When COVID-19 first hit the United States in March, many sales organizations thought the adjustments they had to make would be temporary. But as the crisis continues, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of the changes brought on by the pandemic will be permanent.
Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester, addressed this in a recent Sales Hacker webinar.
“Many, if not most of these trends were already in play before COVID hit… I thought these trends were going to play out over the next 24 to 36 months, but now I think they’ll play out over the six to 12 to 18 months.”
Here are five significant sales trends that are here to stay and are only being accelerated in their adoption due to the current environment.
Listening to Your Customers Has Never Been More Important
Sales has always been about paying attention to your customers’ needs, but the current situation has made listening paramount. In LinkedIn’s recent State of Sales report, they revealed that the top trait buyers wanted from salespeople was active listening.
However, sales managers often don’t prioritize this trait when hiring salespeople.
While it’s the most desired trait that buyers want, it didn’t even crack the top five characteristics sales managers require from their sales teams.
Mary Shea said active listening is even more important in the current climate because the opportunities for listening to buyers face-to-face have disappeared.
“We’re not walking the halls of our corporate clients anymore,” Shea said on the webinar. “… You’ve got to roam the digital halls on social, right?”
One way we can demonstrate that we’re listening to buyers and are trying to fulfill their needs is to speak their language.
Every company has its own corporate word culture. When we talk with the buyer, we should frame the solution in the customer’s corporate language, not ours. When we talk about our solution, we should use the word that our buyer uses internally to discuss their priorities and strategy.
So, do your research. Learn your buyer’s language, and make sure they’re feeling heard when you talk with them.
The Difference Between Inside and Outside Sales is Disappearing
The distinction between inside and outside sales is becoming less obvious. “You’re already seeing folks remotely closing seven-figure deals,” according to Shea.
Sales Hacker’s Scott Barker put it this way,
“Field sales teams have always hung their hat on, ‘No, no, no — you can’t sell this digitally. For six-figure deals, we need to go shake hands.… It’s being put to the test. Can it all be done digitally?”
Some of our customers at LinkedIn have been closing huge deals without ever meeting buyers in person.
And while there are some sectors where the complexity of the solution will require on-site visits, as long as businesses have needs to solve and sellers have solutions to those issues, big deals will continue to happen — whether it’s in-person or in a virtual environment.
The ROI Component of the Deal Is Essential
Right now, we’re seeing budgets cut at about 50% of companies. That means a large number of your potential customers are struggling with budget.
So, when your buyers are in this position, trying to sell them on your product or service’s vision and dream isn’t enough.
Our litmus test is, would this pass muster with the CFO?
In today’s world, that isn’t just a hypothetical. In the webinar, Scott Barker said that sales professionals are seeing more CFOs from the buyer side joining sales calls. He said…
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. If you’re doing the right things, that’s awesome, because no one can move a deal faster than a CFO. But if you’re doing the wrong things… that (deal) is going to get blown up very, very quickly.”
Sales Professionals Must Act as Advisors
These days, it’s not about winning the deal every time. Of course, we want to win more than we lose, but these interactions are also about earning respect, trust, and ultimately referrals by offering useful advice and acting as a trusted advisor.
It’s not hard to imagine that in the near future, we may have reviews of individual sellers posted by buyers online, similar to reviews of business software offered by platforms such as G2 Crowd.
In the webinar, Barker had this to say…
“[Reviews of salespeople] would reinforce all the good behavior, right? It would hold people really accountable. It also empowers the buyer and the seller. If you’re doing the right things, and you have done your homework, and you’re an industry expert, and people are raving about you, then when you ask for that meeting, people will take one look and say, ‘Yeah, of course, I’m going to learn something.’”
The Buying Committee Grows Increasingly Powerful
It’s no secret that buying committees are growing larger. There are more decision makers and influencers in every deal than ever before, and the trend isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.
But this has caused another change that few people saw coming. As buying committees grow, we’re also seeing turnover increase as well — beyond the typical 20% of annual decision maker turnover.
In the current climate, sales professionals need to be more effective at multithreading and building relationships with as many members of the buying committee as possible.
As Shea put it in the webinar, “I will say the days of the single-thread buyer and the lone wolf seller are well behind us now.”
Prepare for The World of Tomorrow
In such turbulent times, no one knows what tomorrow will bring, but one thing is clear. The salespeople and businesses who keep track of the trends and adjust to their buyer’s needs will come out ahead.
So keep an eye on the winds of business, and keep your business sailing through the storm.
To hear more of the discussion that took place between Mary Shea, Scott Barker, and me about the future of sales, download the webinar today.