With the shift to remote selling, the future of sales has arrived ahead of schedule. Activities that we once assumed had to take place in person are suddenly digital by default: video meetings, virtual conferences, product demos. According to software review platform TrustRadius, interest in web conferencing is up 445 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
But the biggest change in B2B decision-makers’ dealings with sales isn’t that their conversations happen remotely, but the agenda of those conversations. They’re about to discover how it feels when sales gets serious about putting the buyer first.
Why sales needs a new approach to building relationships
Adapting to remote selling has created challenges for many sales organisations. Prior to the pandemic, 55 per cent of sellers surveyed by LinkedIn said they relied on face-to-face interactions to build relationships. That’s one of the reasons 60 per cent expect to close fewer deals this year, 55 per cent expect their pipeline to decrease and 44 per cent anticipate a decrease in buyer responsiveness.
Why are salespeople so concerned about their chances of engaging prospects remotely? It’s partly because buyers are increasingly guarding their time, but it’s also a verdict on how much value cold sales outreach is delivering. There’s a reason why 90 per cent of C-suite executives say they don’t respond to impersonal sales approaches.
Why salespeople don’t want more of the same
When business pipelines come under pressure the traditional response of sales has been to scale up outreach and prioritise quantity of contacts over quality. When sales tech and automation first arrived, this is how sales organisations used them. It wasn’t a great experience for buyers, but it wasn’t for salespeople either. According to recent research in partnership with Miller Heiman Group, 60 per cent of B2B buyers described the sellers they deal with as “interchangeable”. There’s little satisfaction in being seen that way. However, over the last few months, far more are investing time in the tools they need to change this.
Taking a lead from top performers
Rather than using technology to scale outreach and hit prospects cold, sellers now invest in prospects where they’ve identified a genuine opportunity to add value. And it works. Top sellers are far more likely to list the ROI they can secure for a customer as the most important factor in closing deals. They’re about delivering ongoing value, not just hitting that month’s quota.
Since the arrival of the pandemic, others have raced to catch up, with adoption of sales technology tools skyrocketing across Europe. LinkedIn Learning data shows that the amount of time spent researching LinkedIn Sales Navigator among EMEA based sales professionals grew by 48 per cent on average month-on-month between February and April. The average number of accounts saved on Sales Navigator, a key indicator of sellers researching their buyers’ needs, is up 145 per cent year-on-year.
Investing in a buyer-first approach pays off. Nine out of 10 UK buyers say they’re more likely to respond to sellers who understand their needs and share helpful, relevant content. LinkedIn data shows that, between March and May this year, the average Sales Navigator user was five times more successful at establishing connections with decision-makers than their peers.
A new view of sales performance means a new buyer experience
Customer satisfaction and customer retention are now among the most commonly used metrics for measuring a salesperson’s performance. The way to keep customers loyal and happy is to act as their true partner, crafting solutions that help them achieve their goals, and surfacing new opportunities that show them what’s possible.
Sellers’ incentives are now about more than simply closing their next deal, and are focusing instead on finding opportunities where buyers can gain the most value. In time, sellers earn trust and open the door to return business. One survey found that 88 per cent of buyers prefer working with sales professionals they regard as trusted advisors.
Significantly, these sellers don’t disappear after a deal closes. Putting buyers first isn’t just a prospecting tactic. It represents a genuine shift in how organisations think about selling that’s focused on creating long-term partnerships. And it’s arriving not a moment too soon.