COVID-19 was a black swan event that presented new challenges to just about every company on Earth last year, and many continue to grapple with those challenges today. But it also presented interesting opportunities for the savviest of companies, and there’s still time to adapt, win market share and thrive in this new normal.
Start with sales
Selling is a critical component of almost any company’s success. The pandemic forced changes upon most organizations, particularly driving outside sales reps inside and increasing the amount of business done via digital channels as lockdowns, office closures and social distancing became the norm. This accelerated a trend that’s been gathering steam since the dawn of the internet era, and companies that have embraced this change and adjusted quickly often have seen dramatic results.
Of course, there is still value to outside face-to-face sales for select high-value customers that prefer or require such an approach. The bottom line is that your sales efforts must conform to the needs and preferences of your buyers and prospects, so it’s important to ensure you understand what works best for them. And given the seismic shifts since the beginning of 2020, if you’ve not already done so, you must revisit and remap the buyer’s journey for all personas who procure your product or services. Figure out where, when and how they want to interact with your company as they make their decisions.
Along the way, don’t forget to carefully segment your customers and prospects so you can truly understand the cost of acquisition and the potential lifetime value of the client, then build your sales coverage accordingly. These are critical fundamentals for any time, but it’s especially important during times of rapid change like today.
Digital sales are here to stay
Every business knows it needs a strong online presence. But the migration of selling to the virtual world keeps accelerating, so doing it great is vital. Simply put, more and more customers prefer buying remotely.
A study published in Harvard Business Review showed that up to 80 percent of customers would rather conduct research and make purchases digitally. As a result, you need to be able to meet them there with a dynamic and engaging sales approach tailored to their needs. Develop your virtual sales approach and inside sales capabilities so that you’re able to cater to your buyer personas throughout their sales journey.
Helping sales organizations adapt
It can feel overwhelming for both a sales organization and an individual salesperson to have to change for these new paradigms, so change management within the organization is essential. Provide sales staff with the training and tools they need to excel. Help them understand the upside. Numbers don’t lie, so use data to illustrate buyers’ preferences and show them how selling more in less time can benefit them. This is particularly compelling for commission-based salespeople.
Whatever “normal” or “new normal” looks like moving forward, the majority of sales will be conducted online and virtually, so build your sales team and sales approach accordingly. There will always be a place for a good handshake, but only for a select group of customers who both want it and warrant it. Choose wisely.
Chris Davy is managing director of commercial growth at The Riverside Co.