitive threat to its
dominant position in personal computing.
However, Microsoft has a long history of failure in the handheld and tablet market, go-
ing all the way back to 1996, when the company launched “Windows CE.” Since 2001,
Microsoft has tried to market the concept of Window-based tablet computers, but
these devices, despite being manufactured by established PC companies like Dell and
Hewlett-Packard, have gone nowhere.
Microsoft was also responsible for the Zune, an iPod competitor that barely got on the
market share radar and the Kin, an iPhone competitor that was pulled from the market
only forty-eight days after reportedly selling only 500 units, despite a massive spend-
ing on advertising and promotion.
This pattern of repeated failures strongly suggests that the handheld/tablet/phone
market simply isn’t part of Microsoft’s DNA. As a result, it’s a possibility that the Sur-
face will, like every other product Microsoft has launched in this space, end up as an
orphan or a device that hangs onto a very small market share. Time will tell.
Costello, Sam. What Are iPad Sales All Time? About.com Guide.
Table 1: Cumulative iPad Sales (millions of units)
Source: About.com Guide 9
Today, desktops and laptops based on Microsoft’s Windows operating
system remain the “platform of choice” for most sales organizations. How-
ever, we project that tablets, specifically devices based on Apple’s operat-
ing system iOS and Google’s operating system Android, will largely replace
Windows-based desktops and laptops.
While it is currently too soon to tell for certain, we remain skeptical of the abil-
ity of Microsoft’s Surface tablet to establish itself as a third alternative in the
tablet market. While there’s no question that Windows machines will remain
a fixture in the business world for many years to come, there is no longer as
much reason today as in the past to adhere to Windows as a de-facto standard.
Sales teams, like much of the business world, are ready to adopt an alterna-
tive and now that such alternatives are available, we feel the days of the
dominance of the desktop and laptop inside sales teams will draw to a close,
over the next decade.
• Browser-based applications
do not require a laptop or
desktop to function.
• Tablets are replacing laptops
for business travelers.
• Tablet sales are rapidly
accelerating, eating into
laptop and desktop sales.
• Microsoft’s Surface inherits
the legacy of Windows, both
good and bad.
• Microsoft Windows
is architecturally too
complicated and has become
• Tablets based on iOS or
Android will become the
business device of choice.
Interactive video will
Video conferencing has been around for over two decades, but has not yet played
much of a role in sales environments. However, this will change over the next
decade, and video interaction will permeate the sales environment.
The Effectiveness of Online Meetings
Online meeting are, of course, more cost effective than face-to-face meetings. To
illustrate this, imagine a two-hour face-to-face meeting that requires the conver-
gence of five people at a single location. The table below shows a simple cost
Face-to-Face Meeting Online Meeting
Number of Attendees 5 5
Number traveling to attend 4 0
Total time required including
preparation & travel
54 hours 15 hours
Manpower cost (at $50 per hour) $2,700 $750
Estimated airfare, hotel $3,000 $0
Technology cost (devices,
Total Cost $5,700 $1,250
The table may understate the case because it doesn’t take into account the lost
opportunity cost of tying up four people during the time it will take for them to
travel to the meeting. While it’s true that people can conduct more work while
traveling than in the past, travel always involves a significant reduction in produc-
tivity. This is particularly significant when the meeting attendees are high-level
Contrary to popular belief, video conferencing is nearly as effective as traditional
face-to-face meetings when it comes to making good business decisions,
according to a study conducted at the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science
and Technology at the University of Illinois.10
That study showed that video
conferencing was as good as face-to-face meetings for decision-making, achieving
accuracy, avoiding overconfidence, commitment to the group decision, and the
number of beliefs discussed or learned during the meeting.
The study also revealed that compared to face-to-face groups, video conferenc-
ing groups showed lower levels of confidence in their decisions, especially if
they were instructed to discuss their beliefs and assumptions underlying their
estimates. However, considering the cost benefits, these aspects of decision-
making are probably a reasonable sacrifice.
Video conferencing also has an advantage over teleconferencing in that it allows
the communication of visual information that would otherwise be lost. Psycho-
logical studies show that only 7 percent of communication involves the actual
words, while 55 percent is visual, carried by body language and eye contact, with
the remaining 38 percent being vocal--pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice, etc.
