30 Experts Discuss Impact of COVID-19 on Sales Teams in 2021

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COVID-19 has had a significant impact on sales revenue and the way companies sell to customers.

In a special edition of The CMO Survey (conducted in May 2020), the following insights emerged:

  • On average, respondents reported that sales revenues had dropped by 17.81%.
  • Nearly one in five respondents (19.5%) reported that sales had declined by 50% or more.
  • Nearly half (46.8%) said sales had fallen by 20% or more.

The survey also revealed that B2B companies fared better than B2C companies, and that the impact of COVID-19 on sales varied considerably across industry verticals, with Retail taking the biggest hit.

So, what exactly does the landscape look like for inside and outside sales reps in 2021?

We asked 30 inside and outside sales experts to share their opinions.

Read on for the key takeaways and their responses below.

How COVID-19 Will Impact Outside Sales in 2021

Let’s start by looking at what our experts are predicting for outside sales teams in 2021 as they’ve been most affected post-COVID.

Outside teams will continue to embrace digital selling

The COVID-19 pandemic had a positive change in the way organizations operate their businesses. As a result, more companies and sales teams are now working either fully remote or partly remote, and that will continue through 2021.

According to new research from McKinsey & Company, 65% of B2B buyers say remote selling is either equal to or better than selling methods before the pandemic:

Plus, some organizations that were previously restricted to selling locally can now sell to new clients and customers outside of their local geographic area.

So, as long as outside sales reps embrace digital selling, they will remain competitive.

Prospects will expect initial calls to be virtual

Even when business “returns to normal” and prospects feel comfortable meeting sales reps face-to-face, virtual meetings will still occur.

Initial sales calls will likely be conducted as 20-30 min virtual meetings, followed at a later date by face-to-face interactions when sales reps are proposing a solution.

To ensure success, outside sales teams will need further training to be laser-focused in a video call setting.

Reps will experience “Zoom fatigue”

Because business has moved to video or phone, some sales reps will prosper, while others will struggle.

Previously, selling was mostly relationship-driven through meetings and interpersonal connections.

Now, working remotely, sales reps can conduct more meetings in the day, but more meetings do not equal more revenue. In fact, more meetings will likely increase the pace of sales burnout. Reps are moving straight from one call to the next without that breathing space to reset and prepare as they had between face-to-face meetings.

As business intensifies, many outside reps could experience “Zoom fatigue”.

Outside teams will invest more in multichannel sales technology

Fewer outside reps will be seeing their prospects or clients in person during 2021. So they’ll have to use a multichannel strategy –  video, phone, email, and social channels – more deliberately to account for a decrease in in-person contact.

Technology will help automate and keep these touchpoints organized. For example, SPOTIO can automatically capture all sales activity across multiple channels without disrupting your reps’ workflow by:

  • Logging every visit, call, text, and email in real-time.
  • Keeping prospects engaged by following up on their preferred channels.
  • Tracking inbound, outbound, and missed calls.
  • Integrating with your calendar and email.
  • Connecting with your CRM.

As outside reps become hybrid reps, they’ll have to be prepared to communicate effectively across multi-channels as they did in boardroom meetings. They’ll have to become more like business consultants rather than sales reps.

Managers will rely heavily on activity management solutions

Now that teams are distributed and working remotely, it’s no longer enough to track reps in the field. Managers need to understand ALL of the sales activities that are being performed and how they impact the pipeline.

With SPOTIO, you can capture every sales activity and discover the most significant impact on performance.

For instance, in the activity reports, you can:

  • Filter the data by activity type, users, territories, and more.
  • Draw actionable insights that guide your business forward, such as the number of visits it takes to get to a customer.
  • See where activity is dropping and where to drive higher customer engagement.

Managers will put talent where the money is

Accenture’s report on The New World of B2B Sales says managers will have to “double down on high-value opportunities” by putting sales talent where the money is.

That means managers will have to evaluate their sales team, identify the most-talented sales reps, and assign them to engage the highest-value potential customer segments and opportunities.

It’s no longer a case of quantity, but quality, which entails excluding more unqualified leads to focus on the real potential and ensuring new wins stay won.

Managers will look to expand new lead sources

It’s safe to say that the Sales Playbook as we know it needs redefining. Sales reps will need to pay careful attention not only to the communication tools they use but, most importantly, to people and their emotions.

Furthermore, managers will need to look beyond all the usual places when sourcing leads, as they are likely no longer as effective. Instead, they’ll need to tap into social selling, warm referrals from existing customers, purchased lead lists, and existing service interactions.

