Redesigning Your Sales Organization in a Post-Covid World
As normal life attempts to reassert itself, the question of what sales teams will actually look like and how they’ll perform in the post-peak Covid era is a prime concern for sales.
Until March 2020, a salesperson who worked in an office most often had people acting in management and sales support roles who were readily available to them. As a pre-pandemic rule, salespeople relied heavily upon this sales support infrastructure to help build proposals, get approvals, or get directional advice. With the onset of Covid, salespeople essentially lost that access.
“With the disruption caused by the pandemic, our sellers had to grapple with additional fragmentation and complexity on top of what was already a pretty fragmented, complex, and manual sales process,” says Todd Handy, Chief Digital Officer of Beasley Media Group. “Ultimately, they realized the solution would require better infrastructure and centralized processes.”
With in-person interactions effectively out of bounds, sales teams were forced to redesign on the fly. Remote sales technologies that enabled virtual control over historically manual elements in the sales process became essential.
The New Sales Tech Stack
The lure of sales enablement platforms lies in their ability to remotely advance deals and digitize workflows as well as analyze prospects and customer success. During the peak of the pandemic, sales teams turned to solutions that helped automate small, repetitive tasks while also accelerating brand awareness, client engagement, and internal communication. These platforms used data-driven recommendations to ease pre-sales workflow and clear bottlenecks in the sales process. This was critical for sales organizations trying to cope with widely dispersed sales teams.
Sales tech stacks that allow for the continued intake and application of data have also taken on increased significance over the last 12-15 months. They provide data-building platforms and new approaches to customer recruitment and management.
They also help address the challenge of remote collaboration and communication by aggregating and managing marketing content. The use of previously unused data sources to generate plan recommendations and proposals let far-flung salesforces access marketing teams and their collateral more efficiently, which translated into greater deal flow and higher conversion rates.
Customer success capabilities were enhanced during the pandemic by platforms that enabled sales organizations to more accurately measure opportunities as they moved through the funnel.
“The new sales tech stack aligned marketing and sales teams around data-driven strategies,” adds Joe Weir, Senior Vice President at CMG. “These in turn helped salespeople target and prioritize quality accounts (and the key decision-makers therein) with personalized messaging and content while eschewing more general branding, administrative tasks, and lead generation tactics.”
Analytic and customer support platforms became the key drivers of sales enablement and customer success. The increased demand and need for data to drive sales is one reason why businesses now consider these enablement platforms more important than ever.
It turned out clients preferred their use as well.
Recent studies have shown that most B2B buyers (70-80%) prefer remote seller interactions. The efficacy of the remote sales model at reaching and servicing new customers has increased across the globe with a net change of 9% in the US and upwards of 20% or more in places like France, the UK, and Brazil. According to McKinsey, only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales.
The Shape of Things to Come
While the return to certain pre-pandemic sale practices is likely — and, indeed, necessary — remote sales and the solutions that drive them will endure. Figuring out how to optimize remote and traditional sales resources once normal office life returns will be the new challenge.
“Given that some of these new tools enable sales teams to be more efficient, they can utilize the new sales tech stack to support a low-value request and leverage a sales support person on high-worth opportunities where a human touch might be more advantageous, “ says Christian Hendricks, Managing Director at Extol Digital. “Historically, it took the same amount of time to support a $5k opportunity as it did a $500k opportunity.”
This is perhaps where we’ll see the greatest and most permanent change to the post-Covid salesforce. In the new world of remote sales, businesses may decide that only high-touch, high-worth accounts require a customized, white-glove approach common to traditional sales support models.
“In sales, there is an old adage: Time is the greatest killer of deals,” adds Hendricks. “Sales folks are sometimes forced to sacrifice quality in order to meet timelines. Sometimes sales are geared toward products that are just easier to get out the door. Whereas in this environment, with the right tech stack, you can still meet what are often very short and aggressive customer timelines with a quality recommendation and output.”
Taken as a whole, the reimagination of the sales organization in a post-Covid world represents an opportunity for companies and should provide competitive advantages for early adopters of remote models and the technologies that enable them. Virtual sales help organizations lower costs while also extending reach. The fact that customers are also leaning in and rewarding those sellers who embrace digital likely means these changes will become permanent fixtures.
Quique Nagle is the founder and CEO of Advisr.