The rise of COVID-19 created a whole set of questions for businesses to answer. Now that cases are falling, a new kind of uncertainty is emerging. How will sales change after COVID?
In 2019, buying habits changed completely within the space of weeks. Some of the new trends that emerged then are likely to stick around. Others will soon begin fading away, allowing space for the old ways to return.
Just as with the original outbreak, the businesses that adapt quickly will be the ones that thrive. To help you prepare for this brave new world, let’s look into the crystal ball of sales.
Looking Forward: How Will Sales Change After Covid?
While every industry is a little different, there are some common themes starting to emerge in the world of sales. Here is what you should be looking out for:
1) Expect Online Sales to Stay Strong
Perhaps the greatest effect of COVID was a shift to online shopping. According to industry data, e-commerce sales increased by 32.4% year on year in 2020.
While we probably won’t see this level of growth being sustained, don’t expect online sales to fall back to pre-pandemic levels. Both consumers and business buyers have changed the way they search for products and make purchases.
2) Video and Live Chat Will Be the Most Lucrative Channels
When restrictions on movement were in place, it was easy to see why people might prefer making purchases online. Face-to-face meetings were largely ruled out, and visiting stores wasn’t an option.
But something else happened during this pandemic: we fundamentally changed our preferences around sales contact.
In a survey of B2B decision-makers, McKinsey & Co found that between 70% and 80% now prefer remote human interactions or self-service options. Even as the threat of COVID winds down, these preferences are likely to endure.
What does this mean for sales teams? It is time to start building a system that allows potential clients to book video meetings with a few clicks. You should also think about upgrading your live chat.
3) In-Store Retail Will Bounce Back, but With a Difference
Footfall in U.S. malls plummeted during the depths of the COVID crisis. Not everyone is confident that bricks-and-mortar retail will make a return. But some experts believe that stores can bounce back — with some vital changes.
The key to renewed success will be providing an experience. After being restricted for so long, people are looking forward to enjoying some freedom.
Stores should consider using technology such as body scanning for sizing, to offer something that shoppers cannot get online. Malls will need to invest in attractions and embrace more food and drink outlets, so that a shopping trip becomes a day out.
4) The End of Constant Discounting
Before our world was turned upside down, many businesses relied on discounting as their primary sales tactic.
During the worst phase of the COVID crisis, this model seemed to disappear. With financial pressures bearing down, retailers chose to retain less stock, and sell more of it at full price through personalized promotions.
Sure, discounting will still be around every holiday season. But there is likely to be a continued shift towards more targeted campaigns, rather than blanket price drops.
5) Client Relationships Will Be More Important Than Ever
Without the ability to offer huge discounts, businesses have had to start finding other ways to attract customers. Perhaps just as importantly, they have also been concentrating on encouraging existing clients to return.
Data from Forbes shows that renewal accounts provided 78% of sales during the main COVID period. That is 15% higher than the pre-pandemic figure.
Of course, this shift is not permanent. People are likely to start moving more freely between providers as confidence increases.
That said, sales teams would be well advised to keep cultivating relationships with existing clients. Even without the COVID hangover, consumers and buyers are increasingly looking for brands they can trust. Once they find a business they believe in, they are likely to become loyal.
6) Personalized Outreach Will Become Essential
Of course, relatively few businesses can get by on repeat custom alone. That means you need to win over new clients, and build a relationship from scratch.
If you want someone to trust your brand, spamming them with generic offers is not a smart idea. In a post-COVID world, personalized outreach will be more important than ever — particularly in B2B sales.
To deliver a targeted offer, you need information. That means creating a strong lead generation strategy, backed up with hands-on research. For instance, Datanyze can help you find key information about any LinkedIn user with a couple of clicks.
7) Empathy Is Now a Key Skill
Listening has always been important in sales. But with many consumers and businesses under financial pressure after the pandemic, it is now more vital than ever to empathize with leads.
It sounds more like self-help wisdom than sales training — but this point should not be taken lightly.
In challenging times, buyers don’t have the money to gamble on something that doesn’t suit their needs. They are also looking for guidance. By empathizing and truly understanding the plight of each lead, sales reps are able to take the position of trusted advisors.
8) Virtual Shopping Is Rising
As we saw earlier, online sales have seen massive growth under COVID restrictions. In the absence of the real-life shopping experience, many top brands turned to technology to provide the same kind of experience through virtual means.
From live-streamed events to remote appointments and virtual fitting rooms — there are many ways to entice more online interest. Now consumers and buyers have had a taste of virtual shopping, they are likely to want more.
Sales teams would be well advised to consider how they might use technology to promote products and services, and make online shopping more immersive.
9) Sales Management Providing More Support
As proven by the points above, the sales landscape has been altered massively by the emergence of COVID. As the virus recedes, the picture is changing again.
In these challenging times, the best managers will take a more supportive role. There are currently some great opportunities for sales teams that adapt quickly — but that requires training and guidance.
Managers working remotely need to communicate clearly and often. They also need to make sure that their reps become confident with new tools…remember video and live chat?
What Won’t Change in Sales After COVID?
While COVID has transformed many aspects of the selling process, not everything has changed. Some practices that emerged before the pandemic seem destined to stick around, or even grow in significance:
- Big data – Already a major part of top-level selling before COVID, big data now takes on an even greater significance when personalization is the direction of travel.
- Cloud-based tools – The general move towards cloud-based CRM platforms and marketing automation tools just accelerated during the pandemic. These solutions are here to stay.
- Social selling – Even as COVID retreats, social selling is still growing. Many tools allow you to track conversations and run sentiment analysis to qualify potential leads.
- ABS (account-based sales) – This one has been around for years. But if anything, COVID made ABS more effective than ever.
How to Reconfigure Your Sales Strategy After COVID
During a pandemic, it’s almost impossible to make even medium-term plans. Every business has to be flexible enough to react to new developments and restrictions.
After COVID, however, you may want to go back to longer-term decision making. That means creating a new sales strategy, fit for a post-pandemic world. Here are some key ideas that are worth thinking about:
Make your company revolve around sales
If possible, try to reconfigure your entire operation around sales. Competition will be fierce, so you need to give yourself the best opportunity to land new clients.
Think about new schedules
With so many businesses now allowing people to work from home, you need to think about how you will reach leads. For example, using mobile numbers will probably work better than using landlines for cold calls.
Review your offers
Products, prices, and pitches that caught the attention during a pandemic might not be so effective afterwards. Make sure to review your approach, and adjust your offers as necessary.
Build a better sales experience
To be fit for purpose, any future sales strategy should focus on the overall sales experience. That means dazzling consumers with new ways to interact, and making it easier for B2B clients to get advice or find a suitable solution.
Whichever way you decide to adapt your sales strategy after COVID, make sure to equip your reps with the right tools. Datanyze can help you research leads and find contact details, meaning you will spend less time putting together a better pitch.