Reps will need to adapt as more buyers becoming gatekeepers

With more buyers becoming gatekeepers, reps will need to adapt their sales methods. For instance, how they start the conversation and follow up with voicemail messages is critical. Buyers will be swamped with offers, so reps need to be succinct and use a clear attention grabber that doesn’t sound like every other rep out there.

Alice Kemper says reps need to be more conversational, along the lines of:

“Hi Jim, Alice Kemper with Sales Training Werks. We’ve successfully taken the boring out of remote sales training meetings and turned them into meetings reps actually want to go to and ask for more. With, of course, the primary outcome of increasing sales 5-35% in 10 short weeks, may I have a moment of your time to discuss how you can up-level your team in 30 minutes or less at your remote sales meetings?”

Reps will strive to make customers feel safe

For those reps who arrange face-to-face meetings, they need to make potential customers feel safe. Agents can demonstrate this by taking the appropriate safety measures, such as using a hand sanitizer and wearing a face mask, or even a full face visor.

It’s all about making the customer feel safe and comfortable. Otherwise, they’ll be on edge and not focusing 100% on what reps have to say.

Organizations will look to move upmarket

Before COVID-19, moving upmarket was previously an abstract goal for sometime in the future. However, organizations are now asking sales operations to re-evaluate target markets and segments and point the sales teams toward more “stable” higher value customers.

For smaller organizations with less stable budgets, the move upmarket is more pressing, which means they’ll need to resegment accounts, work on new value propositions, and produce new sales materials.

Managers will train reps to be phone sales experts

Outside sales reps who previously used to meet with customers face-to-face will have to adapt. Sales managers will have to train and coach reps to become phone sales experts. And they will also have to identify new metrics to track the virtual calls.
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How COVID-19 Will Impact Inside Sales in 2021

Let’s move onto inside sales and see what our experts think needs to change for success post-COVID.

Reps will need to consider how they are perceived on camera

Pre-COVID, most inside sales teams worked the phones. But since the pandemic, video conferencing with tools like Zoom and Teams has become the norm. Reps now have to consider how buyers perceive them on camera – first impressions still count!

If sales reps don’t dress professionally, video conferencing from their home creates the wrong perception. Balancing a laptop on the couch, with a mug of coffee, and dressed in loungewear isn’t going to cut it, and may lead to lost sales.

Inside sales teams will focus more on early buyer education

COVID-19 has made buyers more cautious. They are conducting more research before getting budget approval and then reaching out to sales reps for more information to validate their research. So, inside sales teams will have to focus more on early buyer education.

If they want to convince prospects to buy their product or service, then they’ll need to know their solution inside out so that they can demonstrate its value and get buyers excited.

Managers will look to automate handoffs

With inside sales reps working in remote environments, it’s easier for things to fall between the cracks. What used to be a quick handoff to a colleague across the office has become a lot harder to coordinate as individuals are working their own schedules.

Therefore, sales managers will need to automate handoffs as much as possible to ensure the inside sales process flows smoothly.

Live chat will be used to close more B2B high-ticket sales

Since COVID-19, video and live chat have emerged as the primary channels for interacting and closing high-ticket sales with B2B customers.

Research from McKinsey & Company shows the dramatic change from traditional to digital sales channels:

  • Live chat increased 23% from 40% to 49%
  • Video conferencing increased 41% from 38% to 53%

Furthermore, 70% of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, remote purchases over $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000.

Inside teams will rely more on activity tracking technologies

Post-COVID, inside sales reps have had to work harder to establish trust and build a rapport with customers. Previously, it was all about achieving the highest number of conversions in the least amount of time. Now, it’s reversed, with reps taking more time to engage and listen to customers.

Inside sales reps will rely more on the latest activity tracking technologies to understand when buyers are ready for the next interaction. And, provide the information for maximum personalization.

Knowing when buyers have opened an email or downloaded an attachment will allow inside sales teams to plan and execute their next move.

Companies will need strong sales and marketing alignment

When the pandemic subsides and things start to return to normal, customers will want to deal with those organizations they trust most – i.e. the brands that stood by them throughout the turmoil.

When customers are ready to spend, sales and marketing teams need to be aligned and prepared to launch new campaigns and provide the best possible customer experience.

Reps will focus more on personalization and testing

COVID-19 forced many organizations to change the way they behaved and interacted with customers. Sales reps had to spend more time getting to know customers and trying new tactics over the phone or video conferencing.