Why Video Conferencing Hasn’t “Caught On”
Since video conferencing is nearly as effective as face-to-face meetings and
represents a huge cost-savings over face-to-face meetings, it’s a bit surpris-
ing that it remains relatively uncommon both in sales situations and general
business interaction. In fact, it hasn’t been until recently that sales groups have
embraced any form of video conferencing even though adequate technology
to conduct such meetings has existed for well over a decade.
A possible explanation of the slow adoption of interactive video may lie in
the expectations that people have when dealing with video data. Since most
business people have been exposed to thousands of hour of television, virtu-
ally from the day they were first able to discern individual images, they have
acquired a specific visual “vocabulary” that’s different from the face-to-face
For example, during a face-to-face meeting, a sidelong glance at a person
standing to one side carries no significance, because the other people in the
room know that the glance is directed at that person. On video, however, the
exact same sidelong glance creates an impression that the person on camera is
“shifty-eyed” and therefore untrustworthy.
The same is true of glancing down at notes, which is one reason why profes-
sional broadcasters and politicians use teleprompters. If they read from notes,
they look as if they were ashamed and staring at the floor.
It is extraordinarily difficult for average people to look reliable and trustworthy
even when videos are recorded in a professional studio. For example, execu-
tives who trained to represent their companies on television are advised to
avoid sunglasses, flashy jewelry, rocking from side to side, scratching, and the
clasping and unclasping of hands, all of which look dreadful on video.
In addition, video conferencing has probably suffered from the inherent con-
servativeness of corporate culture, which has tended to view online meetings
(with some truth) as representing less of a commitment to the customer than a
New Perceptions of Video Conferencing
The cultural bias against video conference appears to be in the process of
change, with younger workers likely to perceive it more positively and use it
more effectively than their older peers.
A 2005 study of video conferencing conducted at Department of Instructional
Systems Technology at Indiana University revealed the effectiveness of web
conferencing also varies according to the type of material being communicat-
For that study, students were exposed to a course that used both face-to-
face classroom instruction and online classroom meetings and then asked to
communicate their preferences for each methodology.
Researchers discovered that approximately three out of four students preferred
face-to-face meetings when the task being learned was ambiguous because it
was easier and faster to clarify issues through immediate questions and an-
swers. They also felt that direct interaction and instant feedback “helped make
them think better.”
In addition, approximately four out of five students preferred face-to-face dis-
cussion when the information being conveyed was very complex and difficult
to understand. In this case, they felt that it was easier to get complete answers
because two-way non-verbal cues helped them to understand content and
reduce misunderstanding. Students held similar views about brainstorming
and decision-making, both activities in which the dynamics of the face-to-face
environment was seen to be more effective.
However, when it came to clearly defined, unambiguous tasks typical of the
majority of large-sized college classes, about twice as many students felt that
computer-mediated discussions were faster, easier, and more convenient,
primarily because it allowed students to work with flexible schedules and take
more time to think and reflect. Students embraced online discussions in greater
numbers when the content was relatively simple.
Cheaper, Faster, Better
The Indiana study shows that yesterday’s students (and today’s younger work-
ers) clearly see video conferencing as often superior to face-to-face interaction.
However, that study was conducted in 2005, which is before technological
changes that have made video conferencing radically less expensive.
Originally fueled by online applications like Skype and WebEx, the video con-
ferencing marketing was already growing rapidly, jumping to $1.1 billion in the
first half of 2010, an increase of 32% over the same period in the previous year,
according to the market research firm Synergy.12
However, that market growth
was about to be swamped by the proverbial “disruptive” technology.
In June 7, 2010, erstwhile Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced FaceTime at the 2010
Worldwide Developers Conference in conjunction with the iPhone 4. The integra-
tion of FaceTime into every new iPhone and iPad has turned video conferencing
from a specialized application to one that’s become integral to the way that many
people (especially younger ones) communicate with one another.
We project that the popularity of FaceTime and similar applications on other plat-
forms will wear away the reluctance of the business world to use video in a wide
variety of situations. Specifically, in sales, we see five primary uses:
1. Online events Sales teams often schedule special events at hotels in order to
prospect for new customers. However, even when they’re successful, such events
can be quite expensive, and when they’re sparsely attended, they can be a colos-
sal waste of money. Online events allow sales teams to attract and communicate
with decision-makers who have little time to travel to special events. It should
be noted that this is already taking place in many firms with “webinars,” however
many of these events do not yet use interactive video, although they may include
2. Sales proposal development With the traditional sales process, proposal
writing often requires the involvement of multiple people inside the sales rep’s
organization, many of whom are likely to be located at a different facility and
may be too busy to participate fully. While a sales rep can try to coordinate the
proposal writing using e-mail and voice mail, numerous problems are inevitable.
