Sales is one of the fields that requires an agile mindset that can adapt at the pace of change. When COVID hit, salespersons that relied on travel and a firm handshake to close a deal were taken back to the 90s – being forced to make cold calls, this time from their home office. Others were introduced to new software solutions they had never used before. However, some businesses that were already embracing digital sales tools were well-placed and prepared to face the pandemic – and they thrived throughout the crisis.
As businesses anticipate the global economy to get back to its pre-pandemic levels, certain things remain clear. One is that technology expedited digital transformation in every key sector, and changes that were expected to come in five to ten years had to happen in a couple of months.
Another critical observation worth noting is that the way businesses operate has changed. Now more than ever, customer-centricity is taking center stage, and salespeople need to be agile enough to adapt to the changing consumer expectations. Being the backbone of every company, sales professionals need to stay updated with the current trends if they are to succeed now and in the future.
That said, let’s have a quick look at the future of sales.
How the Future of Sales Will Look Like
Change is inevitable, and salespersons need to rethink their strategies before they have to. However, while several things are changing in and outside of sales, some factors remain constant. For example, as a salesperson, you still need to nurture your leads, close deals, and hit that quota – all these have to happen but in a much different way. Below is how sales will look like in the foreseeable future.
Tools and Technology Will Play a Critical Role
Technology is rapidly evolving in various industries, and we already see the sales functions backed by voice bots, AI, and chatbots. The future will see low-level functions absorbed into these technologies. What’s interesting is that high-performing salespeople will collaborate with AI and these other technologies to improve their access to real-time information and serve their customers and prospects better.
However, the simple and repetitive tasks done within the salesroom will become automated, and the lazy salespeople will be out of luck. Prospecting, phone call scheduling, follow-ups, and reporting are some of the tasks left for the autonomous agents.
Customer Service Will Become More Important
As businesses continue to become more customer-centric, the best companies will focus on building long-lasting customer relationships, and they will do these using salespeople. Throughout the pandemic, best-performing companies took care of their employees, supported their customers, and gave back to the community. Moving forward, people want to buy from companies they believe in, care about and perceive to be doing the right thing.
Salespeople will need to lean over backward to engage and double down on personalized conversation if they want to remain successful. Digital collaboration tools will set the foot for better engagement, and those that will have already assimilated them into their system will have a competitive advantage.
Proper Communication Will Define Brand Success
The future will see sales and marketing people come together to achieve a common goal: create an exceptional customer experience and close deals. As we advance, the best sales and marketing strategies will focus on where the prospects spend most of their time. Social media platforms will still be relevant, but there will be a need to use a multi-channel sales approach to make an even greater impact.
Asynchronous communication platforms will see wider adoption as more companies find it more flexible and effective in engaging both leads and existing customers. Asynchronous communication encourages thoughtful communication, opening up room for companies to be creative and build better relationships.
Async communication also builds a resource pool where customers and prospects can refer to for quick help and guidance. Video tutorials, Q&As, and even product demos will go a long way in building a great user experience – allowing businesses and customers to communicate conveniently and effectively.
Remote Selling Will Become the New Normal
Remote selling is increasingly becoming popular, thanks to the pandemic. The future will see even more remote sales reps being hired compared to the field sales rep. The shift will be driven mostly by the need to embrace technology and boost efficiency and productivity in all areas of the business.
However, this isn’t to say that remote selling isn’t without its challenges. The two most common challenges already witnessed throughout the pandemic include:
- Difficulties in connecting at a personal level – to successfully communicate with prospects, a salesperson relies on 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% spoken words, according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a sales communication expert.
- Low levels of motivation – since most salespeople are extroverts, it can be challenging to work in an environment that limits physical interaction. Having less physical touch can be demotivating.
But even with these challenges, businesses are coming up with innovative ways to boost personal communication and connection between the sales reps and the prospects using AI-powered sales tools and collaboration software (more on this later).
More businesses will adopt remote selling to save time, utilize resources, engage more customers, and sell without geographic limitations. According to a 99Firms survey, 52.8% of sales professionals in the US are now engaged in outside sales. The State of Sales 2017 also revealed that remote selling increased to 44.7% in 2017, up from 24% in 2013. This is expected to grow even more due to the changing customer expectations and rapidly advancing technology.
Selling In The Remote World
Since the face-to-face meetings were replaced with digital communication tools, sales leaders worked the extra hours to train their sales teams to adapt to the changing business landscape. A 2020 RAIN Group survey found that only 27% of the respondents conducted more than half of their sales activities online during the pre-pandemic period. In May 2020, approximately 71% were driving more than half of their sales online. This represents an increase of around 163%, with millions of people suddenly transitioning to full-time remote selling.
That said, selling remotely can be daunting, especially for businesses with no prior experience working remotely. However, the transition doesn’t have to be difficult. Below are some tips you can use to boost your odds of success when switching to remote selling.
