It’s safe to say that we all wish we could collectively forget that 2020 happened when January 1st rolls around. It has been a year of upheaval and change for most of us, especially in sales.
While challenging, this year has also been a time of critical learning and growth. 2020 didn’t actually change the trajectory of sales. It only sped up the changes that have slowly been taking place in the last decade. For sales reps that were increasingly struggling with the changes in sales, this means that this year left them in the dust.
That is why modern sales have exploded in popularity this year. Salespeople that take on modern sales approaches have the flexibility to remain open to changes. These expert recommended sales techniques allow reps to find new ways to continue their growth, no matter the changes in the sales environment.
Read on to find out what you need to know about sales in 2020, and sales tips and techniques from the experts to transform your process to succeed this year and in the future.
The State of Sales in 2020: A Modern Landscape
To best understand how to navigate the new world of sales, it’s vital to understand the current trends and mindset of your prospects. Here’s a look at what the landscape of sales looks like in 2020:
An Explosion in Sales Technology
COVID changed the world as we knew it. Sales were no exception to the upheaval. Meeting in-person became impossible as the world sought to socially-distance to slow down the virus. However, most sales teams rose to the occasion and used technology to fill the gap. In one survey by LinkedIn, 81% of sales reps stated that they were conducting more virtual conferencing than face-to-face meetings.
Beyond virtual meetings, sales technology has enabled sales reps to be faster and more effective in reaching prospects. It makes sense, then, that representatives continue to embrace more technology to overcome the challenges in the market. In fact, there is a 54% increase in sales intelligence tool adoption from just 2018.
Whether finding creative ways to reach and communicate with prospects, eliminate repetitive tasks, or keep important information, this year has led to an unprecedented acceptance and usage of sales technology.
Data for More Effective Insights
Data transformed from a serious advantage to a necessity this year. In fact, top performers are more likely to use the data available to them to make sales and support customers. Data provides vital insights that give salespeople the edge they need to find prospects and reach them in the most effective ways possible.
While CRMs are the most common data that salespeople use, there is increasingly more data analytics on the market that can improve sales. They can allow sales reps to take a look at the competition, give more accurate quotes, find more leads, and even provide insights into word usage to more effective communication.
Data can provide valuable insights and practical applications to help improve sales.
A Shift in Sales Relationships
For a long time, customers were more or less dependent on sales reps to find out about their solution and product. Now, though, a quick search online gives most customers all the information that they need not only about your product or solution, but your competitor’s as well. This has dramatically shifted the role of the salespeople and how they can add value to their customers’ lives.
Rather than having a sales rep telling them what they need, most B2B customers want someone who listens instead and understands their needs. In one survey, buyers ranked “active listening” as the most valued attribute from a sales representative.
Because customers can also find out a reasonable amount of knowledge online, they need more from the sales rep they end up purchasing from. Buyers prefer to work with a trusted advisor rather than someone they feel is “selling” to them. The same survey as above found that only 40% of the decision-makers in businesses found sales representatives, in general, to be trustworthy. However, 88% stated that the sales rep they did purchase from was a trusted advisor.
Shifting from a salesperson to a trusted advisor is one of the top ways a sales rep can distinguish themselves from competitors. While it takes more listening, empathy, and in-depth knowledge than before, the extra efforts from sales reps will mean even more sales in 2020.
Change in the Customer Journey
The customer journey (or buyer’s journey) was relatively stable throughout the decades, divided into five simple steps:
Sales could expect to meet with customers during the awareness stage and try to distinguish themselves early in their purchasing decision. However, the journey has completely changed as a new customer has emerged.
In the past decade, Millennials have increasingly replaced Baby Boomers as the dominant client. Today, Millennials now account for up to 73% of B2B buyers. Unlike generations before, Millennials grew up understanding technology and learning how to research independently and knowing all angles before making a decision.
A background in technology and research has influenced the kind of buyers Millennials have become. That is why 68% of B2B customers research independently online first before ever reaching out to a sales rep. In fact, the same report by Forrester also discovered that 60% of buyers would rather not communicate with a sales rep as their primary source of information.
