By Tom Castley, VP Sales EMEA at Outreach
The impact of the pandemic has radically transformed the way business works. It has forced B2B buyers and sellers to go digital in a massive way. What started as a crisis response has become the next normal, with significant implications for how buyers and sellers will do business from now on.
With the drastic shift to digital resulting from COVID-19, video and live chat has emerged as the predominant channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers. In contrast, in-person meetings and related sales activities have dropped. Today, salespeople are no longer expected to be on the road meeting clients most of the week and filing in all their admin at once on a Friday. The mass adoption of digital tools and services means that salespeople are able to spend their entire week selling, using Zoom to replace in-person meetings.
Sales is a great equalizer
Recently, the Wall Street Journal wrote a story about the shortage of salespeople and described sales as a “pressure cooker.” Changes in sales accelerated during the pandemic, and businesses are trying to entice more people into the job by demonstrating that they don’t have to operate in a pressure-cooker environment (or work the phones) the way sales workers once did.
Surprisingly, this industry has really transformed over the years. There is no better place to learn how businesses operate than the sales department. You spend your days talking with customers, relaying product feedback to internal teams and learning how to present to audiences of all sizes.
Being a salesperson is not (just) about cold calling
The modern salesperson is much more than someone pounding the phones. Today’s best salespeople are problem solving and working with clients directly to act as a true consultant, here to help their customers identify solutions for current and future challenges.
That said, the move to digital has created a new challenge, and forced salespeople to think more creatively. It is now trickier to engage with new customers and get to know them and their requirements face-to-face. The pandemic changed sales in several permanent ways, according to a new report from McKinsey. Sales that used to be sealed with a handshake quickly moved online and now 20% of clients surveyed by McKinsey say they hope to return to in-person sales.
As a result, top performing companies are investing in training, empowering and providing support for their representatives to enhance skills learned over time. This increasingly takes the form of sales engagement platforms, which are designed to streamline operations to ensure salespeople are focused on what they do best: listening to their customers and identify the products that can support their current and future needs. Companies are also implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI), which provide coaching staff — wherever they are based. AI can help assess the need of every member of staff so that managers can coach employees in a meaningful way.
To help business and budding sales professionals thrive
With this new setup, salespeople can afford to be curious, consultative, have a ‘growth mind-set and be great storytellers – while also being digitally savvy. Facing the disruptions caused by Covid-19 will continue to be a challenge, but it can provide unexpected opportunities to drive a better sales process with prospects and customers. With thoughtful modifications, planning, and imagination, the sales strategy, sales experience, and customer interactions that emerge from the pandemic can be stronger than ever.
Sales will play a crucial role in the country’s recovery in the coming months, and success in today’s sales environment involves having a transparent strategy and strong pitch to gain your client’s trust. All these touchpoints are now recorded in sales engagement platforms, which provide a host of solutions to increase the sales team’s productivity to achieve more without having to work longer hours.
By using these platforms, each sales team member can add updates to their conversations in real-time and access all digital channels easily. Sales leaders can also use them to give clear direction to more junior team members or people who are less tech-savvy and better analyse how the team is faring against the business’ objectives.
As we look at getting the British economy back on track, we need salespeople more than ever before to be the central figure in the future of their company.