Video conferencing provides a way to keep various members of the team in-
volved in the writing process without requiring travel.
3. Sales training Interactive video is already widely implemented as a training
vehicle for software applications. In the future, however, the primary reason to
use interactive video in sales training will be (especially as more sales activity
moves online) the ability to be “fluent” using interactive video. Such fluency is
only possible if training is conducted in the same environment in which it will be
4. Presentations and demonstrations While many presentations will still
involve “slides,” salespeople will increasingly use interactive video tools to add to
the experience. In some cases, this might involve FaceTime-like interaction and in
others the use of interactive video to demonstrate product features.
5. Customer service Representatives will be able use live video feeds to help
customers having specific problems with specific products. The customer service
rep will demonstrate in a “here... do this...” manner rather than the “locate the red
knob beside the third blue light on the left of the red switch and turn it side-
ways...” circumlocutions that are common in customer service today.
By 2023, the majority of B2B selling activity will take place online. That’s
already the case with commodity products, of course. Most businesses
order everything from office equipment to airplane tickets online. What
will be different is that the sales of non-commodity B2B products and ser-
vices – the kind of offering that requires a sales professional to develop
and close an opportunity – will be conducted online as well.
A similar situation existed in the early years of email, before it supplanted
business letters and internal memoranda as the primarily vehicle for writ-
ten business communications. As late as the early 1990s, it was consid-
ered gauche in some circles to use email for important business commu-
nications. Anything that was really important, or intended for somebody
really important, was presented in hard-copy, on letterhead.
Today, of course, email no longer carries a stigma; if anything, the re-
verse is true and hard-copy communications are considered second rate
because they can be lost, they can be misrouted, and they create an
additional burden for the reader who would like to respond. (There’s no
“REPLY” key on a physical piece of paper.)
And in fact, that’s what appears to be taking place in the selling arena.
Innovative companies are beginning to use the technology to create a
selling and buying environment that, far from being poor imitation of
face-to-face meetings, actually has major advantages, similar to the ad-
vantages that email has over hard-copy business letters.
In other words, interactive video (aka video conferencing) is poised to
become a tool that’s second nature in most sales environment, as well as
throughout the rest of the business world.
• Online meetings have major
cost advantages over face-to-
• Video conferencing is as
good as face-to-face meeting
for some business purposes.
• Until recently, video
conferencing has faced
barriers to its adoption.
• Younger workers find video
conferencing more effective
than face-to-face meeting for
• FaceTime has become very
common among consumers
• Common uses will be online
events, sales proposals,
training, demonstrations, and
• A majority of selling activity
will take place online with
interactive video as one of
Social Networking will
supplant cold calling
While cold calling remains a mainstay of sales training programs and many
selling business models, we believe that it is already becoming less effective
as a lead qualification mechanism. We believe that, despite improvements in
the technology that automates various aspects of the cold-calling process, cold
calling will continue to be less effective.
Cold Calling Is Increasingly Ineffective
Classic cold calling consists approaching prospective customers or clients via
telephone when those clients are not expecting such an interaction. According
to the current Wikipedia entry on “cold calling,” the word “cold” is used “be-
cause the person receiving the call is not expecting a call or has not specifically
asked to be contacted by a salesperson.”
Prior to the ubiquitous use of voice mail, making a successful cold call to a
decision-maker entailed talking to various underlings and gatekeepers who
would then “put the call through” or, alternatively, placing the call when the
decision-maker would answer his or her own phone.
Today, almost all companies use some form of voice mail, which provides an
automatic and relentless gatekeeper for most decision-makers, especially when
combined with caller ID.
Sales technology firms have come up with several technologies to overcome
the barrier of voice mail. For example, there are many services available today
that will dial many numbers simultaneously and hand off the call to a sales rep
when a human voice is detected.
However, there has also been a growth in the number of decision-makers, espe-
cially among younger executives, who no longer use voice mail and only take
calls from numbers that their mobile phone recognize.13
Government Regulation Growing
There has also been persistent pressure from consumers and business-
people alike to reduce the number of cold calls.
