For those in the sales profession, 2020 has been a year of firsts – most of which we’d care not to repeat in a hundred lifetimes.
But, in seeking the silver lining to these densely cloudy times, few would have predicted the rise of virtual work– and, in particular, how the physically distant have been laced together by the pulsating neurons of technology. According to a recent study, McKinsey found that 70 to 80 percent of business-to-business (B2B) decision-makers now prefer remote sales – a stat that thoroughly debunks the prevailing belief that a return to face-to-face selling would be the only way for companies to make headway on a going-forward basis. In fact, the same study found that 90 percent of business’ adjustments to accommodate remote selling are here to stay.
In an article accompanying the McKinsey research, it was cited that the twin trends of remote meeting tools, along with the perfection of digital self-service, were the driving forces behind these permanent changes. Though we can expect that the recent vaccine approvals will allow for in-person interaction during the second half of 2021, here are six trends that we and McKinsey expect to persist beyond the declared end of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Belief in the efficacy of digital continues to grow worldwide. McKinsey found that three out of four respondents felt digital sales methods had become more effective than traditional sales methods. This is likely a reflection of a growing comfort level that we, as consumers, have with digital engagement, and how it is now spilling over into B2B. Think, for example, about how the medical industry is changing – the rise of telehealth options has truly begun to transform that industry, and it is likely that transformation will have a domino effect on vendors and suppliers.
- Buyers are more willing than ever to make big purchases via remote or digital. The McKinsey survey found that 15 percent of respondents would spend $1 million or more on B2B purchases without a face-to-face meeting. This is truly a “cause-and-effect” phenomenon driven by the clients’ willingness to transact in this manner.
- Remote engagement has been successful with clients AND prospects. Stunningly, three-quarters of sales pros believe remote selling is reasonably effective in attracting prospective customers. This is particularly notable when considering how difficult it can be to fish for new clients without visiting the pond where they’re biting. But clearly, as buyers become more cost-conscious, they are also tending to be more efficient when shopping for products and services.
- More than half of companies have shifted their go-to-market sales model from traditional to digital since COVID-19. As 2021 sales budgets are planned and locked in with virtual and digital programs taking a disproportionate share of the pie, it simply will be harder to find resources to bring back traditional methods. One exception could be trade shows – though they likely won’t come roaring back until the pandemic has been extinguished, we can assume there will be a lot of pent-up demand to experience the entertainment value around trade show activities.
- Videoconference is far more preferred than calling for sales activities. This is true across the spectrum: For internal meetings (79 percent), existing customers (76 percent), prospects (76 percent), and vendors (77 percent). People have quickly realized how much more efficient virtual sales can be – the ability to wrap up an interaction in 30 minutes on zoom is preferable to a two-hour face-to-face conversation (and, clearly, in this early-vaccine stage, safer).
- Most “road warriors’” wings will remain clipped. A Wall Street Journal article found that, regardless of the vaccine and expected recovery from COVID-19, anywhere from 19 to 36 percent of corporate travel could be gone permanently. This, says the WSJ, has implications that stretch beyond business development activities, and extends to things like the way sales organizations onboard and train new team members. It’s easy to imagine that, even with a vaccine, we will exist in a world with a greatly reduced number of in-personal annual internal gatherings.
How is your company embracing virtual selling techniques and tools? Use our Virtual Readiness Checklist and see how you measure up!