Diversify Your Digital Selling Tools and Channels
The shift to remote work and virtual communication requires that businesses adopt a wide range of digital selling tools to engage with customers, particularly with their decision-makers.
These tools are crucial in overcoming personal communication challenges and aligning larger groups of internal stakeholders, virtually and asynchronously. Using multiple digital sales channels offers your prospects the freedom to choose a communication tool that works for them.
Prioritize Seller Experience and Coaching
Salespersons using digital sales tools for the first time need proper training and coaching to ensure optimal results. Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) need to find the right balance between the new technologies deployed, and the volume of content sellers interact with daily.
The use of digital interactions and sales tools means that people, processes, and technology will become one. Therefore, salespersons need to be prepared to embrace virtual sales practices and leverage technology to their advantage.
Instead of bringing out the differences between people and modern technologies such as AI, sales leaders should set up adaptive sales systems that boost the seller experience while at the same time striving to meet customer expectations.
Focus on Building Trust
Trust is one of the essential aspects of sales. A salesperson who fails to build trust with their prospects has zero chances of closing a deal. One sure way of building trust is having a personal conversation, maintaining eye contact, and listening to your prospects to understand their pain points, fears, and interests. Achieving all these in the current remote world can be challenging; however, it’s not impossible.
One way to build trust while engaging with prospects is to use video. There’s a lot that videos can do in your favor as a salesperson. For example, you can study the prospect’s facial expression, tonal variation, and micro-expressions to learn a lot about their worries, emotions, and even level of interest. Whether you are using synchronous or asynchronous communication channels, you can build more trust with your prospects using personalized videos. According to Medium.com, async explainer videos have a 77% retention rate, while a Zoom study found that videos create 82% more trust between clients and businesses.
Provide Tangible Value
Cultivating a value-centric culture in the remote sales process will put your business ahead of the curve. Since there’s no physical connection, giving your prospects valuable insights about their business is one great way to communicate value and assure your prospects that you understand their challenges and are committed to helping solve them. Engaging in technical audits, consultations and workshops are the other ways to offer value and forge stronger relationships.
Remain Approachable and Helpful
Prospects want to connect with salespersons that really care about their problems. Being as approachable and empathetic as possible will impact the prospects’ decision to either buy from you or move to your competitor.
Salespeople need to embrace an open mindset and work together with the marketing professionals to ensure success. For example, having a reliable marketing funnel where you can access as much information about your prospects as possible will help with your targeting and retargeting efforts. This information will also help your sales team to tailor the specific sales process to fit different profiles.
As a rule of thumb, salespersons should offer solutions that fit the prospects’ problems rather than forcing them to buy the given products/services. The best remote sales agents will go the extra mile to listen and provide more holistic recommendations to the problems instead of responding to the client’s self-diagnosis.
Always Put Your Prospects First
The traditional “bullish culture” of salespeople is quickly losing the popularity battle. Instead of focusing on the sales numbers and closed deals, the focus should be on understanding the prospects’ needs and how you, as the salesperson, will enrich their search for the perfect solution.
Despite communicating virtually and relying on technology to win trust, the sales managers should ensure that their team is doing enough research, offering more value, being more approachable, and putting the prospects and their needs first.
That said, at the heart of building trust and getting clients or customers to take action is one crucial aspect – communication. To understand this better, let’s look at how client communication has changed and how salespeople can leverage this to drive more value and close more deals.
Why and How Client Communication Has Changed
Since the onset of the pandemic, businesses, large and small, have changed how they communicate with their clients. The extended lock-down period saw rapid adoption of high-tech communication channels enabling companies to connect with clients, share information, and exchange value without face-to-face interaction.
Below is how best-in-class companies managed to engage their clients without compromising customer experience, all with modern communication and collaboration tools.
Leveraging The Power of Intelligent Interactive Communications
The pandemic pushed global organizations to turn to digital collaboration software to connect with colleagues and customers across geographies and time zones. The majority of the c-suite executives, marketing professionals, and sales managers had to spend a considerable amount of their day in front of their computers. And to ensure that their communication was as good and even better than the one-on-one interaction, the need for an intelligent interactive communication channel became paramount.
This is where AI-powered communication and collaboration tools became widespread. Nowadays, several platforms offer cognitive collaboration solutions that are fully AI-powered. This means that collaboration integrates business processes, people insights, and relationship intelligence for proactive customer journeys and better teamwork.
An example of collaborative software that uses this advanced technology is the CISCO Webex, which comes with the following features:
- Digital in-meeting assistant: using voice commands, where an AI-powered assistant interacts with the users to help with notes, highlights, follow-ups, and more.
- Real-time transcription: This is an advanced feature that translates the speech to text in real-time. This AI-powered feature is excellent for the hearing impaired.
Cross-meeting search: This feature allows users to find the exact point in their recording with a keyword search. This saves time by searching in one recording or across all the recordings.
