Practical Ideas for Sales Success in 2021

Every sales organization is adapting to six mega-trends as they prepare their sales, marketing, and service teams in 2021.  Sales leaders are under increased pressure to sell remotely, demonstrate more value, and become faster, more data-driven, measurable, and digital. 71% of sales leaders say these forces will changes their go to market approach significantly or dramatically. These are the foundations of what we call the 21st Century Commercial Model.

The new selling year represents the formal transition from COVID contingency planning to a new commercial model. Sales teams will take the learnings, experiments, and experiences of the last 9 months into some semblance of a formal sales plan. And all of this needs to be communicated in a sales kick off to ensure your revenue teams start the year strong.

Sales kick off meetings will be very different next year in form, delivery, content, and significance. The focus of events will shift from planning event space, food, entertainment, travel, and hotel arrangements to hosting and video conferencing platforms to connect your remote teams. But the biggest change will be the messages, skills, and priorities you communicate to your revenue teams.

An effective 2021 sales kick off program should address these eight success factors to set your sales team up for success in the coming year.

1.Virtual selling conversation skills and EQ – Nine months into the pandemic most customers are experiencing zoom fatigue, attention spans, and a growing intolerance for incomplete answers or delays. The cumulative effect of back to back zoom meetings combined with the lack of physical interaction has taken its toll on participation in virtual events and engagement in virtual sales calls. Sales leaders should take the pulse of their sales teams and examine the “hot spots” in their customer journey map where face-to-face selling must be replaced by a virtual interaction and new skills reading and adapting to non-verbal communication and cues are critical. This exercise will likely reveal gaps in some areas fundamental to effective virtual selling – such as pre-call planning, networking online, and managing time and activities without the drumbeat of face to face calling. This will help them update or create a new suite of plays that bridge the disconnect between “old school” reps comfortable with face to face selling and “new school” buyers who rely on virtual communications channels.

blue ridge partners

2. Content that drives hand raising, engagement and decision-making – The level of research, online consideration, and pre-call planning done by buyers has increased in the past several years. By the time they talk to a human sales rep they want relevant, useful, and complete answers to their questions.  In response, marketers are under pressure to provide content that supports conversations deeper in the sales funnel. And sales managers regard the growing desire of buyers for personalized and relevant content as a top opportunity to improve sales effectiveness according to our Remote Selling survey. Consequently, budgets for digital and personalized content to support sales are the fastest growing budget line item as sales organizations try to fill this void and compete effectively in a virtual setting. 80% of firms are increasing the use of digital content and media to fuel remote selling and the personalized, interactive, and engaging content needed for effective virtual sales conversations according to research by the Wharton School.

3. Creating a culture of visibility and transparency – The dramatic displacement of buyers and sellers to a work at home, stay in place setting has accelerated digital transformation efforts at every organization. Business leaders must embrace transparency and the use of analytics to guide selling if they are going to credibly lead this transformation. Our research shows that visibility is a prized asset in a remote selling model. Sales executives rank visibility of seller activity, pipeline, account health and customer engagement as the top four ways to improve remote sales productivity and support sellers. Your sales kick off should demonstrate management commitment to a culture of visibility in delivery and substance.  The great news is that virtual selling can provide the data and, with the right tools, the transparency, and analytics for stronger frontline management support of the sales team. Your 2021 sales program should outline the roadmap to achieve data transparency and advanced analytical insight, such as dashboards and conversational intelligence tools, that harness the vast volumes of customer engagement data to provide real time coaching to reps.  The ability to coach and measure reps based on activity and customer engagement should be an important part of your program.

4. New incentives for virtual sales teams – Selling has become a team sport. Digital selling has only accelerated the shift from an orderly linear sales process to a non-linear team selling model.  Sales incentives need to keep up with and support these changes.  The notion of a “Presidents club” for digital sales success is becoming an oxymoron. Increasingly sales has become a team sport where the lions share of client engagement is happing in service and sales channels, and teams of experts and specialist are required to address the needs of new school buyers.  Standard lead and commission structures are sub optimal in an orchestrated, multi-channel team sale.  Sales organizations need to create data-driven incentives that quantify account health and seller performance in ways that create a common scorecard for growth that allows sales, marketing, and service to work as a team to improve customer lifetime value. Specifically, that means defining as an organization what a 10 out of 10 looks like in terms of customer advocacy, quality of interaction, content sharing, and other relationship health metrics, using advanced analytics to build composite metrics that quantify and track customer engagement quality on a customer and account level.

5. Virtual selling playbooks – the shift to virtual selling has rendered a high percentage of your selling practices, sales plays, and content obsolete.  Pitchbooks suited for live client presentations need to be adapted to a virtual setting to improve engagement, collaboration, interaction while making up for the absence of non-visual cues or physical access to the product field sales reps traditionally rely upon. Sales operations teams will need to update or create new sales playbooks to be specific about what is expected of everyone in their new virtual sales roles – including activity expectations, scripts, and time allocation. These new plays will ensure traditional field sellers are comfortable with video skills and the presentations, videos, demos, and content they will need to be effective in a remote environment.

6. Managing the increased speed and cadence of remote sales – Nine months of remote selling has squeezed all of the latency[MS2]  out of the sales process, subjecting buyers and sellers to a non-stop cadence of back to back sales calls and demands for rapid response and follow up. In this new environment, sellers need to prepare and plan for each customer call as an incremental sales process step. Rather than using their presence on-site to move through the sales journey or to engage expanded buying team members, sellers need to be proficient in taking customers through a consistent, structured sales process.  Your 2021 sales program should provide reps with tools and key processes that automate the tasks of coordinating larger customer facing teams from cross the organization, following up, and logging calls to help sales and service reps keep up with the increased cadence of selling without burning out or dropping the ball.  

7. Orchestrating meetings to align experts on demand – Working remotely provides sales leaders the freedom to release traditional constraints of location and travel to focus the right people on the right accounts, prospects, and opportunities regardless of geography, territory, or function. You 2021 sales plan needs to replace obsolete activity models based on face-to-face engagement and redesign roles and incentives by releasing geography, territory, and functional constraints to improve response and getting the right experts on the call to address the needs of the customer. Better orchestration means sellers must anticipate having product specialists or solutions engineers available for their calls to invite them into the discussion “on demand,” rather than “getting back” to a customer on questions or needs raised during a face-to-face meeting.  Additionally, sellers must provide up-to-date details on the status of the customer relationship – tracking e-mails, conversations, interactions, and outcomes within a CRM.

8. Enabling “just in time” situational sales readiness – New school buyers are demanding fast and complete answers and personalized content to increasingly demanding digital clients. Our research reveals the ability to deliver personalized and relevant content and respond faster to customer questions are the two top ways remote sales teams can improve the customer experience.  Your 2021 sales plan should include some form of enablement tool or AI capabilities that speed content and sales plays to front line sales and service reps if they are going to remain competitive in a post COVID marketplace. This includes using advanced analytics to connect the dots between growing  sources of sales data  -including conversational intelligence, content consumption and exchange data –  and the sales and service reps who need that data to make faster decisions and quickly answer client questions.

You can learn more about these eight fundamentals from our Remote Selling Report. Reach out to me directly to get a complimentary copy at [email protected]


You May Also Like