What these stats mean is that salespeople are not actually speaking to customers until they are much further along in their buyer’s journey. Sales have a more difficult time getting in front of the competition to capture a prospect’s interest because they may have dismissed them before even speaking with a sales rep.
It may seem as though this would create a shorter cycle for sales reps once they do reach a prospect, but the opposite is true. The additional research that buyers put into their purchases actually makes the customer’s journey longer than ever. Research shows that the average sales cycle is longer now, with an average of four months. There are also more decision-makers in every purchase from 5.4 to 6.8.
The sales process has been revolutionized with an entirely new journey and expectations for customers.
Content for Critical Outreach
Modern customers want all of the information they can get to make an informed decision. In fact, it also can provide a vital opportunity to sell early into the buyer’s journey with content posted online and encourage them to take the next steps.
In modern sales, useful content for your prospects is not optional. One survey found that 95% of buyers choose a vendor that gives them plenty of materials to navigate the buying process. In another survey, 82% of buyers viewed at least five pieces of content from the vendor they end up selecting.
In modern sales, content is the perfect way that salespeople can establish themselves as a trusted advisor. By sharing the right content at the right time, reps can provide information that makes prospects more confident in their buying decision and help set up the rep as an expert.
The future of sales includes vital content that helps prospects make more informed decisions and increases trust in the brand they decide to purchase from.
The Shifting Landscape of Sales
The past year has brought an unprecedented change in the world of sales. It has been difficult on many fronts. The complicated nature of the virus has created a snowball effect that made sales more difficult this year. As Dan Bailey, the President of Wikilawn, stated, “Business owners and managers should understand their sales teams aren't going to meet the same metrics as last year. They need to examine everything as a whole and determine whether or not the sales team is making a positive impact with this new baseline.”
Many of the significant changes in sales, including increasing technology and more flexible options for prospects, were part of a slow transition over the past decade that suddenly became necessary in light of the pandemic. Most of the changes brought on in 2020 will likely continue on in the future and requires modern sales reps to adjust to the transformation.
How to Succeed in Sales: 10 Sales Tips and Techniques
Most sales teams have come up with new and inventive ways to meet their quotas in the face of these fundamental shifts in the sales environment. It takes flexibility, and the ability to meet prospects and customers where they are that determines how successful a sales rep will be in modern sales.
Here are some tips from sales experts to succeed in 2020 and beyond:
Sales Tip #1: Shift Your Mindset
One of the most important changes to becoming a modern salesperson is shifting your outlook and understanding of your role to your prospects and customers. Modern sales require transforming from a sales mindset to one as a trusted advisor.
Prospects no longer need someone who only presents information to get a sale. Instead, you need to concentrate on how you can help your clients and their businesses improve the processes to succeed.
“Practicing empathy while prospecting is to exhibit genuine curiosity in your communication.”
This shift in mindset includes building trust and empathy with clients. The past year has been challenging for individuals and businesses alike. Salespeople that approach prospects with active listening, empathy, and solutions are far more likely to earn business both now and in the future, as opposed to the rep that offers a tone-deaf and out-of-touch sales discount.
For Mehdi Hussen, the digital marketing manager at SalesHandy, practicing empathy has been critical for his sales team during the past year: “The idea of practicing empathy while prospecting is to exhibit genuine curiosity in your communication, uncover the pains of the leads, and to create a deeper connection- before you see if your product can solve their pain.”
It’s time to leave the old sales mindset behind. Modern sales reps are more concerned with how they can help their customers and introducing solutions that will benefit them rather than pushing their product on someone who may or may not need it.
Sales Tip #2: Get an In-Depth Understanding of the New Customer Journey
While there are general guidelines that work across sales, the customer journey has become more nuanced as it can change depending on the industry and company. However, an understanding of your prospect’s journey is vital to make sure you are meeting them at critical points.
