COVID-19 changed everything we thought we knew about building connections between companies and customers. Face-to-face consultations went out of the window. Live product demonstrations are gone, and we haven’t seen a physical event for months.
The shift caused by COVID is so significant that it’s prompted a new historical divide. We’ve begun judging time as life Before COVID (BC) to After Domestication (AD).
So, how do companies thrive like this? Where do we go next?
As leaders in sales engagement and sales management, Revenue Grid’s team has been working hard to understand this new landscape that we’re stepping into.
We analyzed the data from over 502 B2B sales teams and hosted interviews with dozens of market leaders. Now, we’re bringing you the most crucial things we learned about sales management in our new sales era.
Let’s get started.
The Number 1 Focus Areas for Sales Management
When COVID first hit, many companies’ main focus was simply survival — shifting employees to remote working strategies and ensuring that clients were still buying.
However, in the last couple of months, we’ve begun to move out of the survival stage and into a new period of evolution. In this stage, companies need to think carefully about how they’re preparing for the years ahead.
Many organizations are still training their reps using old and outdated sales strategies that were already irrelevant decades ago.
Today’s sales teams need to make the rapid switch to digital, and there’s no time to lose. The modern buyer has changed so much that older strategies — like in-person demonstrations and cold emails — just won’t work anymore.
And it’s not just COVID that caused this switch either. COVID simply accelerated changes that were already in the pipeline.
Millennials will make up around 45% of the global workforce by 2025, and these people have an exceedingly digital focus.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at how sales leaders need to shift their thinking and approach to achieve these goals and keep their companies successful in our new era.
It’s Time to Take a New Approach to Sales
In the last few months, sales teams have been working almost completely from home. Traditional offices and events are a thing of the past, and online sales activities are more popular than ever.
This means successful sales leaders need to change the way they manage their teams.
For instance, remote workers need more digital tools to handle their sales strategy than in-office employees.
While your in-office team members might have spent a lot of time in meeting and board rooms, your remote staff are communicating through instant chat, video, and audio conferencing. Managers need to figure out how to deliver the same meaningful conversations in a new environment.
And the changes aren’t just limited to team management. Today’s market leaders have discovered how important it is to plan every step of the customer’s journey towards a purchase.
Consumers are spending more than 5.8% more of their time browsing SaaS sites. So you need to think carefully about how you align your sales teams with your customers’ new digital journey.
This could mean training employees to use new software for virtual demonstrations or provide more social media support. It might also mean investing in new tools.
Unlock New Avenues for Sales
Investing in a new, more digital strategy after COVID isn’t just about providing employees with the right training, though. It’s about supporting your clients more effectively on the channels that they’re already using.
As the economy reopens its doors and companies gradually make their way back to the office, digital demand won’t go away. Many customers will still feel uncomfortable visiting in person. At the same time, a lot of your clients will have discovered the simplicity and speed of digital sales platforms.
Just because most of your sales used to happen after in-person demonstrations doesn’t mean this is the right route now.
Think about the changes that will benefit your customers most in this new landscape. Then look at your sales pipeline and highlight the areas where you can improve and grow digitally to meet those needs.
Can you start conversations with customers through social media channels like LinkedIn, rather than reaching out for in-person meetings?
Or perhaps you can handle a lot of the onboarding and customer success process online.
Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams allow your team to share documentation, videos, and guidance with customers, without meeting face to face. And these tools don’t require your clients or prospects to have purchased them.
Some clients will ask for a return to the more traditional experiences they had in the past. But most will be looking for something new, and it’s up to you to supply that.
Learn About New Buyer Preferences
One of the major shifts that will affect sales teams is the growing demand for empathy. Today’s consumers want to know the companies they’re buying from care about their needs.
McKinsey predicts that spending is going to fall by around 50% during the “AD” period (the time after COVID). That means that you’re going to need to build genuine relationships with your customers if you want any chance of preserving your sales numbers.
Our studies found that renewals were responsible for about 78% of the opportunities that sales teams unlocked during the pandemic. This means that it’s your repeat customers that are going to drive the most value for you going forward. This is your chance to build on the trust that you have already generated with your clients, and make your customers feel special.
The panic of COVID, mixed with the stress of things like social distancing, means that today’s buyers are valuing human connections more than ever.
