For many sales leaders facing a future of pandemic-driven uncertainty, a key question has become how many changes will last beyond the resolution of the current crisis.
- Will everyone still work from home?
- Is office space a thing of the past?
- Will in-person meetings with prospects and customers ever happen again?
Some 79% of business leaders say they see COVID-19 driven changes to B2B likely to remain more than 12 months after the pandemic expires, according to a McKinsey & Company study.
But which changes, exactly, have staying power? How will sales leaders successfully manage a remote sales team for the long haul?
Understanding the answers may drive B2B sales trends and sales processes for years, if not the rest of the decade.
Here's what five experts in the space have to say about the future of B2B sales.
Frequent flyers remain grounded
Despite virtual selling, deals continue to close. This proves that salespeople don’t have to be in the room to make business happen anymore. Organizing a virtual sales demo happens a lot faster when numerous stakeholder travel schedules don’t have to be coordinated. Faster, more targeted meetings, virtually, save time and money.
“A face-to-face meeting with overseas partners that would have swallowed at least three days' worth of time, airfares, and hotel bills, takes up barely an afternoon when held online,” notes the Tech Times.
“You can speak with so many people throughout a single work day,” Nir Goldstein, the VP of Sales for Monday.com, tells Clari in an episode of The Forecast. “You can start your day in the morning speaking with a prospect in Australia, and at noon speaking with prospects in the U.K., France, and Europe, and then in the evening speak with another prospect in the U.S. It’s so efficient, it’s so scalable to run sales like that. “
Talent becomes untethered
“Even as the pandemic reduces the flow of people, it will enable a different concept of labor mobility,” writes EY, in a report about the future of hiring. “If people can’t relocate for work, work will relocate for people.”
Miko Levy, the chief revenue officer of the B2B 3D custom printing firm Shapeways, used to be an evangelist for in-person work. That’s changed.
“I still think there’s a value to a team sitting together in the same room, turning around to ask a question, hearing how they pitch, improving themselves along the way,” Levy says. ”But now I am open to hiring elsewhere. If we are forced to learn from each other on video, then what’s the difference for hiring someone in New York vs. Wisconsin vs. Europe?” His hiring pool for the niche technology jumps from a “few dozen” in New York to “thousands” internationally, he says.
As Clari’s Chief People Officer Laura MacKinnon says, as companies move toward this new future, “it's a great time to take a look at your strategic plan and identify whether or not there are some, what we call 10X roles, that can really move the needle and source deeply for them now.”
“We think it's a great time to not only hire, but also build strategic relationships with future hires,” she says.
Protecting the base remains critical
It’s easier to retain a client than to sign up a new one—especially in a virtual environment. Clari’s data shows that during the first quarter of the pandemic shutdown, emails along the sales funnel increased 14%, but responses decreased by 8%—meaning it’s harder to even get through the door with new deals.
“When you’re thinking about your business today, the most important thing that matters is your current customers,” says Clari’s CEO, Andy Byrne.
Recognizing that, successful SaaS businesses have focused on customer success, high-touch processes intended to support clients exactly how the clients need, so the software feels indispensable to their business function.
It’s a level of customer experience that experts predict will remain, as B2B leaders grow accustomed to this personalized support and the thoughtfulness, or empathy, that accompanies developing a true customer-as-partner relationship.
“Buyers now expect a fundamentally different relationship with your company,” notes Forrester.
Expanded internal buying groups touch all deals
In an economic downturn executives closely track every dollar spent, especially around the tech stack, to ensure all funds are well-spent. This has translated into B2B firms requesting more reviews of every tool they do invest in, and ignoring this multi-threaded approach risks violating what have become virtual selling best practices.
“The buying process is becoming more complex with up to 10, sometimes 15, stakeholders involved in the decision making,” says Hila Segal, Clari’s Vice President of Product Marketing. “Clari data shows that deals over $100,000 require an average of 14 stakeholders and 19 meetings. It means that sellers must be multi-threaded, building relationships and engaging with all stakeholders to effectively drive the deal forward.”
Investment in a sales stack that supports remote work grows
As remote remains the norm, the software that keeps everyone connected grows only more valuable. Connected doesn’t just refer to video chats, but the platforms that allow for true collaborations and insight, like elevated virtual QBRs. For instance:
- Clari automatically gathers sales activity data from a variety of signals, such as email, calendars, sales enablement tools and marketing automation platforms so reps and managers get a true sense of whether prospects and customers are engaged. offers tools like Activity Intelligence that provide visibility into sales and marketing engagement across the revenue funnel.
- Managers can easily access have insights into every deal, what conversations have happened around that deal, and how sales reps are managing relationships with in-depth pipeline inspections four-point deal inspections.
- Top-level executives have a bird’s eye view of the company’s entire book of business and how it’s being handled with views like real-time sales dashboards Clari’s Team Activity, even if they can’t physically walk the sales floor knock on doors and check on reps.
How do you think B2B sales has changed?
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