The customer journey allows you to reach out to your prospects at the right times and in the right mediums to encourage them on to the next stage. Consider asking your current customers about the process that led them to your product or services. It might be especially useful to ask recent customers that purchased this year to get the most up-to-date picture of how customers find you and come to choose you as a vendor.
Creating a map of the customer journey could be helpful to visualize important touch-points where you could improve your selling. It can be as casual as post-it notes on a wall to an Excel spreadsheet to infographics. However, the most important aspect is that you understand and can identify important elements of the journey. From there, you can come up with a more comprehensive strategy to communicate with prospects.
Sales Tip #3: Harness the Right Technology
While many businesses are slowly transitioning back to in-person meetings, the technology that benefited sales during the months of social distancing will continue to be vital in the future. Technology that provides better insights, flexibility, and increases productivity can give you an edge over the competition and make selling easier.
“The best sales tools should make data easy to access, automate repetitive tasks, and manage your team.”
Whether harnessing the data in your CRM, automating tedious tasks, mapping shorter routes, or giving the prospects the option of online meetings, technology is a vital part of being successful in sales. However, some sales reps run into the issue of using too many apps and solutions. It can make their sales process cumbersome, and they run the risk of investing in technology that does not give them an advantage.
Evaluate your technology from time to time to make sure that it is still serving your needs. Nathan Robinson, the founder of Life Insurance Star, knows what technology helps improve his company: “The best sales tools should make data easy to access, automate repetitive tasks, and manage your team.”
The right technology gives a vital edge in the market to allow you to maximize your selling without weighing you down. The time you take investing in learning and evaluating your tools will allow you to be as effective as possible.
Sales Tip #4: Share Content Each Step of the Journey
Does your company have a content library? If so, it’s time to use it. If not, it’s something worth bringing up to leadership. Content is one of the top ways you can be a helpful resource to your prospects and encourage them to become customers without being too pushy.
However, just any article or blog post is not enough to provide value to your prospects and customers. It needs to be relevant to their journey and needs. Target your content based on where they are in their customer journey. Are they aware of their problem yet? Are they weighing the pros and cons of multiple solutions? Are you sending it directly to a prospect or sharing it on social media? These kinds of considerations should help guide what type of material you share.
Research shows that decision-makers are more responsive towards case studies, industry articles, and white papers, so use that material whenever possible. Also, use videos whenever possible. Approximately 60% of executives stated that they prefer videos to text.
The right content at the right time can be a powerful tool to both provide value to your prospects and establish yourself as a trusted advisor.
Sales Tip #5: Become a Spokesperson for Your Brand
Sending content can be helpful for your client, but it’s also important to establish your personal expertise in the field. Since prospects want an expert over a salesperson, distinguishing yourself is vital to landing sales. One of the best ways to do this is to create unique content with your thoughts and advice on issues affecting your target audience.
This can look like publishing short articles on your LinkedIn profile, for example, that gives customers and prospects useful information and insights into the latest news. Email newsletters can also be a place where you can share your expertise with prospects.
Becoming a spokesperson does not mean that you need to craft long articles or white-papers on your own. Instead, use simple, short ways to establish your expertise and provide the kind of content that will both draw leads to you and inform your prospects.
Sales Tip #6: Harness the Power of Your Team
The days of climbing over other sales reps to get ahead are over. Modern sales reps know that team selling is the best way to create vital connections and make more sales together.
“Sharing tips and tricks across the team, enabling collaboration, and rewarding innovation keeps the team progressing as a whole.”
Use the expertise of your sales team to sharpen your sales skills and build more connections. Shadow a more experienced sales rep or ask someone with more seniority to help you get your foot in the door with a larger company. Share your tips and insights with others and help out whenever you can. Find a mentor that has accomplishments and achievements you admire.
John Moss, the CMO of English Blinds, has found that teamwork is key to the success of his sales team: “Sharing tips and tricks across the team, enabling collaboration, and rewarding innovation keeps the team progressing as a whole.” The whole team wins when the company does well, and your brand builds an impressive reputation. Encouraging team members and using team selling tactics can help you in the long run.
