Covid has greatly affected all of us including sales professionals. Based on my reading about few leading Sales Research papers (viz. Miller Heiman Group- CSO Insight), discussions with customers and their sales team, observation of changed approach to my and my team’s selling style and some more, I have tried to capture few things.
Please take it with a pinch of salt. Not necessarily everything will be applicable to all or I may be wrong altogether at few places.
1. Virtual Selling Is Here to Stay
People realized “previously unrecognized” benefits of working from home (and home could be Town B/C or village also) or working from developing countries (for MNCs).
2. Importance of Existing Customers
A bird in hand is better than two in the bush. Most of the companies realized this during the Covid and hopefully this focus will continue for some more time.
3. Fact Based Sellers Are More In Demand
Pitch has changed. Sales reps who are “fact based” and who can demonstrate “Value/ROI (Return on Investment)” are doing much better than “me-too” Sales Reps.
(In cricket world, when batting on a “bowling pitch”, a batsman with a good technique scores much higher than other batsman).
4. Change in Buying Process
Cash is much more important during the Covid. Hence decision making has gone higher levels in customer organizations. Sales cycle has gone up (for all customers, particularly for new customers). Smart Sales Reps/leaders have realized it and have adjusted their forecasting accordingly.
Sales Organizations needs to acknowledge that customer’s buying process has changed. The faster the Sales Reps adapt to this, better will be the outcome. For Example – longer sales cycle, more/senior customer touchpoints getting involved, More expectations ( especially ROI ) etc.
5. Increased Manager's Activity
As per Miller Heiman Group’s latest research on Sales Talent –
- A remote selling environment has led to increased frequency of sales managers coaching/check-in, and many are more frequently monitoring their salespeople.
- When it comes to specific practices within virtual calls, sales managers don’t have the same confidence in their sales force.
- Organizations where sales managers are joining seller calls more are often seeing an increase in win rates. Especially joining calls during “Qualification Stage” creates the maximum impact, but most managers normally join later in the buying process.
6. Using Price Discounting Is High
Many Sales Organizations have been using price discounts, flexible payment terms, more value at same price. I am not sure how sustainable is this on a long run though.
7. The Seller Needs to Be Effective in Virtual Meetings
Video call is important. The background, right dressing leads to professional positioning. Sales reps should know how to facilitate these meetings and how to use virtual tools. A B2B Sales Rep can ignore “Virtual Meetings” to his/her own peril, it’s here to stay. However, almost half of the Sales Reps have started doing well on Virtual meetings.
8. Disciplined Approach in Conducting Meetings
Most B2B sellers have become quite disciplined in their approach to customer meetings/calls. Most meetings now start on time and end on time (unless if customer is running delayed). CRM usage has gone up. Its easy to speak to the client and capture the notes directly in the CRMs or use other tech/recording tools.
9. Basics of B2B Sales Have Not Changed
The Sales Reps who follow a structured approach to customer meetings (whether in Person or Virtual selling) viz. from formal introduction to setting up the context to articulating the clear agenda to asking right questions to let the client speak maximum to differentiating them from 1st call itself and to taking the client’s commitment at the end of the call, are still successful, effective and establish seller’s credibility in customer’s eyes.
Just that Good Sales Reps have become more productive due to cut down on travel time. Whereas average Sales Reps are struggling to meet their targets and customers’ expectations.
There are some drawbacks when interacting in virtual channels. For one, sellers compete for customer’s attention (because of distractions such as multitasking or technology issues). Therefore, time is constrained, and sellers need to deliver value more quickly during the interactions.
Overall Covid has brought exposure to Sales Rep’s career and has forced him/her to improve his/her Virtual Selling Skills. I believe good/curious sales reps will thrive and average/reluctant to learn sales Reps will struggle to survive.