But there’s an argument to say that sales teams have become a little stagnant following that initial burst of energy. If reps want to sell more, they’ll have to re-energize and focus more on personalization and training to stay ahead of the game.

Managers will use technologies that promote accountability

With everyone working remotely, managers need to be using the latest technologies for reps to be more accountable. They’ll need the right tools and training plans so that they can track their progress and motivate themselves. Managers also need to ensure the team culture and climate is supportive even though reps are working from home.


 

Alice Kemper

Sales Training Werks | Expert Sales Trainer

Remote selling will continue through 2021 and most likely beyond because according to new research from McKinsey, 65% of B2B buyers say remote selling is either equal to or better than selling methods prior to the pandemic.

Alice Kemper’s Top Tips to Out-think, Out-sell and Out-perform the competition:

One:

With more buyers becoming their own gatekeeper how you launch the conversation is critical (along with your voice mail message). Be succinct with a clear attention getter that doesn’t sound like every other rep out there. Be conversational – not corporate brochure speak. (Hi Jim, Alice Kemper with Sales Training Werks.

We’ve successfully taken the boring out of remote sales training meetings and turn them into meetings reps actually want to go to and ask for more. With of course, the primary outcome to increase sales 5-35% in 10 short weeks. May I have a moment of your time to discuss how you can up-level your team in 30 minutes or less at your remote sales meetings?

Two:

Learn how to sell in a virtual environment. This goes back to the old adage of judging a book by its cover. First impressions are important and every time you connect with the client is a first impression.

How you look, what you look like, how you are positioned (no one likes looking up someone’s nose), and what you say all contribute to your sales success. Julie Hanson’s Selling On Camera Masterclass is a great place to start. Make your first impressions count and stand out from the crowd.

Three:

Don’t waste their time. Today’s buyers do not want to invest 30 minutes answering the questions you should have researched online.

Use your questions to ask what isn’t readily available. What are they afraid of? What are they frustrated by? What are they hopeful for? What’s the upside and downside of remaining status quo? What’s the key criteria when selecting the firm to partner with on this initiative?

Ask these questions and they will tell you how to sell them. Become the strategic business partner they want to do business with, otherwise you’ll sound like every other vendor and they no longer want to do business with vendors.

Four:

Collaborate with colleagues. If you hadn’t been working remotely, you’ve lost the in person stop at the desk, catch you in the call conversations. You’re all in the same boat now. Set up accountability partners between you. Schedule time to brainstorm strategies to break into new accounts or advance the ones in the pipeline.

Do not use your time together for bitch sessions. Be productive, not destructive.

Five:

Email is now more powerful than before. Use them wisely as they are your follow-up sales conversations. Craft your emails following the sales steps you use… opening conversation what’s in it for them, recap of meeting stating goals and objectives, the solution benefit driven, the close or next steps.

Use the 24-hour rule (or at least 30 minutes). Write the email. Sit on it. Re-read it and revise. All of this before you hit the send button.

 

Daniel Disney

The Daily Sales | Speaker – Author – Trainer

COVID-19 has encouraged more companies and sales teams to look at either fully remote or part remote working environments, which will have a big impact on outside sales in 2021, but perhaps not in a bad way.

2020 will have made a lot of people feel pent up working from home, and so as global restrictions ease, the vaccines get approved and rolled out, more and more people will want to get out.

So regardless of whether prospects and customers are working back at their offices or working remotely from home, outside sales reps will still have demand for face to face meetings. The difference will be some will still take place in offices but more will take place at coffee shops, restaurants and pop up work environments and hot desk offices.

Outside sales reps will need to start leveraging virtual and digital selling more to ensure they stay competitive and to be flexible to those who, especially for the first half of 2021, either can’t or don’t want to meet face to face.

 

Jake Fisher

Bridges Strategies | President

The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly made even the most reticent business leaders open to taking sales calls via web conference. This helps organizations, such as mine, effectively sell to new clients and customers outside of our local geographic area.

I would recommend that sales organizations adjust their marketing campaigns and internal processes in order to take in a larger geographic territory for new customer acquisition.

Salespeople need to invest in equipment that will make their video calls look and sound outstanding. Think of your workspace as a small studio. Start with a couple of lights. A higher-end microphone sounds better than whatever is built-in to your laptop or is hanging from the cord on your headphones.

Get your webcam just slightly above your eye-line so that the angle is more flattering than looking up at your chin. Use low-profile headphones such as AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones. If you’re working from a spare bedroom and a cluttered bedroom is in the background (which is my situation), then invest in a portable background.

