With the business world still experiencing great disruption from COVID-19, we are taking an in-depth look at exactly how sales teams are being altered by this situation — and the best ways to adapt for success in the uncertain future. This article, written by Mereo’s 2020 summer intern and future revenue performance leader, dives into how COVID-19 has affected specifically inside sales teams, field sales teams and sales enablement teams. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a huge challenge to the world, but it has also presented an opportunity to rework the traditional sales structure into a more efficient, virtual one.
Inside Sales Teams
With most companies shifting to remote work environments for the time being, inside sales teams have had to adapt their normal office lives to working in disparate locations, oftentimes from home. While this may not seem like an enormous change, there are nuances that challenge their productivity and empowerment. The technology platforms for your inside sales team must be set-up in a way that enables them to feel connected and also gives them access to available, relevant resources. Many sales enablement teams have had to rework their platforms in order to ensure inside sales professionals have important prospect and buyer tools available.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, US B2B Decision-Maker Response to COVID-19 Crisis, there has been a decline in inside sales usage from 50% to 39%. A common misconception among inside sales reps right now is that people are not buying since most companies are facing financial difficulties. Although many buyers are not ready to make a deal, this does not mean your team should stop engaging. The best thing to do is to continue connecting with prospects and learning about how their business is being affected in order to share how your product can help them rebuild. The more people you engage with valuably, the bigger your pipeline is going to be — and the more you will sell on the other side of this pandemic. Seek to serve first and foremost. Sales will follow.
Field Sales Teams
By working remotely, field sales teams are being forced to completely adapt their areas of expertise to a virtual environment. According to a survey conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners, travel accounted for 23% of B2B sales’ time, which means that this time is now freed up due to COVID-19. Allocating this free time to embrace the new virtual environment is vital to success for any field rep. A survey conducted by Gartner stated that in March, 5% of sales leaders were considering a permanent shift of traditional field sales into virtual sales roles. By mid-April, that number had increased up to 27%. This trajectory shows a more virtual sales world is on the rise, which is encouraging companies to explore the technology available for sales teams to shift to a different status quo for the future.
Virtual sales require new capabilities and tools. Making the transition to B2B remote sales can be challenging but also potentially rewarding in new ways. A benefit of having a virtual field sales team is that metrics are easily measurable, allowing for teams to see where they need to improve and what specific materials are necessary for success. COVID-19 has resulted in an inability to meet customers in-person, disrupting the sales process. Customers crave a “human touch” throughout points in every sales cycle and it is important to maintain this aspect as best as possible through a virtual environment too.
Sales Enablement Adaptation
A great sales team is uplifted by a solid sales enablement and marketing team structure and alignment. The virtual shift that most companies have undergone throughout this time has shown how adaptable an organization is, which in this case, is vital to success. According to the State of Sales Enablement 2020 by Sales Enablement Pro, 56% of their respondents are actively using technology such as enablement platforms for their teams. This has resulted in win-rates that are 7 percentage points higher than those of companies not using technology.
In order to successfully survive the pandemic, some company leaders have created a virtual dashboard where sales team metrics, such as call volume, live connects or even feedback on team meetings, are trackable and measurable. Metrics such as data creation time and sales cycle length can be compared to pre-pandemic metrics in order to see which lagging areas can be addressed and how working remotely is affecting salespeople’s performance. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that these metrics have improved as salespeople feel less pressure, which is leading to improved performance.
At the end of the day, the key to successfully adapting to this online world is nothing new: clear and open commutation between teams and across departments. For instance, sales enablement teams need to communicate with the marketing department in order to determine what material is useful and what is a waste of time. These virtual dashboards have resources available for sales teams such as playsheets, client value stories or other information that can help you engage with prospects. This enables salespeople to save time by having everything in one place, easily accessible. Mobile adaptation of these dashboards is also important as working remotely can feel overwhelming. By enabling the material to be viewed on different devices online, you can free your salespeople to operate fluidly and efficiently.
Opportunities Moving Forward
It is hard to know how the COVID-19 disruptions will play out in the future, but one thing we can be sure of is customers will continue buying. As of now, the best thing organizations can do is evaluate performance of salespeople and plan for future improvements and adaptability.
Even though sales numbers have dropped throughout the pandemic, it is crucial for salespeople to continue talking to prospects and building out their pipeline. Although people may not be buying now, talking to people and learning about issues they are facing and then delivering value of the product for post-pandemic when buyers have more opportunities to purchase is an effective way to build out a pipeline for the future.
For all these elements to come together, management must be extremely open to feedback. Team meetings or training sessions during this time will be different, and by learning what can be improved and how well information is being retained through virtual training is an important step in making your sales team as effective as it can be.