Your clients want to feel a real link to the brands that they buy from. That’s why we’re seeing countless companies looking for ways to showcase their empathy through discounts, free accounts, and other incredible gifts.
Think about how you can show your customers that you understand their needs. For some companies, this could mean offering payment plans and paused payments for clients struggling to come through with their bills.
For other brands, it may just mean changing their sales messaging.
Our research showed that sales teams who sent messages focusing on ways their software could help companies avoid disaster were more successful than those only talking about the product’s benefits.
In other words, you need to show your clients how you can help them reach their goals.
Unlock New Technology
New processes and modes of thinking are going to be crucial in the era after COVID. However, businesses will also need to think about how they can unlock opportunities in other ways — such as finding the right software and technology for a certain job.
Bringing technology into the sales pipeline isn’t anything new. Companies have been reliant on customer relationship management tools and sales engagement tools for years.
However, now, technology is more essential than ever.
In an age of remote working, business leaders are needing more project management and time management tools to track how and when their employees are reaching out to leads.
Guided selling tools are becoming more popular to help show teams how customers respond to different things in various stages of the buyer journey.
And there are plenty of tools that can empower team members and help them stay engaged, whether they’re working remotely or not.
As the number of tools that companies rely on continues to grow, we’ll likely see an increasing demand for things that can combine the multiple facets of the sales landscape into one environment.
Companies will need access to a single point of truth for all of their data, and a complete environment where they can connect with customers and unlock new opportunities.
For instance, Customer Revenue Optimization tools can save sales teams crucial time and effort by combining things like CRM data and email inboxes into one pane of glass.
Avoid the Pitfalls of Life After COVID
The key to success in this new landscape isn’t just keeping your finger on the pulse of changing trends in the sales landscape. Today’s businesses also need to be aware of the potential pitfalls that they may need to overcome.
Let’s look at the major pitfalls we found in our research.
Falling back into old habits:
When your employees start to return to the office, they might be tempted to fall into their old routine. However, things have changed drastically over the last few months, and your old playbook might not work anymore.
Make sure you continue to use the techniques and lessons that you’ve learned during COVID.
Trying to rush in:
Today’s sales teams need to be agile if they want to stay ahead of the curve and on top of the latest trends. However, that doesn’t mean rushing into things blindly.
Companies that try to push their remote workers back into the office too quickly are going to see severe backlash. Additionally, teams that jump into new strategies without assessing the landscape will waste time and money.
Not listening to employees:
Listening to your customers and their needs is essential. However, it’s important not to lose track of your employees’ needs too.
Make sure you’re paying attention to whatever your team members tell you. They might be able to provide insights on the tools and support they need to do their jobs better.
This transformational time is an excellent opportunity to gather crucial feedback.
Refusing to invest:
Times are tough right now for a lot of businesses. However, countless pieces of evidence from previous recessions show that the companies that invest in growth rather than cutting back on expenses are the ones that survive in a difficult economy.
Make sure that you’re continuing to spend your resources in the right places if you want to evolve and grow.
Not having the right data:
Finally, remember that data will be absolutely pivotal to your company in the months and years ahead.
Ensure you have the right systems in place to learn from every stage in the customer journey and build better personas. Without the right information, you’ll just be guessing at what your customers’ needs.
Get Ready for a Period of Constant Transformation
As offices reopen and companies return to more traditional environments, many business leaders are struggling with the misconception that the disruptive period is over. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The transformation of the sales landscape has only just begun. We’ve gone through an event that is going to fundamentally change every aspect of how we sell. Customers have become accustomed to new experiences, and your employees have found a new style of working.
If, like many companies, you’ve discovered some of the benefits of switching to a more digital environment, you probably won’t want to switch back either. After all, having digital processes in place can reduce your costs by eliminating office overheads. It also means that you can provide better customer service by ensuring someone is always available to answer customer questions.
Going forward, there are going to be endless new opportunities for businesses to transform and shift. You might find that you start to offer webinars and consulting experiences alongside your typical services.
The companies that survive this shift from BC to AD will be the ones that not only learn from the experiences they had in the last few months but continue to learn too.
Take advantage of the data you gather as you progress into this new stage of the “AD” landscape. Challenge the assumptions you used to have about selling and work on building a brand that can excel in a digital landscape.
The path to transformation has only just begun, and we have a long way left to go.
Are you ready for life after COVID?