The power that you lose from not being in the same room as your prospective customers can be regained by making sure that they can see and hear you with perfect clarity.

 

Tibor Shanto

Renbor Sales Solutions Inc | Chief Value Officer

No More Outside – Replaced by All Sides

Outside reps will have to continue to deal with the fact that they are now really hybrid reps, rather than just outside reps. This is not as bad as it may sound as it gives them an opportunity to better execute elements of their sale.

Survey after survey shows corporate leaders see more meetings taking place virtually. This will force outside reps to deal with new realities. As the move towards digital selling progresses, reps will have to find new ways to add value to the conversations they want to earn. The same tools and processes that will limit access to decision makers, can be enablers in the right hands, executed in the right way.

Reps have to be prepared to communicate as effectively across multi channels as they did in boardroom meetings. This will include learning new languages and a laser focus on how you can help them achieve objectives they have set for their business. Leaving your product in the car and having the ability to talk business outcomes will become table stakes not a nice to have.

 

Daniel Tyre

Dan Tyre | Director
Inside sales team will emerge from the “new normal” greatly changed from when we went in, hopefully stronger and more discerning based on what we have experienced. That means the acceleration of established trends.
  • Outside Selling ➜ Inside Selling
  • Offline Marketing ➜ Online Marketing
  • Traditional Customer Service ➜ Self-Service
  • Funnel ➜ Flywheel
  • Bloated Tech Stack ➜ Lean Tech Stack

This crisis has created a lot of pain, challenges, and change, but it’s also created opportunity. We’ll walk away armed with new goals and a fresh understanding of how to help. Digital transformation has greatly accelerated. Companies in nearly every industry have had to move their teams, their go-to-market strategies, and the entire customer experience online.

This means your inside sales team needs to lean into inbound as a competitive strategy. Three specific ideas:

  1. Work with your marketing team – they are key to your survival
  2. Use video to promote the sales process
  3. Use customer reference early in the process and leverage current customers to get new customers

 

Kenneth Burke

Text Request | Vice President of Marketing
I think one of the biggest impacts COVID-19 will have on inside sales is perception. Reps will be primarily web conferencing (Zoom, etc.) with prospects from their own homes. It will be very easy to look unprofessional, particularly for younger reps who haven’t yet built up an attractive home office or who do not dress up for working from home.
I’ve already seen this impact decisions, and think it will cause inside sales teams to have a tougher time closing deals in 2021 unless companies adapt (provide training on this and a home office stipend, for instance).

 

Julian Marcuzzi

Predictable Revenue | Head of Revenue
One result of Covid-19 was that it level-set a lot of sales teams and organizations. This forced many of us to get extremely creative when talking about our prospecting and closing. There was a new flavour of the week – whether it was around sequences/cadences or templates, differentiation and personalization became crucial.
A lot of this has since gone stale so the question now is how are you going to change from a tactical standpoint?
From my perspective, testing is going to be more important that it has ever been. Furthermore, for a lot of inside sales team there has been a full transition to fully remote, with no plan to go back into the office.
So a question I often ask others if they are prepared to be a fully remote organization outside of Covid-19.

 

Seb Dean

Imaginaire | Technical Sales

I think Outside sales in 2021 will become the norm for many and for a while. With the guidelines put in place by governments and people’s individual worries, I think that most will feel more comfortable buying and or selling outside. It makes sense because the risk of spreading germs outside is said to be lower than inside and so talking to people you aren’t familiar with, being outside might be a little more reassuring.

However, I think that sales overall, as an industry will take a large hit and start to become a lot harder to thrive in as it has already. I think that any sales that are done in person will continue to stay low until a suitable vaccine arrive and there is evidence of its effectiveness.

But even then, I feel that some people are likely to be wary of any in-person contact in case they’re still in danger. So, a while after a vaccine takes effect, we might see people venturing out and willing to take sales meetings.

To use a specific example, the car sales industry might continue to level out and maintain a steady level in 2021. This is just because most of the process can still be completed outside with no trouble. We might even see an increase in purchases of more exciting cars because people are looking for an exciting time after the tragedy that was 2020.

Sales is all about perception, right?

And so I suppose the best way to be successful and promote sales is to show your audience that you’re safe, taking things seriously and not going to put them in danger. This can be done through the use of things like safety products. Whether that’s a mask, hand sanitizer or even a full face visor.

Most importantly, make sure your customer feels comfortable and safe thought the sales process because, without this, they’ll be on edge and associate negative feeling with you.

