What does the future hold for sales, marketing, and customer experience solutions? And how will sales and marketing teams grow revenues and remain competitive in today’s fast-paced, connected environment? Here are the five exciting predictions laid out by CallidusCloud President and CEO Leslie Stretch in his opening keynote at the recently concluded CallidusCloud Connections (C3) EMEA 2016 London.

Prediction 1: Incentives

Do incentives produce better results? The answer is a firm “yes,” and the key here will be to make sure the incentives are designed to drive a targeted behavior.

  • Incentive Predictive AnalyticIncentives will be used to pay for performance more holistically.
  • Incentives will cover more parts of the sales process. When the salesperson can control the part of the incentives, the emotional connection to drive the performance required for targeted behavior will increase.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) incentives – The combination of data (generated by the salesperson), analytics and artificial intelligence enables managers to make better decisions for improved sales performance.
  • Customer experience-driven incentives – The idea of customer-focused incentives will gain more traction in 2016, and alignment of target customer behavior with rewards will play an important role.

Prediction 2: Death of the Order-taker

This prediction is not about the actual death of a salesperson – it is about the demise of salespeople who fail to adapt to a changing world. The new connected market had given new advantages to sales, marketing and customers that have changed the buying equation. Today, customers are at least 60 percent of the way through the decision-making process before they ever interact directly with a salesperson, and we expect this gap to close even further. The availability of information online, peer reviews, social media, and self-service e-commerce bring customers even greater autonomy and control.

This is actually great news for salespeople who step up to the plate and add value to the decision-making process with the right information at the right time. Wasting buyers’ time by rehashing details they already know is a recipe for failure. Salespeople must gain clear insight to understand where customers are in the process before they engage, and to respond with exactly what the buyer needs to know.

Prediction 3: Predictive analytics fuel profitable growth

According a CSO Insight study, over half of predicted deals slip and only 20 percent of CFOs are very confident in their sales forecasts. Accuracy of the sales forecast is turning out to be the critical element in making business decisions. Gut feelings must no longer drive forecasts. In 2016, you can expect CFOs to get much more involved in the data-driven forecasting process, to increase their level of confidence around the numbers.

Prediction 4: Marketing Marries Sales

As the age-old practice had been performed in the past, marketing handled the first part of the lead journey, then passed it on to sales for the remainder of the buyer’s journey. In this model, both teams have less accountability and can lead to stalled leads and lost deals. This is an evergreen concern – yet only 9.2 percent of sales and marketing organizations say they are fully aligned, and almost one out of three are misaligned or somewhat misaligned.

This year, more organizations will understand the need for a better alignment of their sales and marketing teams. And with the addition of customer experience to both the teams, the journey will be become even more interesting.

Prediction 5: Customer experience– the new battleground

According to Gartner, 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience in 2016, versus 36 percent just five years ago. But the sad part is that 79 percent of the feedback never gets followed up on.

As more and more battles are fought for customer attention and, ultimately, buying preference, experience will become the differentiator. 2016 will be the year when those companies who offer a better customer experience truly rise to the top.