Trending This Week: Selling in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The opening keynote at this week’s Dreamforce conference featured a term that I’ve only heard in passing before. It really caught my attention this time. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff kicked off the event by talking about driving customer success in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

While we are all aware that our society is undergoing a shift, framing it as a new industrial revolution really puts the scale and scope into perspective. It’s helpful to start thinking about our current sales environment in this way.

The many sessions at Dreamforce — always a forward-looking celebration of business tech and innovation — really hammered home the importance of embracing the ongoing transformation and all it entails.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Klaus Schaub, founder and executive chairman for the World Economic Forum, published an in-depth piece in late 2015 analyzing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which he suggested “will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

Here’s how he laid it out:

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Schaub added that this Fourth Industrial Revolution, unlike the three that preceded it, is “evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.” I don’t think anyone who is living through our current time would be inclined to disagree with that assessment. The rapid onset of new tools and technologies can be dizzying. As everything becomes more connected via the Web and the Internet of Things, the search for real human connections can feel all the more challenging.

But, ironically, they are now more important than ever.

A New Era of Selling and Buying

If you’re a frequent reader of the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog, then you know we routinely emphasize social selling as a vital imperative for modern sales teams to adopt. And here’s why: social selling isn’t just a tactic, it’s a mindset. It’s about meeting prospects and customers where they’re at with personalized and authentic interactions.

As Kim Honjo wrote in recapping Benioff’s keynote, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is largely being driven by “savvy, connected, always-on customers, and they expect seamless experiences from every company they engage with.”

A month ago, at the Executive Sales Forum, LinkedIn’s Jonathan Lister laid out a three-pronged vision of how businesses can adapt to meet these expectations going forward:

  1. Convergence of sales and marketing to deliver more consistent brand experiences
  2. Integration of sales tech and automation to augment (not replace) human effort
  3. Personalization at scale through innovative strategies

Keep an eye out for our upcoming Future of Sales ebook, which will deeply examine each of these three directives, and how your sales team can get in front of curve. In the meantime, we urge you to think about how your organization can stay focused on aligning itself with this Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As Mr. Schwab of the World Economic Forum put it, “business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.”

Struggling to keep a finger on the pulse of this ever-changing environment? Subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog and we promise to keep you up to speed.


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