The last 12 months have been unprecedented on a global level. Some industries were forced to hibernate, whilst others had to adopt new ways of working – accelerating years’ worth of trends in a matter of months – to navigate this exceptional landscape. But what will emerge as we enter this new, post-pandemic world?
There has never been a better time to invest in sales training.
For sales professionals, how they conduct business has changed irrevocably – the advancement of technology, digitalisation of meetings and new remote working models means the industry will never go back to its pre-pandemic days. But the skills to be a successful sales professional have not.
This means that investing in your sales team and equipping them with the tools and training to navigate the next few years is more important now than ever before. Individuals and teams need to be fully prepared for the next ‘new normal.’
“How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.”
Tiffani Bova, chief growth evangelist at Salesforce
Businesses rarely come up for air and re-evaluate how they are selling. This means that current sales practices, processes and organisational structures may in fact be hindering growth more than any external factors they believe they are facing, says Tiffani Bova, author and chief growth evangelist at Salesforce.
But these extraordinary times offer businesses a unique opportunity to do so. Companies that invest in both their teams and their digital infrastructure perform better over time. They are more prepared for disruption, better able to monetise new digital channels and in doing so, better able to build a bigger client base. This exists across all industries.
“Training and retraining mid-career workers and new generations for the coming challenges will be imperative.”
James Manyika, Chairman and Director of McKinsey Global Institute
In this article, we offer some practical advice on how to build a successful sales team and how sales training experts Impel Dynamic can help both future-proof and grow your business.
PREPARE YOUR TEAM TO BECOME OMNI-CHANNEL SPECIALISTS
Most ‘good’ salespeople can become omni-channel specialists, but even the best will require new training and coaching. Hybrid sellers of the future will need to seamlessly interact with customers and clients via video, phone, apps and occasional in-person visits.
8 in 10 decision makers believe omnichannel sales are as effective (or more effective) than traditional methods.
In our previous article, we explored how sales professionals will move into more of a hybrid role in the future, as purchasing goes omnichannel. Please see ‘Why omnichannel is the future of sales.’
With clients interacting in this space already and the majority wanting to continue to do so going forward, your sales teams need to be comfortable and competent selling in multiple ways. As adept and confident at building rapport via a 30-minute Zoom call, as they are at building relationships both inside and outside the boardroom.
Remote selling removes a lot of the emotional side of selling, along with the natural, relationship building that’s done before and after the actual meeting. Very subtle cues, body language or intonation can be lost during a video meeting. The standard ways to develop personal client relationships become a lot harder and somewhat forced. Natural conversations have to be planned in and talking to a sea of faces via Zoom can become intimidating, with a feeling of self-consciousness.
Building rapport is done very differently online and traditional methods that have always worked for leading sales professionals, suddenly don’t appear to. Jokes are lost in translation or a bad internet signal. A polished, professional pitch suddenly becomes tarnished by technology failures and loss of concentration. It is a lot harder for a sales professional to read the body language of the room and so subtle communication is stifled.
Preparing your sales teams to become omni-channel specialists is critical to future growth as a business. Clients and customers will demand it and the industry will propel forward, with omni-channel sales professionals at the heart of it.
REVISE YOUR TRAINING PLANS
If you’ve successfully invested in sales specialists (face-to-face, key account managers, call handlers) for years, you will now need to revise your training and hiring plans. The type of person you are looking for, the competences required for the role and the skills required to deliver it will be different going forward.
According to world leading research and advisory company, Gartner, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels by 2025.
“Sales organisations must be able to sell to customers everywhere the customer expects to engage, interact and transact with suppliers.”
Chief sales officers (CSOs) and other senior sales leaders will need to accept that buying preferences have permanently changed and, as a result, so too will the role of sellers.
This digital-first approach fundamentally changes the skills expected of sellers. Gartner research shows buyers typically only spend 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers when considering a purchase. With less and less customer face time, virtual selling via digital channels will predominate for many sectors.
Hiring the right people for the job has never been more crucial. But equally, training your current sales teams to adopt a ‘digital-first approach’ will be the key to future-proofing your company.
A 360 APPROACH TO SELLING
Gartner defines the future of sales as the permanent transformation of organisations’ sales strategies, processes and allocation of resources, moving from a “seller-centric to a buyer-centric orientation” and shifting from analogue sales processes to hyper-automated, digital-first engagement with customers.
Cristina Gomez, managing vice president, Gartner said: “As baby boomers retire and millennials mature into key decision-making positions, a digital-first buying posture will become the norm.”
“As customers increasingly learn and buy digitally, sales reps become just one of many possible sales channels. Because of this, sales organisations must be able to sell to customers everywhere the customer expects to engage, interact and transact with suppliers.”
Cristina Gomez, Managing Vice President, Gartner
B2B sales reps need to embrace new tools and channels, as well as a new manner of engaging customers, matching sales activity to their customers’ buying practices and information-collecting needs.
It is no longer appropriate to be a specialist in just one area of sales, you need to be able to interact across all digital channels, alongside successfully selling in a face-to-face context. It requires a 360 approach to selling and the ability to switch into different methods with ease and confidence.