 

Cody Guymon

Qualtrics | COO, Global Sales
Our time will be used more efficiently. My guess is that we travel 25% of the time we used to before COVID, so my advice is to get fast internet and tailor your pitch to a virtual audience. Invest in a quality microphone, camera, and background- that is the new “nice suit”. Dive into the new normal, embrace the change, and try to differentiate.

 

Craig Klein

Sales reps used to meeting with customers will need training and coaching to adapt to be phone sales experts. Sales managers need to identify new metrics to track and new coaching methods. “Ride alongs” are gone. Now it has to, and can, be done virtually.

 

Mica Longanecker

Referral Rock | Director of Sales

COVID-19 has made buyers more cautious. They are doing more research and need to see the value of your solution before getting budget or building internal buy-in. They’re reaching out to sales earlier in their process without knowing exactly what they need or in some cases how to even define their own challenges.

Inside sales is becoming increasingly focused on early buyer education. More often than not, you’re selling against the status quo or doing nothing vs. a competitor or alternative solution. As inside sales professionals, we need to get our buyers excited about the possibilities and show them how our solutions can achieve their goals.

On a practical level, it’s important to put an increased focus on proper discovery and really understanding your buyers. Only then can you effectively help them navigate their own buying journey. Spend more time upfront getting them excited and bought into the problem you can solve before diving into your solution.

Creating urgency is always a challenge but you need to have patients and go at the buyers pace.

 

Alexandra Zamolo

Beekeeper | Head of Content Marketing

Outside sales has definitely been difficult for 2020, with restrictions that essentially eliminated the very idea of “outside sales.” With many meetings held online via Zoom or Skype, a marketing program that wifely depended on the interactions of face-to-face meetings had to make quick and decisive pivots – and it wasn’t always easy.

However, as we look forward to what 2021 may bring, we should see many aspects of outside sales returning, even the “outside” part. However, one thing to stress to your sales team is to be sure to ease into this, and still continue to be safe.

Regardless of vaccines and if pandemic numbers begin to decline, there are lessons that we’ll never forget from COVID-19, one of which being how quickly things can turn. Stay informed, be aware and keep washing those hands!

 

Hilmon Sorey

ClozeLoop Inc. | Managing Director
The obvious impact to outside sales is that legal restrictions on gathering, travel, and in-person meetings will continue. The outside sales person of 2021 will need to rely less on in-person “relationship building” activities (of nebulous efficacy in many industries anyway) and more on ways in which they can H.E.L.P. (Highlight problems they solve, Educate buyers relevant trends and intel, Leverage networks and resources, and Predict prospect challenges like a trusted advisor).
Here’s the good news…
Because meetings have moved to video conference as acceptable practice, the volume of activity will definitively increase. McKinsey is already reporting buyer receptivity to videoconference sales process at significant dollar threshold above $100k. Organizations must adapt sales stages to create enough engagement opportunity and certainty for buyers to engage and pipeline velocity, but this could actually increase volume, lower costs, and create new opportunities.
Only the foolish believe that buyers no longer will buy.

 

Kim Orlesky

KO Advantage Group | CEO/President

When times of uncertainty hit, whether that is a global pandemic, a recession, or even something personally challenging, such a mass layoffs, bankruptcy, or death, should we reach out? What is the right action to take?

Most people will try to pull back and avoid any uncomfortable conversation, saying that “now is not the right time”. But if not now, when?

Avoiding clients does not make them feel taken care of and comforted. Instead it leaves the client feeling alone and abandoned.

Premium service providers don’t want their clients to feel ignored. We want them to feel cared for. Reaching out should be treated with tenderness and care. However you’re still allowed to be creative.

Here are a variety of different ways you can reach out to clients to let them know you care, and to build your sales funnel:

Show them how to use their old tools

Have your clients been working with you for a while? Did they miss some of the updates and upgrades you made over the last year (or more)? Now’s a great time to reach out. Let them know other ways clients are using your services in unique ways. Spark a new conversation.Also feel free to filter your CRM by product line and start reaching out to clients who aren’t using your entire suite of services. Today’s a great day to show them how much more efficient they could be.

Personalized Training Sessions

You may have done a great job promoted updated with mass webinars, but that information can easily get lost (or worse, they had it playing as background noise and didn’t capture all the information). Reach out to your high-potential clients and offer them personalized training session. Create more intimate conversations, answer their questions, and drop a few seeds on why it may be beneficial to increase their service offering

What are the requests your client may make?

