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The old world of sales is not coming back – here’s what to do next

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The pre-pandemic ways of selling and closing deals are not coming back any time soon.

We’ve seen the end of most in-person events for the foreseeable future. We may not see business travel become a common practice again until the second half of 2021, or even later.

So, how do you keep hitting your numbers, from pipeline to revenue targets, without meeting customers and prospects in-person?

Adopt the right tools for digitized selling

In short, you need new technology, metrics and processes designed for digital-first to succeed during this rapid transition to remote selling. By rapid, I mean the most transformative and condensed digitalization of selling in history.

More changed throughout 2020 than you would normally expect to take place over several years, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A new digital transformation has begun, because you still need to provide your customers with personalized experiences to sell successfully – they just won’t be in-person.

If 2020 represented ‘Retooling 1.0’ when so many companies moved to operating fully online, with all of their staff working from home and collaborating remotely, then the new year must be used for ‘Retooling 2.0’. This means evaluating your systems, processes and technology in order to improve your ability to connect with buyers and empower sellers, online – an approach known as ‘virtual sales enablement’. Pursuing this approach is paramount, because the data and analytics you can get through virtual enablement is catalytic.

Let’s be honest though –– Retooling 1.0 was not all fun and games. Adapting to change at speed was never going to be easy. For many leaders, having to adopt new technology into daily processes and workstreams is not an exciting proposition given it can be expensive and time consuming – especially when you were not planning to devote energy and resources to it in the first place.

Still, the reality is that if your company does not have the technology to operate, market, and sell effectively in exclusively digital channels in 2021, you are headed for trouble.

Deliver buyer-centric, personalized digital experiences

Your focus when adopting new technology should be on creating personalized prospect and customer experiences. This means engaging the buyer through a mix of the channels they use most, such as email or LinkedIn, as well as sharing content relevant to their goals, challenges, and where they are in the buyer journey.

Using an enablement platform helps you get this personalized approach right by arming sales teams with content alongside guidance on how to use that content that maximizes its potential in every unique selling scenario. Sellers also have access to analytics that illuminate how prospects are engaging with content, enabling them to discover what’s working, and what’s not. Moreover, revenue leaders can leverage advanced reporting capabilities to determine if teams are effectively turning C-suite strategies into action. This level of insight is critical to ensuring your business can identify and nimbly adapt to changing buyer needs.

Use digitized selling to improve seller performance

The shift to digitized selling has presented an untapped opportunity. With important customer conversations now happening digitally, there exists a plethora of new data that was previously unavailable.

For example, ‘conversational intelligence’ technology monitors a sale rep’s phone calls and emails, using voice and text analytics to determine which aspects they can improve upon. It works by identifying key factors that impact the quality of a sales conversation, such as specific words, tones, talking patterns, and the length of a conversation. This data is used to deliver real-time AI-driven coaching, offering reps and sales managers valuable insights they can apply to move the prospect along the buyer journey and leverage in future deals.

Optimize your team structure

Another way you can improve seller performance is by optimizing your organizational structure and looking into new roles, in order to focus on customer success. The 2020 State of Sales Enablement Report found that sales enablement teams who report to a revenue leader, rather than a marketing leader, help drive 10 percent more deals. Moving up the chain-of-command, the 2020 LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Report, noted that having a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is still a relatively new idea. However, the demand for this role is increasingly urgent in our new sales landscape because companies must deeply understand “the roles both sales and marketing play in making a company money”.

However, the role of the revenue leader is about more than just driving net new sales – CROs are also responsible for maintaining existing customer relationships, which includes retention, upselling and cross-selling. This helps correct misalignment between customer-facing teams and clarifies what the role and impact of the enablement function should be, thereby improving efficiency and, ultimately, driving business results.

Enable all customer-facing teams to deliver ultimate satisfaction

Now is the time look beyond your traditional team structures and broaden the definition of sales to also include pre- and post-sales teams, such as customer success managers and services, with the goal of creating an exceptional, cohesive customer experience. This will improve retention, which creates more customer advocacy, which results in a higher win rate.

It’s easy to see why. According to Harvard Business Review, 84 percent of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations influence more than 90 percent of all B2B buying decisions. It is a virtuous circle, arising from a strategic focus on customer satisfaction through pre-sale and post-sale –– all of which is accelerated by using the best digital sales enablement tools on the market.

If you’re just focused on closing, you're not preparing properly for the future. Customer marketing specialists and customer success managers will become mainstream roles at the best B2B companies by the end of 2021. If you are not already hiring for these positions, it’s time to start thinking about it.

In summary, remote selling is here to stay. Hitting revenue targets now depends on investing in technology, as well as your teams, and your people. If you can execute these strategies in the face of change, the winds of 2021 will be in your favor.

Jon Perera, Chief Marketing Officer, Highspot

Jon Perera, Chief Marketing Officer, Highspot.