When the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic first began triggering lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, the one certainty was that there was a great deal of uncertainty ahead.
Twelve months later, the long-term consequences are coming into focus. Even when the pandemic ends, COVID-era phenomena – remote work, telehealth and the growing importance of digital commerce – will remain with us.
What will this larger digital shift mean for the future of sales? Here are three key takeaways.
1. Field sales are back – in a new way.
As web conferencing platforms like Zoom have moved to the fore, many sales professionals have moved from phone calls to video demos and discussions with prospects and customers – a shift that has actually made their customer engagements warmer and more personalized, not less.
Put another way, field sales have mounted a comeback, but with a distinctly 21st century spin.
The increasing use of video calls opens up a range of valuable opportunities that can help sales professionals better understand prospect and customer sentiment, fine-tune their pitches, and boost conversions. Is the prospect’s camera on or off? Are they making eye contact or do they seem distracted? Are they asking the kinds of questions that suggest they’re serious and engaged? These aspects of a prospect’s virtual “body language” can go a long way toward helping sales associates gauge whether their pitches are landing or need some work.
Moreover, remote sales services like Gong can generate vital insights into factors like which topics and messages tend to drive conversions, the call duration associates should aim for, whether a topic is irrelevant to a given prospect, and whether the associate is likely to gain or lose a prospect’s business.
2. Virtual is the new normal.
While many professionals are no longer working primarily in office environments, the vast majority of their sales interactions were virtual even before the pandemic, with some 92% of conversations with customers and prospects taking place over the phone and traditional interactions outperforming digital interactions by a slight 52% to 48%, according to a McKinsey survey.
A Since COVID-19 arrived, digital interactions – on mobile apps, social media, and online platforms, for example – have become the norm, moving into a clear 66% to 34% lead, with many sales professionals particularly appreciating the face-to-face element that was long a hallmark of field sales and is now being replicated on platforms like Zoom.
3. New opportunities are emerging.
Navigating the past year has been uniquely challenging on multiple levels. But what’s true in our personal lives extends to the professional realm: Our ability to withstand and adapt to difficult circumstances makes us more creative, innovative, and resilient.