Be proactive in how you can help your current client. What might be the services or additional value you can provide them? Extra cleaning or service? Outside business hour servicing? Flexible payment structures?If you’re going to offer a better service be specific in how you want to help your client.

It’s not enough to say “I’m here to help” but rather how you will help me specifically and make that your offer. You want the client to simply say “yes” not have to think about how you will help.

Connect Clients & Industries

Be the central hub for many different clients and industries. People will know you by how you connect others, which will ultimately have them talking about you and your services. If you serve multiple clients across various geographies, this can be a great time for your clients to share ideas and collaborate.

Everyone’s business becomes better when people work together.

Partnerships & Panels

Find businesses who target similar audiences and create either partnerships, or look at hosting events where they are brought in as part of a thought-leadership panel. Your clients will love hearing about topics they are also interested in, and the best part? The panelists may bring in their own clients, allowing you to leverage an entire community to help you build your business.

Checkout www.kimorlesky.com for the other 10 reasons, and when you’re ready to Sell More. Faster. join us for our next cohort of KO Sales U.

 

Andy King

Jamjar | Director of Sales

Having worked in the automotive sales industry for years, I know that, even in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the restrictions that we’ve been placed under, car sales have continued. While the industry has struggled and fewer people are buying and selling cars at the moment, I think that we’re likely to see growth again. This might take a while or it could come quickly after the vaccine has been rolled out, I think that it’s a little too early to tell.

However, I feel that at some point in 2021 (probably in the second half of the year) the impact of COVID-19 in this side of sales will lessen and we’ll start to develop a momentum that will hopefully breathe life back into the industry.

To any teams in the automotive sales, I’d advise that you try to make your customers feel comfortable and let them know you trust them my still letting them take the cars for a test drive without you being in the car next to them. This is going to show that you have confidence in the individual and promotes mutual respect and trust between you two in an effort to build a rapport.

 

Kristie Jones

Zoom is the word (Flashback to Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta – Grease is the word) – I believe that very few outside reps will be seeing their prospects or clients in person in 2021.

Continue to add value, be supportive, and stay connected by phone or Zoom.

 

Evan Horibe

Brandfolder | Head of Sales
The impact of COVID has really been the loss of the significant in person meetings. Often times, those events were compelling events that we could structure actions around. It’s also more difficult to establish trust and build champions.
My advice is to make sure you have a good method for establishing a mutual plan for your review as well as to identify and build champions.

 

Patricia Fripp

A Speaker for All Reasons | Sales Presentation Expert

In 2021 the sales teams who will excel will be those who have taken 2 specific actions.

First, they will have perfected virtual meetings and presentations. Even when we can meet in person, virtual meetings will still be an important part of the process. Once you have mastered energetic intimacy with your prospects through your camera you will gain a competitive edge. After all, we all do business with those we like.

Second, they revisit how they are communicating. Sales presentations need to prove the premise that, “Mr/Ms Prospect, you will be better off when you do business with our company.” Sales presentations that work are focused on the challenges, opportunities, or interests of the potential client. I recommend we open our sales presentation with “Congratulations.” What have they accomplished they are proud of?
Also, telling masterful happy customer stories is almost as if you are taking your satisfied clients on your sales calls.

 

Rene Zamora

Sales Manager Now | Founder and President
COVID-19 has impacted industries differently for better or worse, but salespeople cannot control that. What a salesperson does influence greatly is the trust a buyer has in them which increases their influences during a buying decision. From this perspective, COVID has brought positive impacts in trust-building for both inside and outside salespeople.
The amount of web face-to-face meetings has gone up dramatically as both buyers and sellers were “forced” to embrace video conference technology. Inside teams now have a chance to see non-verbal buyer cues otherwise hidden by phone calls only and outside teams can make more visits to maintain distant relationships and build trust.
Sharing screens is much more effective than sending links and PDFs. The face-to-face meeting does not need to be in-person to realize the value. “Seeing” each other face to face is plenty, and buyers appreciate the ability to jump in and out without wasting time with chit chat.

 

Lisamarie Monaco

Insuranceforburial.com | Independent Agent/Owner
For me and my business, COVID -19 has made me appreciate what we do on a daily. I think in 2021 for the outside sales force we will see an impact depending on your business. More business have gone remotely. So in many cases you still have a driving force and your clients still need you and your product.
Be creative in the way you structure your outside sales business and you may not even miss a beat. Don’t allow COVID-19 to dictate how you run your business in 2021. In some ways, an outside sales business will save some money on overhead and traveling. So there is always a upside. Change the way you pitch your clients in whatever business you are in.
Be creative, be flexible and think outside of the box in these uncertain times and COVID-19 will not affect you.

