The COVID-19pandemic has completely altered how we work and live our lives, both professionally and personally. A lot has changed from the day the world witnessed the first case of the COVID-19 to today. For instance, remote working, online shopping, eLearning, etc. have all become a crucial part of our lives.
The industry that has perhaps witnessed one of the most dramatic changes has been the sales industry. During the pandemic, when people were home-bound, virtual selling essentially became the only form of selling. While it was still prevalent before the onset of the pandemic, digital selling has gained whole new importance now.
As the COVID-19 winds down globally and the vaccines are rolled out at record speed, people are all set to move to a hybrid form of workplace. And as per the LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021, this shift of many industries from the work-from-home style of working to the hybrid work culture is here to stay. This means that the sales industry has to adapt to the changes as soon as possible to keep up with the fast-evolving world.
In this article, we are going to explore how the sales industry has changed throughout this global pandemic and the change management that sales leaders and sales reps would have to take care of to adapt to the new norm.
The Evolution of Sales Throughout The COVID-19 Pandemic
The global sales industry was already adopting the digital landscape and going through a digital transformation gradually. The pandemic just quickened the process by forcing the home-bound sales professionals to turn to technology and adopt ways to score leads and make sales. 84% of sales reps believe that digital transformation has accelerated since 2019.
While it was an adjustment initially, the salespeople and organizations showed immense resilience and determination to adapt to the digital world and achieve their goals. As per a survey conducted by McKinsey, since the onset of the pandemic, almost 90% of sales have moved to the remote model of selling that is heavily dependent on video conferencing, web-based applications, and phones. The traditional in-person sales calls were reduced by more than 50%, and almost 70-80% of B2B buyers now prefer remote interactions and online services over in-person meetings.
Most sales professionals and customers believe that this new way of selling is equally or even more effective than the traditional models that we are used to. However, according to the latest PwC survey, while 83% of company leaders accept that remote work has been successful for their companies, only 13% of them are ready to let go of the office environment.
It is evident that while businesses want to adopt remote work, they still need the physical workplaces to collaborate with their teams and build relationships. This is the main reason why a hybrid work environment is going to be the future of the global corporate world.
What does the Hybrid Way of Selling have in Store For the Sales Industry?
As per Microsoft’s report, more than 70% of employees want remote work to continue in some form, and 65% of them want more in-person time with their colleagues. This is why organizations today are keen to adopt the “hybrid” work model to leverage the best of both worlds and provide maximum satisfaction to their employees.
The hybrid environment would enable the employees to work in the physical workspace and collaborate with their peers as well as work from their homes occasionally. This setting ensures that the sales reps are comfortable and assures increased work quality, customer satisfaction, and peer-to-peer interaction.
This implies that both sales leaders and employees have to undertake effective change management to be ready to embrace everything that the hybrid work culture brings. Let's look at the different ways that the sales leaders have to adapt to this hybrid way of working to ensure a smoother transition and continued success.
The Different Ways that the Sales Leaders Have to Adapt to the hybrid work environment
The first thing that sales leaders would need to do is provide extensive training to their sales reps to fully handle virtual and in-person selling. In the post-COVID hybrid work scenario, just providing your salespeople with digital tools isn't going to cut it.
To adapt to a hybrid environment, sales leaders would need to oversee the proper implementation of enablement programs, onboarding sessions, and sales coaching to ensure their employees are trained to handle different and complex selling situations they might not be fully familiarized with in this new hybrid era.
As a leader, your primary role is to support your team whether there is a pandemic or not. Amidst this time of uncertainty, employees are going through immense stress, add to it the pressure of the changing work environment, and it’s natural for anyone to get overwhelmed. Therefore, it's important not to be rigid at this time. The future, right now, is unpredictable, and thus, leaders and top management need to be flexible and empathetic to their workforce and keep all the channels of communication open.
Building a fair and equitable workplace is also a challenge in the hybrid environment. Sales leaders need to implement certain inclusive protocols and rules that ensure that everyone is equally included in all tasks.
The Different Ways that Sales Reps Have to Adapt to the Hybrid Era
Change management is not the sole responsibility of the top management. Sales reps would have to make efforts to adapt to the new workplace successfully. While a hybrid work model would provide a better work-life balance to employees, they’ll also need to take certain measures to overcome the challenges it brings.
According to a Salesforce report, almost 64% of sales reps expect their jobs to change forever. They would have to reskill, learn new technology, tactics, and personalize the journey for every buyer. As virtual buying often causes delays on the buyer’s part, sales reps would also have to adopt more patience and enhance their selling pitch.
It is also important that sales reps learn the art of effectively managing their time at the office and home to make the most of the hybrid workplace.
The hybrid way of selling is indeed going to be the way forward in the post-pandemic workplace. And if implemented in the right way, it can open doors to many incredible possibilities for both the sales leaders and employees. A collective effort and effective change management with the help of a proper hybrid plan would ensure that everyone can get the most out of this “new normal!”