Sales Tip #7: Personalize Your Communication
Sales researchers came across a surprising find when remote selling became the norm this year: the fewer emails a company sent, the higher their open rate. They uncovered what modern sales experts have long known: personalization is the best way to reach your prospects.
In the age of modern technology, personalization is no longer an advantage. Buyers have come to expect that companies will personalize their communication based on their needs. Your communication should be personalized to be more effective. Even if it means adding their name and a short paragraph at the top of a general email, the steps that you make to personalize will land more sales than the “spray and pray” method of mass emails or phone calls.
“We only make contact with prospects that meet our specific target market and have communicated a need in the marketplace.”
“We only make contact with prospects (cold calls) that meet our specific target market and have communicated a need in the marketplace. We hone on in the exact need of the organization and the individual before reaching out. High volume calling is not our speed. We set the expectation of a daily call sheet of 18-24 prospects. This allows us to fully engage each and every time. Our success rate for turning a cold call to immediate new work averages 10-11%,” said Leanne King, the President and CEO of SeeKing HR.
Sales Tip #8: Remember Your Customers
As a sales rep, making new sales is critical. As soon as a prospect becomes a paying customer, it’s tempting to move on to find your next customers. How you treat your customers, though, will have a large impact on retention rates.
Take some time to check in with customers to make sure that everything is working well for them. During global events, such as COVID, touching bases with customers is vital to help continue connection and build trust.
Retention is vital for a company: increasing retention by just 5% can boost profits anywhere from 25-95%. When it comes to improving sales, don’t forget the customers you already have.
Sales Tip #9: Don’t Be Afraid of “No”
For many sales reps, the worst thing they think they can hear is “no.” To avoid it, they either refuse to ask for the sale or pretend that their prospect didn’t say it. However, it’s an essential part of sales. Accepting a prospect’s “no” allows you to carry on a conversation without getting defensive. It also means that you are taking risks necessary in modern sales.
“We are normalizing “no” in our culture. It has given the sales team the understanding that to earn more sales, they have to approach more prospects as well.”
“The more prospects sales reps approach the more chances of conversion. However, many sales reps do not try enough as they have a fear of “no.” We are normalizing “no” in our culture. It has given the sales team the understanding that to earn more sales, they have to approach more prospects as well,” says Werner Jorgensen, the sales and marketing manager at HeatXperts.
Sales Tip #10: Think Long-Term
When sales take a bit of a slump, it’s important for sales reps to consider the long haul. Create more long-term goals to keep yourself on track and maintain your motivation. It also encourages you to create deeper relationships with your prospects, which can help improve sales in the long run and create more loyal customers.
“Given the uncertainty right now, it's important to focus on long range leads, as those will be your pipeline for 2021.”
According to Gregg Schwartz, the Vice President of Sales at Strategic Sales & Marketing, “It's important now more than ever to think about a "long-term" pipeline when it comes to sales goals. Often, sales teams are focused on the current few months, but given the uncertainty right now, it's important to focus on long range leads, as those will be your pipeline for 2021.”
Sales Tip #11: Keep Motivated
In a high-pressure time, learning new tools and dealing with challenging situations can be draining. It’s during this time that keeping your motivation and energy is critical. Find ways to recharge, whether working out, taking a long bath, meditating, or any other activities that leave you feeling motivated.
Also, keep your goals in mind and why you are putting in the work. Jessica Magoch, a sales coach at JPM Partners, uses this technique to make sure sales reps keep their enthusiasm and fire: “I have them put up pictures of their goals and remind them that, as tedious as it is to follow up with your leads at least eight times, it is a simple act that will help you get to your big dreams. When they start to slip, I remind them of their big goals, and they’re more open to adopting productivity hacks that will get them there faster!”
How to Succeed in Sales in 2020
While making changes and shifts in sales can be challenging, it can also be rewarding. Modern sales reps who rise to the occasion will find success not only in 2020 but also in the years to come. Flexibility and the willingness to meet your customers where they are will help ensure sales no matter the sales environment. Give them a try today!