We’re about five months into what’s considered our new normal. A question we continue to ask ourselves day after day since March is, “What will the other side of this look like?”
When it comes to the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and revenue teams, I could cover several areas of opportunity and challenges, but I will focus on the accelerated changes from these past few months; What we can expect to stick moving past 2020 to set businesses and revenue teams up for success.
What did COVID-19 accelerate?
The pandemic accelerated two things very rapidly when it comes to revenue teams.
Before we get to what trends are going to stick, looking at what COVID accelerated will help us understand why.
#1 - It accelerated our focus on digital channels.
That means LinkedIn, especially if you’re in B2B.
As face-to-face became impossible (face-to-face most likely meaning networking for sellers or speaking spots for experts and founders) teams had to start looking for new ways to build credibility.
LinkedIn, right now, is the perfect platform to achieve these two scenarios digitally.
It has emerged as the go-to for executives and sellers to get in front of their target audience.
Unfortunately, most people have been at step-one for years or still tying LinkedIn into a social selling strategy that hasn’t been updated since 2016.
When March 2020 came knocking, businesses, sellers, and marketers had to make a massive digital shift and quickly figure out how to build relationships online.
There were no more face-to-face, no more trade shows, no more speaking events. Again, if you’re in B2B and looking to build relationships, engage, and prospect, LinkedIn became the answer.
#2 - Teams become adaptable. No more depending on what worked yesterday.
This acceleration may go without saying as we hear multiple companies talking about how they had to pivot their strategy and messaging quickly in Q2.
The inevitably of only a small percentage of teams being able to do this had stemmed from the loss of our adaptable mindset.
COVID forced everyone to come to a halt or jerk the wheel to the right or to the left and make some split-second decisions. Everyone had to essentially refocus and get hyper-focused on what they were doing in their business and could no longer coast along with the same tactics.
These past few months have kicked teams into gear and have made them hungrier. Instead of small weekly or monthly tweaks to campaigns and strategy that may have a slight impact in the long run, many businesses and teams put their adaptability hat back on and thrived.
COVID not only taught us that we have to be more adaptable, but that we CAN be.
Looking at these two crucial areas that COVID accelerated - building relationships digitally and our ability to be adaptable again - what trends are going to stick?
Sales Trends That Will Stick
This is the important part. What sales trends are going to stick around versus being a blip on the radar?
There are four trends that you can expect to stay when this craziness is over, and that you want to make sure you are already doing today and every day going forward.
#1 - The ability to build relationships digitally.
This ties into acceleration number one. Whether your buyers are on LinkedIn or other social networks - it’s about personalized selling.
We now have to understand people and prospects offline and online. What are they saying digitally, and how can you better interact with them digitally?
LinkedIn DM’s can quickly become another inbox, and there is more to building a relationship than sending another email. Learn to interact with content through comments, likes, shares, videos, and groups.
The same way we build rapport and convert relationships into opportunities through face-to-face and offline channels, we now have to perfect on digital channels.
#2 - Smarter scaling.
Many companies have already started to think about scaling differently. As companies and revenue teams have had to become more nimble (and frugal) this year, they’re quickly realizing a one-size-fits-all leader doesn’t exist - pre-, during, or post-COVID.
The average tenure of a full-time employee is less than four years and decreasing. The average contractor, interim, or on-demand employee is around two years and climbing.
We can infer a couple of reasons for this, but the one I want to call out in terms of scaling is that as companies grow from one million to five million in revenue or five million to fifteen million, what they need in leadership and specialists looks drastically different.
Think about the acceleration of adaptability on a larger scale. Do you want to grow from one million to five million or five million to fifteen million faster? You need the specialists who have done it dozens of times at those stages.
We’ve been noticing this more with other specialized sales roles, such as Sales Ops and Sales Enablement.
Rarely does it make sense to bring in these specialized experts full-time from a cost perspective at early stages, but you need them to scale, so the solution is most likely a part-time role or consultant.
You’re going to see more and more companies use this framework and utilize a mix of these contracted individuals when scaling their business and teams.
#3 - Mapping the customer experience to the sales process.
A customer framework is really the only methodology that, at its core, says that we have to engineer the customer experience to map to our sales process and vice versa.
Buyers are digitally savvy. They need more information before getting over the hump to actually consider a meeting and then even more to close the deal.
The “customer-first” mindset isn’t new, but revenue teams are still trying to figure out what that actually means and where it fits in.
With sales - it’s our process. We can’t keep putting people through all these gates and stages because we’re going to need to close every dang deal we can get.
We have to start thinking about our process as an experience and is it a good one or does it make prospects frustrated?
#4 - Not right now is just as important as ready to buy.
Seriously. Sales organizations need to run a little bit more like a Marketing organization and realize not everyone is ready to buy but can still be a potential buyer. AND these two different types of buyers have to be treated differently.
Another thing COVID exposed was some companies really can’t buy right now, so teams started segmenting more and getting more creative and targeted. Well, guess what. It’s always been that some companies can’t buy at the moment you reach out. But as sellers, we’ve always focused on fitting people into the ready to buy bucket.
This last trend may not stick with every sales organization, but it absolutely should.
Sales organizations need to stop solely looking at who’s ready to buy now. Sales organization need to think about the more complex buyers that will be ready in the next three, six, 12, or 24 months, and identifying who will be ready at those times and already getting in front of them.
Write these trends down
These are the big trends that are going to stick around during and post-COVID. Most of which were already in the works, people weren’t paying enough attention. Now they have to.
Write these down, start making these changes, and keep scaling.
- Learn how to build rapport and relationship through digital channels the right way.
- Scale smarter with specialized experts who won’t be with your company for 4 years but are exactly what you need right now.
- Take a customer experience approach to the sales process.
- Don’t assume everyone is ready to buy or discount them when they’re not. Understand where customers are at and spend time building relationships with these three, fix, 12, even 24 months out prospects as well.