The economic implications of Covid-19 have been devastating for many sectors and individuals. As we head into the summer of 2021 anticipating that most places in the U.S. will be fully open for business, many industries are looking at what the post-Covid recovery will mean for them. For sales professionals, the comeback might certainly bring a windfall but also presents challenges.
The post-recovery period shows a major change in the buying and selling landscape. Sales teams need to acquire new skillsets and approach their old CRM tools with a new attitude as they maneuver out of isolation and hit the road again. While the outlook is starting to become more positive, many customers may still be hesitant to purchase.
Nikolaus Kimla, founder and CEO of Pipeliner CRM, has a unique view on what lies ahead for sales pros heavily invested in CRM technology. The chaos that CRM faces in today’s approach to the post-pandemic marketing world hinges on how it is impacted by analytics.
It is all about the data, he offered. Just as medical information accumulated about Covid-19 is often rife with confusion, nobody trusts the old-style sales data anymore. With CRM getting the right data, sales professionals are able to make the correct predictions about future trends.
“Sales management is about how many leads I need for a salesperson, what is the lead conversion, and then how many opportunities I am closing in the sales pipe,” Kimla told CRM Buyer.
Predicting Sales Success
Kimla offered three “post-pandemic” predictions for the sales industry. They focus on digital transformation and automation, educating future sales pros, and the need for deeper and more accurate analytics to provide more impact and better decision making.
Prediction 1: Digital transformation and automation will be critical in the post-pandemic world to help sales pros to facilitate more creative customer interactions. Sales teams need to take a more personal and empathetic approach to selling to re-establish relationships after long periods of isolation, he explained. Automation will drive a data-driven approach to sales successes.
“This is only possible if organizations can recast their business models by digitizing repetitive processes that will free up sales teams to focus on more high-value activities that can improve customer relations,” he said.
Prediction 2: The education of future sales pros must include a combination of management and technical skills. Business schools have not kept pace with the sales industry. That left a dearth of sales talent, along with extremely negative attitudes within academic institutions about teaching and learning sales.
“As we enter into post-pandemic recovery, academic institutions need to develop a new method to teach sales. A first step is to partner with corporate entities in order to develop work-ready talent,” he recommended.
Prediction 3: The wrong analytics can lead to devastating results. In the post-pandemic world, sales teams require deep analytics with accurate data and actionable insights which can lead to more efficient and effective decisions.
“When data is incorrect, wrong decisions are made,” he warned. “Automated analytics tools are necessary to interpret data which allows sales teams to implement decisive sales strategies that will prove successful.”
Getting Into a New Groove
Sales engagement platform Groove in March released one of the first major studies on the current state of the sales industry post-Covid.
The survey of 765 sales professionals found that the impact of Covid-19 has had a permanent transformative effect on the sales industry, with over 50 percent of respondents reporting that their workloads have dramatically increased during the pandemic.
SasS platforms such as Salesforce have become a vital lifeline for sales teams, and new technologies such as sales engagement and enablement providers are making it possible for sales teams to increase productivity while remote. Eighty-one percent of survey respondents indicated they have either delivered or outperformed on their goals as a result.
Sales professionals around the world may be permanently grounded, and automation and technology platforms have changed the very nature of business sales, the report observed. This will have huge lasting effects and showcases the growth potential for CRM and sales technologies.
“One year into our nationwide shutdown, it has become apparent that widespread remote work is here to stay,” said Chris Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of Groove. “The B2B sales landscape has changed dramatically, with industries that have been slower to adopt technology embracing digital transformation as a result.”
Companies are leaning into the uncertain economic outlook. They are embracing the reduced costs and productivity gains that they have achieved over the past year with automation, he added.
Change in Buying Landscape
Buyer expectations have changed. While changes in buyer behavior and digital transformation were already accelerating before the pandemic, the extended lockdown brought about a decade of digital transformation in a matter of months, opined Joshua Feinberg, digital strategist and revenue growth consultant for small business CEOs and sales directors/CROs, and co-founder and CEO of SP Home Run.
“Tens of millions of people became more comfortable with virtual meetings and virtual social gatherings, researching and making purchase decisions 100 percent online — that would have been unimaginable before the pandemic,” he told CRM Buyer.
This most definitely accelerates the need for sales professionals to be seen more as consultants and advisors and less about repeating information that buyers can already self-discover on websites, review sites, and social media.
Most sales pros should reposition themselves to have a doctor/patient-style relationship where the sales professionals diagnose the prospects’ goals and challenges to determine whether their company’s products or services are a fit before prescribing the recommended solution, he suggested.
“That is a game-changing shift in context,” he said. “Sales pros are no longer the gatekeepers of information.”
Customers or potential clients already changed their preferences and mindset, added Tim Clarke, director of sales at SEOblog. That means thinking latterly.
“Before, you might meet prospective clients in a conference or perhaps, trade shows. It is now more convenient for them to know more about your product and service offerings through webinars on AirMeet or Zoom,” he told CRM Buyer.
New Sales Mindset
With many sales positions now working from home, sales pros must reinvest their time previously spent traveling to gain more knowledge or skills about their industry. Having an extra edge among your competitors can make a difference, according to Clarke.
Selling in the post-Covid world will be noticeably different. The first and most obvious change is that remote selling skills have become table stakes and are no longer nice-to-have, according to Joseph Fung, CEO of sales training firm Uvaro.
“Selling over Zoom is the new norm, as 55 percent of the 124K open sales jobs today are open to remote hires. This not only means that there is a larger pool of opportunity for candidates with the proper training, but that there is also more competition since such a large portion of companies are hiring remotely,” he told CRM Buyer.
Covid has also fueled a sea change in the sales training industry. Reps who honed their technical selling skills will close more deals and have more employment opportunities, he added.
Sales professionals discovered it is possible to close huge deals via video, noted Haggai Levi, CEO of AI-powered sales platform SetSail.
“For example, we grew our revenue 10x this year closing a few seven-figure deals without ever meeting our customers in person. While in the first few months of the pandemic, there was a halt in buying decisions due to uncertainty, since summer 2020 buyers have gradually become comfortable with making decisions over video,” he told CRM Buyer.
B2B sales professionals that can adapt to a hybrid approach will be in high demand, he added.