I've also included polls so you can vote on how likely each prediction will come true. As always, feel free to debate me in the comments area.
PREDICTION #10: Entry-Level Sales Jobs Will Be Extinct
By the year 2020, sales jobs will no longer be seen as "starter" jobs for people just out of college, or just starting in an industry. Instead, sales reps will be expected to have built up at least a decade, and probably more, of experience in an industry and in business, prior to even being considered for a sales job. For many people that sales job will play a critical role in helping them to understand the bigger issues that they need to know in order to make a larger contribution elsewhere in the firm.
PREDICTION #9: B2B Selling Will Be Specialized.
By the year 2020, sales professionals will have careers that are almost exclusively within a single industry. While today it's still possible to say "if you can sell for industry A, you can probably sell for industry B", the increasing dominance of the consultative selling model will force sales reps to spend an inordinate amount of time gaining a detailed understanding of the industry into which they are selling, as well as the industry that they're selling for. This will largely prevent inter-industry job hopping.
PREDICTION #8: The Road Warrior Will Be an Endangered Species
By the year 2020, business travel will be much more expensive and difficult, and a larger number of B2B customers will be accustomed to buying and selling from people sight-unseen. As a result, inside sales teams will become much larger relative to outside sales teams. While there will still be some traditional road warriors out there slogging around (especially where the sales cycle demands an in person demo), the percentage of sales professionals who earn their living that way will be far smaller than today.
PREDICTION #7: Sales Technology Will Dominate Selling.
By the year 2020, the massive shift to inside sales will make selling more centralized. Sales reps in B2B firms will use social networking, email, and web conferencing much more than face-to-face meetings. Much of that activity will be recorded and monitored. As a result, the job of selling will no longer have the same cache of independence that it once enjoyed.
PREDICTION #6: "Dress for Success" Will Be Irrelevant
By the year 2020, sales "dress codes" will be more casual. Because most B2B selling will take place through inside sales teams, there will be less pressure to dress up. Even field sales reps will dress more casually because business buyers will start skewing younger as the baby-boomers retire. While there will still be a place for formal business attire, it will become far less common than today, and disappear completely in some industries and regions.
PREDICTION #5: All B2B Marketing Will Be Measured.
By the year 2020, firms that sell B2B will set up systems so that all B2B leads will be can be measured from the point they enter the pipeline, all the way through to their conversion to customers, and on into the long-term relationship phase. B2B marketing will be goaled not on deliverables, but on how many leads convert to customers and how profitable those customers are over the long term. And in the sales department, there will be much rejoicing.
PREDICTION #4: All B2B Advertising Will Be Quantified.
By the year 2020, firms that continue to advertise in hard-copy publications and broadcast television will only do so when they can include codes, offers and phone numbers that allow for the same kind of tracking and measurement that's available on the Internet. That information will feed into the same systems that track the Internet-generated leads and will be cost-compared. As a result, ad revenues will plummet because it will no longer be possible to pretend that they're creating sales opportunities when they're not.
PREDICTION #3: Traditional B2B Advertising Will Wither
By the year 2020, almost all B2B sales leads will be generated through the Internet and direct mail rather than through publications and broadcasting. B2B firms will rightly conclude that the kind of generalized advertising that works for consumer products is too unfocused and too "broadcast" (rather than "narrowcast") to reach the very specific audiences that they need to reach in order to generate sales leads.
PREDICTION #2: Trade Magazines Will Disappear
By the year 2020, hard-copy publications, like trade magazines, that cater to B2B sales will become largely obsolete as companies find more effective ways to generate leads. While many trade publications will attempt to transition to the web, the skill set of most editors and writers won't translate well. As a result, the function of disseminating industry-specific messages (and advertisements riding on them) will move to alternative websites that don't carry the hard-copy baggage.
PREDICTION #1: B2B Marketing Groups Will be Downsized
By the year 2020, B2B firms will massively de-invest in traditional marketing, brand marketing, advertising and public relations. Marketers with the requisite skill sets will be offered sales positions or positions in quantitative marketing (which will be a growth area). Marketing personnel who lack such skills will find themselves unqualified to do much of anything and will find it nearly impossible to find a job.