NEW WAYS OF REWARDING VIRTUAL SELLING
The psychological effects of virtual selling on clients and sales professionals must not be discounted and this may require a new way of working, measuring activity, recharging and rewarding than previously exited.
According to EY’s report ‘Redefining sales in a COVID-19 impacted world,’ beyond the obvious changes — the shift to remote work and video sales calls — the COVID-19 crisis has reframed the relationship between buyers and sellers.
Sales leaders wanting to drive revenue must focus their teams on a higher purpose than money. In the post COVID-19 market, the sales teams that will win are those that have decided upon “a noble purpose to improve the lives of their customers,” says the study.
As the collective population asks deeper questions (such as who we are and why we are here), customers are applying a similar self-reflective lens to their work and interactions with salespeople. Customers are asking: who is really here to help me?
We stand in a place and time where brand reputations are being quickly won (and quickly lost) based on the market’s perception of the organisation’s intent.
EY said this poses a challenge for sales leaders, as they are under pressure to produce revenue. When sales targets loom large, the traditional response is to double down on what has worked in the past. The organisational narrative becomes “sell, sell, sell,” with sales managers emphasising revenue goals, pushing salespeople to get deals over the line and often dangling financial incentives to spur action. The problem with this traditional approach is that it creates an inwardly focused sales team that is more likely to be off-putting than engaging to customers.
Lisa McLeod, the author of Selling with Noble Purpose, agrees: “Our research reveals that salespeople who sell with noble purpose, who genuinely understand how they can make a difference to customers, outsell salespeople focused on internal targets and quotas.”
Telling a sales team to “focus on the customers” is a decent start. To be truly relevant, an even more specific shift in mindset is required, according to EY.
Selling with noble purpose goes beyond traditional customer centricity. “It is about more than simply pleasing customers; it is about improving the customer’s condition and aligning the entire sales organisation toward that purpose,” the report revealed. To be successful, customer impact must become as prominent in the organisational narrative as sales targets.
“Sales teams that operate with a noble purpose are also more resilient than traditional sales teams. They persist — and as a result — become more resilient, because they care about their customers more than the sale.”
Lisa McLeod, author of Selling with Noble Purpose
McLeod says: “In a post-COVID-19 world, we’re seeing first-hand evidence that noble purpose sales teams are deemed more essential than transactional sales teams. They’re getting better access at higher levels because customers trust them — they know the sales team’s purpose is to improve their business.”
ADOPTING & INTEGRATING NEW TECHNOLOGIES
New technologies will undoubtedly transform many sectors in the future. We are living through the fourth ‘technological’ revolution and businesses need to adapt and integrate new technologies at breakneck speed.
An example of this is AI, an advancement that will help create personalised sales experiences, turning a comprehensive data trove into insights which can anticipate customers’ needs by recognising patterns and enabling businesses to act on them.
“Accenture forecasts that AI could double the economic growth rates of 12 major countries by 2035. These gains will come from computers doing what they have always been good at — freeing us to make better use of our time.”
Richard Socher, Chief Scientist, Salesforce
“AI is about more than replacing each worker with a robot,” said Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, CEO, of Sinovation Ventures. “It will involve the disruption and reshaping of whole industries. Business models will evolve to be quite transparent. In a world of AI, consumers will have high access to information, perhaps using their digital assistant to find the best price or analyse which product has received the best reviews. It will no longer be possible to use information asymmetry to charge people a disproportionate amount.”
As a business, you need to ensure that your sales teams are equipped and trained in the latest technology.
WORKING WITH IMPEL DYNAMIC
With global trends having shifted so dramatically as a result of the pandemic, combined with the evolution of working methods and the shift to digital, we’re living through the perfect storm. To prepare your business for the future, there has never been a better time to invest in sales training.
3 Ways Impel Dynamic Can Help You Grow Your Business
Turbulent times means companies start to ask difficult questions about who their suppliers are and why they need them. Impel Dynamic will help you develop a brilliant key account management strategy to overcome this.
As a business, you need to think strategically about who your key clients are and ensure you have the right systems and processes in place to heighten their accounts experience with you, also ensuring your teams have the right skills sets to deliver this.
It’s not enough just to meet expectations. Impel Dynamic will help you identify how you can exceed expectations for your most important clients, to ensure they don’t start looking elsewhere. Complacency is the enemy here.
We will help your business become more efficient at what it does. We call it ‘the extra 10%.’ You grow a business in incremental steps – we will help you to improve each element of your business by 10% and this will have a knock-on effect in all other areas. If each area in turn is then improved by 10%, due to the efficiencies we’ve helped you achieve, this will have a huge impact on your bottom line. Small increases of 10% in all touch points can double your business.
Impel Dynamic will help you to accelerate your results. We won’t teach you what you already know, you’re the specialist in your products and services. But we will look at providing you with practical methods that truly accelerate your path to the results you’re hoping to achieve. Sales teams can often waste a lot of time not being proactive enough. We will provide your sales teams with a practical framework to ensure that relationships are nurtured quicker, leading to better results in a shorter space of time.