Gartner is predicting that 80% of sales will happen in digital channels by 2025. Covid-19 has forced a sudden shift on changes that were already happening, with B2B buyers and sellers increasingly reliant on digital channels before March 2020.
According to Gartner’s Future of Sales report, “research shows that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.”
Even before the pandemic, 33% of buyers preferred a “seller-free sales experience”, which increases to 44% amongst millennials, those born between 1980 and 1996. Younger generations, who may not be buyers and decision makers yet (but will be, in 5 to 10 years), will have an even stronger preference for making B2B purchases that don’t involve interactions with salespeople, except through digital channels, such as instant video demos and virtual presentations.
As older generations retire, these preferences are likely to become mainstream. We might find, in sales, that cold calling isn’t as popular in the years ahead if buyers are less responsive to that approach. Does this mean B2B selling needs to go completely digital, similar to eCommerce?
No, but it does mean the B2B sales process and therefore the profession and tools sales teams use, need to adapt to this evolving reality.
What could work like beyond Covid-19?
A once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has changed the world of work, for at least as long as this lasts. With vaccine rollouts taking place in many countries and regions, there is a light at the end of a long tunnel. But we aren’t out of this yet.
In many countries, particularly across Europe, the UK and US, many are still working from home. Inbound, outbound and field sales teams are housebound.
Spare rooms and kitchen tables, bedrooms, even bathrooms and hallways, have been turned into makeshift offices. Is this likely to continue once enough people are vaccinated and the virus is under control?
Potentially, yes, to a certain extent. Many are predicting a hybrid working situation in the future. Not for every company, of course. Some are closing or downsizing offices entirely, ensuring that everyone will work from home (WFH) from now on. Whereas others don’t need offices as large as they had before this, much to the disappointment of the commercial real estate sector.
After the pandemic, many companies will be maintaining a smaller, more flexible office presence, but encouraging staff to go between home and offices, depending on workloads, meetings and schedules.
What does this mean for sales teams?
Every company will respond differently. However, there are a few assumptions that are safe to make at this point in the pandemic, about the sales after this:
- Most companies will be more open to, if not completely behind the idea of working from home from now on, or a hybrid of the two. Office space will reduce. But when it comes to inbound and outbound teams, sales leaders need to ensure everyone on the team has a space they can make calls without interruptions and background noise, which might mean more come back in the office on an almost full-time basis after this.
- Field sales teams are likely to meet fewer sales prospects and customers. More customers and prospects will want to continue video and virtual sales meetings/calls, which means there won’t be as much travelling for face-to-face meetings.
- Digital marketing and sales enablement material is even more important in the sales process. As are the tools sales teams use at the decision making end of the funnel, such as instant demo solutions like CrankWheel.
- In-person events, such as expos and trade shows are likely to see a resurgence, although there are going to be more online events than before this. Which means sales teams need to pick where and how they spend their efforts and budget, and follow-up more closely with every sales lead to ensure revenue opportunities are maxamzied.
How can sales teams adapt?
Strengthen digital selling channels and tools: Without an effective and robust digital sales funnel, you are going to miss out on too many opportunities. Ensure leads that come into the funnel are being looked after, ideally with the option to have an instant demo, presentation or sales call with one of the team. Speed is everything, especially when it comes to inbound leads.
Overhaul and improve sales enablement: A Gartner 2019 survey found that “B2B sales organizations indicated that sales enablement was the most critical priority”, and urgency to improve this function only increased in 2020. If your sales enablement material isn’t helping convert leads, then it needs an overhaul. Either work with marketing or an external agency or freelancer to improve everything you’ve got, and produce new materials that will achieve better results.
Improve the seller experience: Coaching and listening to sales calls and demos needs to be a key ongoing part of the sales process. You need to know salespeople are making the same sorts of efforts to hit targets when working from home. Make sure you help them improve every aspect of the sales experience for buyers, to increase conversion rates and hit targets more often.
Sales has changed, and could be forever changed by this pandemic. Being successful means adapting to these changes and building on every opportunity, to increase profits and keep hitting targets.