Using Flexible Communication Channels to Ensure Everyone is Kept in the Loop
During the first wave of the pandemic, Zoom and other video conferencing tools became the norm. The trend continued until somewhere in May, when news of Zoom fatigue broke the headlines. Below are some of the research findings from the extended period of constant video calls and zoom meetings:
- 65% of senior managers in different industries said that meeting eats into their productive time, preventing them from completing their own work.
- 68% of professionals said they lost valuable time due to poorly organized meetings.
- 71% of senior managers said the meetings they had were unproductive and inefficient.
So, what caused Zoom Fatigue? Well, Organizations and businesses decided to increase the frequency of communication to ensure everyone was kept updated on what was happening inside and outside their organization/business.
While this was done with good intent, it came with considerable side effects. It’s worth noting that companies that embraced a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools were less affected by this “Zoom fatigue.”
According to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Instead, a video call is draining since it requires more focus and attention than a face-to-face chat. Participating in a video call means you have to work harder to understand and process the non-verbal cues like the pitch of the voice, facial expressions, and body language.
Big group video calls are also a bit of concern for many people since they are more performative. As Petriglieri puts it, “People like watching television because you can allow your mind to wander – but a large video call “is like you’re watching television and television is watching you.”
Looking forward, businesses are keen to minimize the use of video conferencing or synchronous communication tools to ensure the well-being of their employees and customers.
Several workplace experts are now dabbing asynchronous communication as the future of work, which makes a lot of sense, especially now that companies are prioritizing flexible working schedules for employees. Productivity and a better work-life balance are the other two factors driving asynchronous communication more popular across the working population.
An example of asynchronous communication and collaboration software is our Weet platform that allows distributed teams to record videos with screen or webcam and let others respond on their own time. Users can also comment with video, audio, text, and even screen share inside the app.
Wrapping up, it’s worth noting that synchronous communication isn’t going to disappear altogether; rather, more people and organizations are already shifting to asynchronous communication for all the benefits it offers.
Personalizing Communication to Boost Customer Experience
Now that remote work is here to stay, companies are looking for ways to polish their online communication and make them as lively and personalized as in-person meetings. Modern collaboration tools have experimented with several techniques, such as the AI-powered assistant in video conferencing and emoticons and virtual backgrounds in asynchronous platforms.
Before we look at how you can personalize communication to engage with your customers and build a long-lasting relationship, it’s important to know the customers’ most preferred communication channels.
Below are some research findings:
- According to HubSpot Research, 62% of customers prefer to communicate with companies via email for customer service, 48% want to do so over the phone. On the other hand, 42% chose to use a live chat feature.
- Another survey by Comm100 found that millennials prefer asynchronous live chat for speed and convenience when seeking customer support.
From these numbers, it’s clear that asynchronous communication channels are more popular. However, async communication isn’t only limited to customer support. Forward-looking businesses are now using asynchronous communication to run their marketing, lead nurturing, sales, customer follower-ups, stakeholder communication, etc.
Now that you know the best communication channel to reach out to your customers, here are some ways you can personalize your communication to foster engagement and boost customer experience.
Use messaging to Build rapport and remind them of your presence
If you are not making an effort to reach out to your prospects in the competitive business landscape, your competitors are definitely taking the same step. Messaging allows you to communicate with your audience with little to no commitment on their end. This helps you to build rapport as you introduce your brand or business to your potential customers.
Use videos to add a human touch to your communication
Just because you are not using live video calls doesn’t mean you should avoid video messaging. Asynchronous videos allow you to minimize the long emails and texts by going straight to the point with your message.
You also allow them to read your body language once they open up your video message. This makes your communication more personal, and you can engage with your audience better than emails or messaging. Below are the other benefits of asynchronous video messaging:
- Variety of use cases – video messaging can be used in a wide range of industries for different purposes. For example, the sales team can use it to engage prospects or solve an after-sale issue with a customer. Organizations can use it to share screencasts across departments or customer support personnel to communicate with clients.
- It’s efficient and flexible – It’s quick and fast to record a video, and the audience can also watch it with faster speeds (e.g., 1.5X), making it a win-win. Since the video is a recording, your audience can watch it at their own convenient time and even go over it as many times as they want.
To summarize this asynchronous sales guide, salespersons need to keep up with the changes we continue to witness in the business ecosystem. Remote selling is rapidly becoming the norm, and there’s a lot that’s yet to happen in the foreseeable future. Sales managers need to keep up with the remote sales process to coach their teams and ensure maximum ROI of the deployed technologies.
Last but not least is the need to appreciate how communication has changed the way businesses communicate with their clients and customers. New technologies such as AI and machine learning are rising to the occasion. Companies are also deploying multiple communication and collaboration tools, such as asynchronous software, to personalize their communication and enhance the user experience.