As pandemic fears and lockdown inconveniences wane, there is pent-up demand and an expectation of revenue growth. According to a Chief Executive Group survey, 73% of CEOs across the United States anticipate a rise in revenues, and 65% of them also say profits will increase.
So, if you believe that your sales model needs rethinking and your technology requires retooling, now is the time to act. Because when it comes to anticipating sales trends for the next decade, the digital B2B transformation has already happened. And COVID-19 was its proving ground. According to HubSpot, 64% of B2B companies that relied heavily on digital tools to support remote, virtual sales met or exceeded their revenue expectations in 2020.
Here are five significant sales trends you can expect to continue throughout the current decade.
1. Customers and Vendors Are More In Sync
When technologies, platforms and sales models are in flux, there is often a disparity between buyer and seller. Sometimes customer expectations are ahead of vendor adoption and vice versa. Today, vendors and customers are basically on the same page. The buyer preference is for remote, virtual sales experiences, and vendors are investing in the technology to deliver. McKinsey reports that three-quarters of both buyers and sellers prefer the digital transaction – either self-serve or remote human interaction (high-tech/virtual high-touch).
While Millennials were once on the leading edge of the digital trend, their preferences are now embraced in the mainstream. Today, most customers expect multiple options for buying. Your competition will be doing their best to understand customers’ needs, anticipate their buying journey, and have more options to meet their requirements.
2. Inside Sales Come of Age
The inside sales reps are no longer seen as the poor relative of field sales. They have come into their own. While inside salespeople can boost lead quality and conversion, they also have the tools and training to close deals.
And no longer are they restricted to the small, simple transactions. Today, 27% of buyers are receptive to spending between $500,000 and $1 million-plus online using either a self-serve site or engaging a sales rep remotely, especially with reputable brands.
Although reliance on the traditional face-to-face sales meeting has dwindled, outside sales are not dead (at least not in the near future). Expect much of your competition to embrace a hybrid model. Ten years ago, Salesforce predicted that traditional sales reps would spend 80% to 90% of their time engaging in inside sales tactics—such as email and phone contact. That day has arrived!
3. Customer Experience Rules
Successful B2B companies understand the importance of customer experience. A CMO study in 2020 confirms that the majority of buyers (84%) rate the quality of their customer experience as more important than a vendor’s brand.
Companies that best measure up to customer expectations understand the buyer’s journey and anticipate their needs throughout the discovery, investigation, and decision-making process. The top businesses know that buyers want solutions that boost their ROI. Thus, they strive to give them the tools to make the necessary determinations and reach a good purchase decision.
Your competition also is likely to deliver options to help customers get information and transact business the way they choose. For example, they might provide easy-to-use digital interfaces and virtual access to human sales reps, such as through a videoconference or live chat.
Remember, the key to your ROI is a happy buyer who makes repeat purchases and is receptive to upselling. That starts with a good buying experience that continues through the service and support phases.
4. Digital Dominates Throughout the Buyer’s Journey
Whether self-serve or remote sales, digital dominates the sales process. That means that customer-facing tools need to be in place to facilitate purchase decisions. B2C companies were early adopters and have set customer expectations high. Your competition is now pulling out all the stops with video, online demos, comparison engines, quote calculators, and live chat.
But even with great tools, some questions require the assistance of an expert. Your sales reps are the industry and product experts. Give them the tools to engage with buyers in ways that are as good or better than face-to-face interactions. Instead of phone calls or canned webinars, for example, enable them to conduct live videoconferencing and real-time demos.
Furthermore, your technology needs to get smarter and your sales team requires access to greater insight. AI-powered, customer-facing technology provides personalized responses quickly, automates customer support, and even knows when to alert a sales rep. Similarly, analytics are no longer a competitive advantage; metrics are part of the standard toolkit of a highly productive sales rep—whether conducting inside sales or field sales.
5. Outsourcing for Rapid Adoption of New Sales Functions
Outsourcing has been trending for three decades, and as companies ramp up post-pandemic, there’s little evidence that outsourcing is losing its appeal. Outsourcing some of your immediate needs for sales resources may make sense as you rethink and retool your post-COVID-19 sales process. Perhaps you thought traditional models would return after lockdown. However, much that was set in motion in 2020 seems likely to remain and become the new norm. McKinsey reports that almost 90% of decision-makers expect new sales practices to remain in place.
Companies that need help building their ideal remote, virtual sales force with digital expertise can consider outsourcing to professional sales agents. Doing so will give you time to put a suitable model in place for your business and allow you to scale your new sales force quickly.
To maximize your success when outsourcing, look for a professional organization that guarantees dedicated agents that:
- Function as an extension of you and can represent your company effectively
- Are trained in the sales tools you use
Understand your company and products well enough to engage customers without working from a script
Remote, virtual selling is here to stay and becoming more sophisticated every day. To succeed in 2021 and beyond, you need to anticipate your customers’ needs and their expectations. Give them a digital interface that delivers convenience without diminishing access to live sales help when they want it. And when it comes to high-tech, high-touch, make it a virtual experience that buyers look forward to repeating.