2020 presented new challenges, experiences, and expectations for B2B sales teams across all industries. As a critical component of the revenue-driving function, sales must be able to connect with prospects and close deals if the business stands any chance of thriving in today’s competitive landscape. But navigating unprecedented situations threw a wrench in our typical way of engaging prospects and getting our work done.
And there’s no “going back to normal.” Everything that has happened this year has drastically (and permanently) changed the sales world.
With remote-work mandates, widespread layoffs, and significant budget cuts for companies across the board this year, sales teams shifted their strategies to succeed in the new landscape. Many of those changes will have lasting effects well into the future. Based on how 2020 has played out, here are three trends that will shape the future of selling (and how understanding them will help sales leaders close deals and win over buyers in 2021).
1. BDRs Earn a Seat at the Table
Building a predictable revenue pipeline has never been more difficult for sales teams than it has been this year. With the pandemic slashing budgets and increasing uncertainty, traditional “volume-based” prospecting approaches are now largely ineffective. Prospects can spot this approach a million miles away (and many are quite…vocal about their disdain for this approach). To successfully build pipeline in this “new normal,” prospects expect even more personalized, relevant messaging that speaks to their unique challenges. As a result, the BDR role is evolving.
As prospects continue to increase their expectations of BDRs and the industry continues to arm BDR’s with even more resources, such as intent data, to help them deeply personalize based upon a company or persona’s specific needs, a more consultative approach to prospecting will become the status quo and shift perceptions on the BDR role from one primarily seen as entry-level salespeople to more of subject matter experts.
In 2021, BDRs will largely move away from volume-based prospecting and shift towards a more consultative approach. This will cause organizations to become increasingly aware of the complexity associated with simply generating a meeting because with accounts. As a result, BDRs will earn a seat at the table due to a broader understanding of much insight it takes to generate meetings. Instead of relying on BDRs to secure meetings for your AEs, they will be empowered to establish meaningful relationships with potential prospects and own a piece of the revenue pie.
To help them succeed in their newfound ownership role, sales leaders must provide BDRs with the assets they need to act as those subject matter experts and push deals over the finish line. Start by giving them access to the latest tools and technologies and looping them in on training and development opportunities. When they’re armed with the best tools, technology, and training for engaging prospects, BDRs can be a huge asset in generating business.
2. Leaders Recognize and Help Prevent Burnout
With the pandemic bringing increased pressure to perform and driving efficiency through working remotely, salespeople are literally working harder and longer than ever before. While we salespeople pride ourselves in having the grit to overcome any challenge, we’re also starting to realize salespeople cannot survive on grit alone – and nobody can keep burnout at bay forever.
As a result, sales leaders will place an even greater emphasis on recognizing burnout and creating circumstances allowing salespeople to mentally decompress before they consider throwing in the towel. Even the most successful sales rep may be facing the incredible challenge of preventing burnout. To keep teams thriving in 2021, we’ll all need to actively engage in supporting each other with honest and encouraging conversations. There are plenty of ways to set the tone for open communication. Try setting aside a few minutes each day to connect as a team or dedicate an hour every month for 1:1 time with your team.
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Sales leaders can help their teams prevent burnout by creating an open environment in which everyone feels comfortable addressing the struggles they’re facing. Sellers are some of the toughest people I know, but having a safe space to be fully transparent will push them to open up about the challenges they’re facing and feel confident in knowing their managers want to address those problems.
3. Virtual Events Are Here to Stay, but Soon We’ll Embrace In-Person
Even as things return to normal, virtual events will stick around. Because so many companies invested in digital event software this year, we’ll see a continued push to make the most of these technologies, even after work-from-home mandates become a thing of the past.
This year, we saw everything from virtual book launches to digital meet-and-greets. Look out for more companies finding creative ways to host remote events in 2021 and beyond. On the other hand, when it comes to engaging with prospects, sales reps crave in-person interactions. Look out for face-to-face experiences, such as small exclusive local networking events that give sellers the opportunity to (safely) get back in front of their potential customers.
It’s time for sales teams to establish a hybrid strategy for connecting with potential buyers. Both virtual and in-person interactions will have places in the buyer’s journey moving forward. Sales reps can capitalize on the versatility of engaging prospects to create a more personalized interaction.
More than anything, 2020 was full of opportunities for sales teams to try new tactics and pivot existing sales strategies to connect with their audience. Sales reps were operating in uncharted territory this year, but the world of B2B sales will never go back to how it was pre-pandemic. Sales teams can take what they’ve learned over the last 12 months to reshape their strategies for success in 2021.
As the Director of Sales Development at 6sense, Ernest Owusu leverages his passion for helping others succeed as well as his insights from the field to foster a winning team. With previous experience as an NFL athlete, Ernest thrives in team environments full of high collaboration and healthy competition. Outside of the office, you’ll find him tackling the industry’s diversity problem by mentoring and empowering under-represented people so they can confidently grow their careers.
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