Trend Spotting – 201341

By Tibor

As we make our way back to work from time spent with family, friends and credit cards, we are about to besieged by a wave of articles, blog posts, tweets, and other sources touting the (new) trends for 2013.  I have been approached by a half dozen or so outlets asking for my input.  While I understand the purpose, I am not sure this type trend spotting adds much value to the discussion, or the ability of organizations or individuals to improve their execution.

For one thing, trends do not adhere to a calendar, they don’t bubble up around January 1, only to fade in time for the start of the next year.  Fashion does, this fall’s fashion trends have already been decided in Paris, and oohed and aahed on by Jeanne Beker; and while those wearing them this Thanksgiving will feel trendy, real sales trends evolve, form and take shape based on market conditions and voids, rather than being ushered in on a schedule.

Like fashion, some “trends” are manufactured, there to promote a cause, product, or other thing with an intended predetermined purpose, as with most manufactured goods, the end goal is profit.  Witness the social selling trend a few years ago aggressively promoted coincidentally by particular vendors with specific agendas.

While this type trend spotting has been around a while, it presents an added risk today when part of the daily practice and vernacular has people looking for “what’s trending?”.  Trends by definition are short term:

1. the general course or prevailing tendency; drift;
2. style or vogue;
3. to veer in a new direction:

In sales a short term focus often makes trends more of diversion than a benefit; long term success in sales evolve in response to real market conditions.  So before you jump on any January 2013 trends, take a minute and review the outcome and accuracy of some of the trends hyped last year at this time.  Give it the 72 day test, see which “trends” proved to be accurate and sustained, which delivered value to you helping you execute your sales better, and delivered consistent success;  and which were just “trending” the way of the #KimKardashianpregnant pregnancy.

Be sure that you differentiate between “trends”, and real evolution in sales and selling; the former are distractions, while the latter presents opportunity.

I suspect that some trends being presented are a blend of prediction, wishful thinking, or self-fulfilling in nature.  Take for example the one response I did provide to a request to share a brief prediction of a trend we in the industry see impacting sales in 2013.  I submitted:

“The trend I see is benchmarking.  As the economy improves, and sales improve along with them, some sales leaders will fall back into slumber riding the wave.  The smart ones will want to know how much of the gain is due to rising tides, and how much is due to specific performance by their team.  To that they will need solid sources to benchmark to, and avoid the temptation of using anecdotal sources.”

The above reflects my discussions with sales leaders who would like to have more to benchmark against than anecdotal – blind survey based – benchmarks as a means to improve the way their teams execute.

Will this become a trend, I hope so, but just in case, I do have a plan B.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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