Sales leaders, like the rest of the world, have had a challenging 2020. Changes came rapidly, and they came in many forms. Looking back at the year, we are summarizing some of the major trends that sales leaders from across industries realize will shape the future of sales.
1. Remote selling becoming the norm
Since most people are working from their homes, having face-to-face meetings with prospects is out of the picture for the foreseeable future. While inside sales reps are likely building stronger relationships with their customers, outside sales reps are struggling to cope with the transition to inside sales. To tackle this challenge, 70% of organizations are retraining their outside sales reps to fit the job.
A report by McKinsey also states that 74% of leaders believe the new digital models of selling are quite effective in reaching and servicing customers.
As decision-makers growingly warm up to the idea of spending larger amounts online, companies can capture more business by quickly adapting to remote selling.
2. Video conferencing becoming prevalent
Video conferences are the closest thing to in-person meetings and are increasingly becoming the default mode of B2B sales communication in 2020. Consequently, revenues from interactions over video have risen by 69% since April, as customers prefer video to the phone.
89% of businesses believe these new models of selling will persist, making it a good idea to invest in video calling technology to continue communicating with your customers effectively.
3. Sales tech being considered essential
As per LinkedIn’s Global State of Sales Report 2020, many organizations realize the importance of technology to boost their sales team’s efficiency, with 90% of sales professionals deeming it very important.
According to Salesforce, the following are the top 5 sales tools based on their popularity:
- Video conferencing
- AI (with a 76% increase in its adoption rate since 2018)
- Mobile sales apps for employees
- CRM systems
- Sales prospecting tools
Conversational Intelligence, an increasingly popular subset of AI, helps sales reps have more productive conversations by providing them with deeper insights into customer data, behavior, and sentiments.
4. Data and insights driving sales
Consumer behaviors and customer journeys are in flux. Thus, banking on data to gain insights into customer needs and pain points as well as to evaluate sales efficiency has become an absolute must today. Companies can create richer sources of data for their reps by integrating their sales and marketing functions. Experts believe, doing so give businesses an edge over their competitors.
According to LinkedIn’s report, nearly 5 out of 10 sales managers used data to assess sales performance and analyze patterns in deals lost.
Over half of them also used data to search for new customers and relevant industries to target.
5. Skill enhancement becoming imperative
A shift from traditional sales models to more digital-centric ones require sales forces across industries to acquire the right skills to keep up with the changes. Salesforce says, in 2020, 62% of sales leaders used coaching and training tools. Also, 64% chose to re-skill existing employees.
According to LinkedIn’s report, top-performing reps were more likely than their peers to use sales tech and felt sales intelligence played an important role in increasing their close rates. The same report mentions that the time spent on social selling and inside sales courses more than doubled at the start of 2020.
6. Soft skills coming in focus
LinkedIn lists the following as the most in-demand soft skills in 2020:
- Emotional intelligence
In 2020, close to 100,000 companies permanently shut down. Many others are still struggling to keep their businesses afloat. In a situation like this, to gain customers’ trust, it becomes more important than ever for salespeople to be empathetic and provide creative, more personalized solutions. The fact that 43% of customers say trustworthiness is the most important virtue they look for in salespeople shows just how important soft skills are in sales today.
7. An increasing need for agility
According to LinkedIn’s report, 76% of sales leaders believe that their ability to navigate change has become more important than ever. The more agile businesses are, the better they can deal with uncertainties and shifts in economic trends.
As sales teams prioritize customer needs and choose increased flexibility towards customers as their top priority, 60% of sales leaders exude confidence in their company’s growth strategy for the year ahead.
Facing the future head-on
Change is here to stay. The understanding and acceptance of this reality is the first step you must take to successfully steer your business out of uncertainties and help your customers tackle the challenges they face. With collaborative effort and the right use of technology, businesses will gradually create a place for themselves in the new normal.