 

Richard Harris

2021 is the year of the Sales Reset.

It will be based on the following, current pipeline, desired pipeline, employee retention and hiring, conversions, and 2021 goals.

Employee Retention – Everyone understands that organizations had to go through resets on headcount. What will matter most is how the folks who made the cut were treated. If organizations tried to move forward with business as usual, high pressure, not reducing goals, or other “old school” methods.

The people who made the cut, will probably be the first to leave for better culture elsewhere. Yup, you kept them, then treated them like crap, and now you want them to stay? The only reason they will stay is if they are handcuffed by commissions earned and not yet paid, or if they do have some good deals in the pipeline.

Hiring – Hiring is already happening. The smart thing to do for organizations that have an SDR / BDR model is to hire those folks first to build the pipeline. Keep your current AE’s hitting targets and then slowly add more AEs. Always hire in pairs so that if one SDR does not make it you are not starting over from ground 0. When you hire in pairs you are not committing to two full-year salaries. You should be able to know who to keep and who to let go within 3-6 months. If it works out, then your pipeline gets bigger and hopefully better.

Pipeline Growth – People should plan to “ramp” the pipeline like you do a new SDR or AE. Q1 will have growth, you will know more by April and Q2 if it is sustainable. There will be some organizations that will have a tremendous Q1 because your customers will be trying to spend in Q1 to set up for the rest of the year.

Conversions & Pipeline Growth – Also known as the year of Sales Ops. If you have 5 or more total people dedicated to sales (SDRs+AEs+Customer Success), your next hire needs to be someone in Sales Ops who knows how to find and coach management on real conversion metrics, not just pipeline growth.

Training – 100% related to 2020. If you did not commit to training your sales team in 2020 during the “slow period” you are starting behind your competitors who did. Focusing on better conversations and converting those conversations into real pipeline, or kicking the bad deals out of the funnel has never been more important than it will be in 2021.

The false belief system that “reps know how to close” is just that a false belief system based on a myth that a sales rep has convinced you they are good enough. In short, they sold you, and you went all in and bought their ideas. Yet you wonder why they aren’t hitting goals? The goals are too high, and they are not as good as you believe them to be.

Goals – If 70% of your sales team is not hitting goals. Your goals are wrong. Full Stop. Period. You’ve been pushed to believe a false narrative about growth only to satisfy the insatiable desires of your VCs, Board Members, and your own greed. You have everyone on your sales team pushing to make you a millionaire. Which can be ok, but not at the cost of making good, hardworking people stressed out.

Set your goals, adjust your mindset that unless the market can dictated 300% YOY growth you need to be more than satisfied with 100% YOY growth. You will not go out of business with 100% YOY growth.

So, what does all this mean in reality? It means that Q1 2021 will be no different than most of 2020 unless there is a massive market shift in spending. Everyone should be preparing and prepared for growth, but do not let your desire and frustrations of 2020 drive your decision-making process for 2021 growth. Use data, to help drive healthy decisions.

 

Deanna Marie Biegun

Cirrus Insight | Partnerships Manager

As 2020 brought many changes for industries, families, and individuals- it was the major disruptor to sales teams. Before, sales teams worked quickly to close deals. Trying to hit a higher number of conversions in the least amount of time. Communication was more about getting face time or time on the phone to chat.

Creative ways to establish rapport and trust with the customer was the most important skill of the new WFH sales team. Learning new presentation skills, spending longer engaging about non-work related matters. Building empathy and understanding for when deals fall flat because of a fear of losing funding, losing a job, or just scarcity. Buyers need to be sure that spending is critical to their budgets and spend time considering their options.

In the new WFH life, insights and buyer signals are the foundation for the new stay at home sales rep. Looking to reach a customer? Better see if they are in a meeting first. Looking for windows of time to talk? You’ll need a piece of technology to facilitate booking a meeting and then another to host it. Have they opened the email or attachment? Is there a follow-up sequence that can prompt them 24 hours a day ready to go?

Using new technologies to improve your response time and meeting your customer when they are ready were the biggest influencers of 2020. Activity tracking, notifications of read emails, and attachment downloads allow sales teams to know when their buyers are ready to act or have the time to review material. Using CRM tools to simplify your engagement with your customers and working on your customers’ schedule will allow those that have elevated their sales techniques to shine.

