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The Year of the Business-Building Magnet, and Other 2021 Predictions

The Year of the Business-Building Magnet, and Other 2021 Predictions

Steve Watt

illustration of chart showing upward trend

Sales and marketing will look very different in 2021—and that’s a relief

We’re all tired

As we enter 2021, we’re all bloody tired.

And if a pandemic, economic upheaval, political battles and everything else impacting our lives and emotions wasn’t enough, we’re also exhausted and worn down by much of what’s become commonplace in our business lives.


We’re tired of fake empathy

“I hope you’re well in these uncertain times” has become boilerplate prospecting copy and if it meant anything at all back in March, it rings extremely hollow today. Yet it keeps coming.

We’re tired of fake personalization

“Hi []. I love the work you and your team at [] are doing!” Or, “As a [job.title] you surely understand the importance of…” That one might fool the naïve if their title is really basic, but with long and highly specific titles, it’s laughably bad.

This really got to me when I was self-employed. Countless emails and LinkedIn connection requests came in with messages like, “I love the work you and your team at Self-Employed are doing!” Even worse was, “I was at a conference recently and Self-Employed came up in several conversations. You guys are making quite a name for yourselves!”

It’s worse than insincere. It’s a lie. You’re leading with a lie.

We’re tired of fake authenticity

Someone told sellers to be authentic and now we all get emails saying, “So, I’m sitting here at my kitchen table sipping my favorite local pale ale while my kids are running around screaming, but all I’m really focused on is what’s keeping YOU up at night. Quick call Tuesday at 2:00?”

We’re tired of low-quality content

These are articles with no real substance and no point of view, seemingly only existing to cover some SEO bases, or because someone has a KPI to increase clicks. Sometimes the entire site serves no purpose but to serve ads.

We’re tired of lots more, too

But if I spend much more time on what we’re tired of, you’ll get tired of reading so … on with the predictions, shall we?

2021 Belongs to the Brand Builders

I think this is the year when we’ll see real appreciation of—and investment in—brand as a critical competitive differentiator in B2B. Contrary to a commonly held belief, brand is even more important in B2B than it is in B2C because the stakes are higher, the decisions are more complex and the outcomes are less certain.

Brand builders establish a clear, compelling and credible point of view on important changes taking place in the world and on what a much better future looks like.

They earn a reputation for rising above the blocking and tackling of transactional selling by truly educating and inspiring the market. They think far beyond this quarter or this year, and they give much more than they take.

Brand builders shape markets, win over hearts and minds, and build massive long-term value. We’re tired of being subjected to traditional sales and marketing playbooks and we’re going to increasingly embrace great brands in 2021 and beyond.

2021 Belongs to the Trust Builders

People do business with those they know and trust.

LinkedIn is the greatest ongoing business conversation the world has ever seen, and active participation in that conversation is an amazing way to learn, grow and build trust.

People who regularly show up, speak up and engage in the conversation in value-providing ways demonstrate authentic passion and expertise for their profession, their industry and those they serve. They build valuable new relationships, strengthen existing relationships and spark business-building conversations of all sorts.

Above all, when they’re consistently seen engaging, conversing, sharing and helping, they build trust. And this trust, nurtured and expanded over time, becomes a massive competitive advantage.

Of course, there are other ways of building trust, too. Trust builders write, podcast, and create videos and all sorts of other valuable assets. They speak at conferences, co-create content with others, and give openly and often.

We’re tired of being on guard against the takers and the deceivers, and we’re going to be drawn to those we trust, more than ever, in 2021 and beyond.

2021 Belongs to the Magnets, Not the Hunters

The logical extension of the increasing importance of brand and trust is that magnets will increasingly outperform hunters. The brand-burning, trust-destroying mindsets, metrics and tactics of the “sales is a numbers game,” “coffee is for closers” crowd are so deeply rooted that some can’t envision a different approach.

“If we don’t chase them down by every means possible, there’ll be no sales conversations. There’ll be no sales!”

They’re spoofing numbers to trick people into picking up. They’re calling way outside of normal business hours to catch people off-guard. They’re using dishonest FW: and RE: subject lines to trick people into thinking this is a conversation they’re already involved in.

It never seems to occur to them that people generally don’t enjoy being sold to. They do however, often want to buy. They could become someone that people actually want to talk to.

The people and companies that build brand and trust at scale become magnets for high-intent buyers. And that changes everything. When you and your company become a magnet for high-intent buyers, all of your revenue metrics move in the right direction.

  • Higher win rates (because they know you, they trust you and they really want to do business with you).
  • Shorter sales cycles (because they prioritize making it work and they bring the right resources and right people to the table).
  • Larger deal sizes (because they’re confident to move assertively and much less likely to defensively hedge their bets).
  • Greater client loyalty and retention (because they fully and enthusiastically deploy and get to value quickly).
  • More advocacy and referrals (because they’re proud to be associated with you and your brand, and confident that they’re doing a good thing when they refer you to others that trust them).

2021 Belongs to the Humans

We’re tired of robo-this and automated-that. We’re tired of being on the receiving end of blasts and cadences and constant conversion attempts. We’re tired of being seen as, and treated as, a “lead.”

We’re tired of all manner of insincere, selfish marketing and selling, and we’re hungry for real humanity. 

2021 is when the companies that enable and empower their people to show up and engage like real humans will begin to build a massive, lasting competitive advantage. That’s a very good thing for buyers and sellers alike.

Steve Watt is Director of Marketing for Seismic LiveSocial, the social engagement platform trusted by many of North America’s largest banks, wealth management firms, insurance companies, and technology providers.