The future of sales and business development post-COVID

Author Pearce Doorley
August 11, 2020
Shot of a man and woman going through paperwork and using a laptop together in their coffee shop

COVID-19 has pushed many businesses into uncharted waters and is changing the way that buyers and sellers interact. And it will forever alter how sales teams interact with and serve customers the world over.

Whether it’s a health pandemic, natural disaster, or other uncontrollable economic act, sales organisations have unique challenges that arise during these large-scale disruptions to business. Organisations that make good decisions during these types of crises, will be able to position their organisation to thrive in the long term.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented extreme challenges, but it’s also creating an opportunity for organisations to transform and fundamentally reinvent the way their B2B salesforce operates.

Savvy sales leaders are learning how to adapt to the next normal, learning how to adjust their organisations sell in the face of new customer habits and trying economic times.

In many ways, the changes in customer behaviour are an acceleration of digital trends that were in motion before the pandemic hit. The traditional ways of selling appear to be giving way to innovative approaches, which will alter the way we communicate and do business.

How exactly is the COVID-19 crisis shaping the future of sales as we know it today?

Whilst COVID-19 is changing the Sales and BD landscape on a daily basis, there are currently some trends that were already in motion that are now being accelerated due to the crisis.

Transition of The Traditional Sales Role Is Inevitable

We have been going through a transition in B2B selling for over a decade, with the drive to change coming from customers’ acceptance of new technology, however, the pandemic crisis has sped up the change. Historically in-person (field) sales and inside sales were siloed from each other, however as organisations commit to remote working on a long-term basis we are likely to see the distinction between these two areas minimise further and perhaps disappear entirely. The traditional role of a salesperson will change. Post-COVID, many field sales roles will transition to office-based sales roles, the office-based roles will become more dependent on digital channels, more dependency on digital channels places pressure on Digital Marketing. With this new form sales approach, salespeople should be able to be effective both in-person and through digital channels, which inevitably will result in the role changing to a hybrid field/inside model.

B2B Sales Operations Are Going Digital

Even before COVID-19, B2B customers began adopting digital interfaces to conduct business, thus forcing those relationships forged by salespeople to move to the new digital environments. Whilst many businesses were sceptical about the move, worried that they could lose customers when deals conducted online becoming purely transactional, the COVID-19 forced many people into lockdown and work from home scenarios, forcing companies to adapt their go-to-market strategies and shift to digital and remote selling. In a recent survey of B2B businesses by McKinsey & Company, almost 90 percent of companies advised that their sales functions had moved to a videoconferencing/phone/web sales model, and more than half believe this is equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19.

Sales Professionals Need New and Different Skills to Sell in a Digital World

With this profound shift to digital, sales professionals need to be aware of what skills they need, and Sales leaders of what is needed of their teams, to succeed in this digital remote reality.

Sales professionals who want to master the digital sales environment need hard and soft skills like: Social media, Social selling, CRM, Sales automation, Research Skills, Communication techniques, Questioning techniques etc.

One critical area of focus is using data and insights to make better selling decisions. That could mean learning how to more effectively leverage the data in the business’s CRM for prioritising leads and personalising messaging.

B2B Buyer Priorities are Changing

COVID-19 has sparked a sharp and sudden drop in demand in virtually all industry sectors. The pandemic and subsequent government regulations to combat the virus, has forced organisations rapidly shift their focus to ensuring the health and safety of their employees and to operating their business remotely, thus cutting and/or stopping non-essential spending. Businesses must therefore take strategic steps to combat the economic consequences of the crisis, and ensure sales teams focus on the highest-value and highest-probability opportunities and activities. These include cross-selling, upselling and customer retention strategies. Sales leaders must modify priorities and adapt to an elongated sales cycle.

In these changing times, meaningful customer interactions and insights are critical to surviving and thriving today and, in the days ahead. What was true pre-COVID-19 may not be true now.

What’s clear from these trends is that the way we do business is changing, and the trends emerging from 2020 have shown to speed up what has widely acknowledged as the future of the sales industry.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Sales and BD roles or hiring Sales or BD professionals, please get in touch with one of our team.

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