 

David Dulany

Tenbound | Founder & CEO
Covid-19 has thrust inside sales into the spotlight. Now is the time to optimize your process. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you what to do. To paraphrase author Steven Pressfield, “turn pro”. Increase your level of professionalism while working from home and when you return to the office. Show up early and stay late. Set a daily activity schedule and stick to it.
Be proactive and fight for your goals hour by hour, day by day. Set your goals higher than what the company wants from you. Distraction is the enemy, so cut it off at all costs. No social media unless it’s directly tied to your job and can be proven to get you outcomes. Learn everything you can about your target personas and their pain points. Become fluent in their vocabulary. Don’t be amateurish about your career… turn pro.

 

Sally Rong

RELLERY | CEO
I feel that, after the restrictions are lowered or even lifted, consumers will once again be ready to make purchases that they may have put off during the pandemic. When this “boom” occurs, sales and marketing teams will need to provide exemplary customer service, so that consumers remember why they chose to purchase products from your company.

 

Will Lui

Ziflow | Vice President of Operations

I think COVID-19 will really bring inside sales to the forefront and test whether inside sales teams have truly built the infrastructure and processes to scale. The pandemic has noticeably changed the engagement required to win deals with deal velocity completely changing so pipeline management becomes even more critical especially in a high volume environment.

The advice I would give to other teams would be to:

Automate as much as possible. Handoffs are a lot harder since coordination can be asynchronous at times especially in remote environments and everyone’s schedules constantly changing so make sure you automate as many steps as you can to avoid things falling through the cracks waiting for someone.

Pick your core leading metrics and keep an eye on them. Pipeline movement and forecasting of deals have completely changed with COVID-19. Being able to quickly glance at key top-level metrics is helpful to know if the team is keeping on track.

For example, I really like looking at the insight from my sales automation tool both at a top-level to see how many are being actively sequenced and from an individual step level to see how many are active in a specific step. This is really helpful because it gives me a sense of how pipeline development is going.

Build-in belts and suspenders. The more visibility across the entire team the better. You want to try to avoid siloing information and create more transparency across the entire team. This lets everyone know what is happening upstream and downstream from them but it also helps avoid any missed notifications so leads don’t get lost.

 

Josh Stomel

Turbo Finance | Founder
As we move into 2021, consumers will begin to look to trusted companies who remained visible throughout the uncertain times of 2020 when their spending habits begin to return back to normal. This is when teams will need to be prepared to pivot when sales environments begin to change, with targeted strategies ready to implement.
It’s been predicted that the retail world will begin to pick up as the pandemic becomes more manageable, so companies should be prepared for this post-pandemic environment with targeted marketing strategies and unparalleled customer service.

 

Andrea Loubier

Mailbird | CEO and Founder

This pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives, including our inside sales environments. Obviously, some consumers have abstained from making larger purchases or registering for premium services. However, in 2021, we should eventually see a pivot when it comes to the way people (and companies) are spending their money – especially when we see another stimulus payment in the U.S.

To always be ready for a new influx of consumers, every sales team needs to be ready to go, qualifying leads and building innovative strategies that will work – and work quickly. When we think of 2021, we need to inspire our sales teams, and remind them that there are better times ahead.

 

Greg

Gillman | Chief Revenue Officer
“The pandemic has spurred an incredible shift to online shopping — e-commerce revenue is projected to hit the trillions for the first time, exceeding levels not previously expected for at least another two years. Consumers will continue to make purchases online as we head into 2021, and businesses should expect a majority of their sales to happen via their website.
While the economy has certainly slowed, our data has shown that people are still spending — they’re just buying lower priced items at a higher volume instead of taking risks on big-ticket items. My advice to businesses is to make sure your online store is equipped to give customers the most seamless shopping experience possible and offer incentives, so they keep coming back.”

 

Outside sales reps will need to adapt to being an inside sales rep very quickly if they want to maintain a sales job is our outlook for 2021. As the person in charge of outside sales for my company I can tell you now that every company and person I have offered to visit this year and early next year have already declined an in person visit from me. They are not seeing outside reps of any kind for the most part and won’t be until June is what
I am being told by most of our clients and potential new clients. So adapting and evolving into an inside sales rep for outside reps will be a must if they want to keep their jobs.

How to Prepare Your Sales Team

Whether you’re managing an inside or outside sales team, you need to be prepared to help them achieve their targets.

Ensure you equip them with all the tools and technology they need to operate in a digital sales environment. Train them to show deeper empathy levels and make their presentations more personalized as they reach out to the new, more research-savvy buyer of 2021.