Amid the disruption and adversity that defined 2020, clear bright spots emerged for sales organizations. New mindsets and ways of operating will carry over into our next normal — and ultimately change sales for the better.
Here are five positives that came from a tumultuous year:
1. Buyers took center stage.
In slowing the pace of new sales, the pandemic forced sellers to take the perspective of buyers — to really think about where they’re at and the challenges they face. This shift from selling mode to helping mode is something for which we’ve been advocating for some time. Today’s B2B buyers want a highly personalized, streamlined buying experience that they have more control over — specifically, they expect experiences that are open, connected, intuitive, and immediate. Sellers have taken these lessons to heart, and they will help them succeed in the year ahead.
2. Sellers learned to sell from anywhere.
As the onset of the pandemic forced sellers to their home computer screens, many scaled a massive learning curve — virtually overnight. By adapting to digital selling while facing a down economy, sales organizations did what may have been unthinkable just a year ago. These newly honed skills will serve sales teams well. More than half of workers who are now remote hope to continue working from home after the pandemic ends — meaning more of your buyers and customers will be remote. And as B2B companies enable sellers and buyers with digital tools, the boundaries separating “outside” and “inside” sellers will dissolve.
3. Sales is shifting from art to science.
Selling effectively in any environment requires a keen understanding of who buyers are and what motivates them. Data- and analytics-driven insights are key to this understanding. Our 2019 B2B Buying Study (client access only) revealed an average of 18 meaningful buyer-seller interactions during the buyer’s journey, divided evenly between human and nonhuman interactions. Sellers have an opportunity to use data from digital interactions to guide buyers more effectively and provide richer, more relevant information when they’re seeking it. With digital selling now the norm in many sales orgs, opportunities to harness buyer insights have increased. Better use of data will strengthen sales teams overall and lessen reliance on individual sales heroics.
4. At the same time, selling became more human.
Though selling is becoming more data-driven, people ultimately still buy from people. Sellers need to empathize with buyers’ personal and professional circumstances — both during the pandemic and beyond. Perhaps ironically, our largely virtual environment has injected greater humanity into selling. Buyers and sellers are now (virtually) opening their homes to one another, as my colleague Mary Shea points out. Sellers who use video effectively are having more authentic and more meaningful interactions with buyers than they have before. A more personal approach to selling will endure beyond the current period — buyers will demand it.
5. We learned to be more resilient.
This was probably 2020’s greatest lesson. Each of us was challenged in some way — coping with isolation, contending with health concerns, figuring out new day-care arrangements, or worrying about distant family members. Sales reps have had to calibrate their outreach with the understanding that prospects face stressors of their own. Sales leaders, under significant pressure in the best of times, have needed to keep their teams focused, supported, and motivated. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, these hard-won lessons in resilience and adaptability will equip sales organizations to thrive.
Case studies will be written about 2020 long after it has ended. It will be remembered as a year when we did the seemingly impossible — and when disruption proved to be a catalyst for long-awaited transformation. The pieces are in place for brighter days ahead.