For example, within the European Union, member states are now
required to issue laws that prohibit general cold calling, while in the
UK, it is now unlawful to transmit an automated recorded message for
direct marketing purposes via a telephone, without prior consent of
Similarly, the Republic of Ireland has an index of numbers that cannot be
called for the purposes of cold calls and/or sales and advertising, and an
unsolicited marketing call to a such a number is a criminal offense.
Cold calling remains legal in the United States. However, the Fed-
eral Trade Commission (FTC) manages a “Do Not Call List” which has
curbed unsolicited telemarketing to land lines but increased the
amount of cold calling to mobile phones. It is only a matter of time
before consumer pressure curbs cold calling to mobile phones, par-
ticularly since the recipient is, in many cases, paying for the connect
Overall, we see customers being less likely to accept unsolicited calls
and more likely to press governments to restrict and eliminate them.
As of this writing, over a billion people have Facebook accounts.14
While not all of these accounts are active, a billion is well over 10% of
the people alive today and comprises nearly everyone in the busi-
ness world, at least in the United States. The business-oriented social
network LinkedIn has well over 100 million members, also comprising
most of the business world.15
At the same time, social networking is rapidly becoming an integral
part of the business world in general, and the sales world in particu-
lar. The CRM analyst and consultant Barton Goldenberg, for example,
notes that B2C companies are already heavily involved in developing
customer relationships using social media and believes that B2B com-
panies should and will be investing as well in order to have “ up-to-
the-minute customer knowledge” and the ability to provide “ support
from anywhere, anytime.”16
We project that social networking will provide the main vehicle for lead
generation, largely replacing cold-calling. Because contacts through
social media are less anonymous, we believe that “hunters” will need to
develop new skills in order to fully exploit the new technology.
• Voice mail is making cold
calling increasingly difficult.
• Governments are increasingly
putting restrictions on cold
• Social media is rapidly
growing in popularity.
• The use of social media will
replace cold calling for lead
Grandoni, Dino. Facebook Has 1 Billion Users. The Huffington Post. (October 4, 2012)
LinkedIn’s astonishing growth: By the numbers. The Week. (March 24, 2011)
Goldenberg, Barton. Press Release Announcing New Book. ISMguide.com (April 14, 2008)
Howard P. Stevens
Howard Stevens is Chairman of Chally Group
Worldwide. Mr. Stevens specializes in leadership
development, succession planning, customer
and market analysis, and sales benchmarking.
He is the creator of the original sales product
lifecycle classifications and designed the major
5-year longitudinal study of leadership develop-
ment for the U.S. Department of Defense and
NASA. A licensed clinical psychologist, he is also
known for his research and programs to develop
a professional sales curriculum at the university
level. With diversified interests, he is the author
of several books on sales and management (pub-
lished in multiple languages) including Achieve
Sales Excellence, The Quadrant Solution and Selling
the Wheel. He has written many articles and is a
frequent speaker and radio and television guest.
His World Class sales benchmarks program has
been presented over 500 times across 30 coun-
tries for corporations, trade associations, govern-
ment agencies, and universities. He has been a
guest on CNN, Bloomberg USA, National Public
Radio, Radio Free America, and other business-
based programs. Mr. Stevens also taught “World
Class Sales” benchmarks at the Columbia Univer-
sity Graduate School of Business and other uni-
versities, and serves on the Sales Advisory Board
for Ohio University and the Foundation Board of
Wright State University.
Geoffrey James writes the world’s most popular
sales-oriented blog, “Sales Source on Inc.com.”
Previously named “Sales Machine” and hosted on
CBS, Geoffrey’s blog won awards from both the
Society of American Business Editors and Writers
and the American Society of Business Publication
Unlike other sales blogs, Sales Source on Inc.com
is 100% independent. Geoffrey doesn’t do sales
training and he doesn’t do sales consulting. That
frees him to present his readers with the very
best ideas from the very best sales experts and
executives. To get updates, sign up for his news-
letter or the @Sales_Source Twitter feed.
In addition, Geoffrey has published hundreds of
articles in dozens of national magazines, includ-
ing Men’s Health, Wired, Brandweek, Technology
Marketing, and Selling Power magazine.
A global leadership and sales potential and performance measurement firm, Chally Group Worldwide
utilizes our industry leading research, predictive analytics and advisory services to ensure our clients
have the vital information to minimize risk associated with making critical talent management decisions
relating to selection, alignment, development and succession planning. With over 38 years of experience,
Chally provides tools in more than 24 languages across 49 countries.