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Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

Face-to-face interactions are a tried-and-true way to generate sales. Successful salespeople can read a prospect’s body language, respond to subtle changes in speech and behaviour, and create the human connection needed to close a sale.

While online businesses have progressively become more adept at generating remote sales over recent years, COVID-19 has upped the ante. So how has the sales process changed, and what does this mean for your business?

Let’s Talk…

Mark Brown, general manager – marketing, Konica Minolta Australia   

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“The shift to hybrid workplace models has influenced a new sales phase: hybrid selling. This is where client engagement is a mix of virtual and in-person meetings that usually begin with remote introductions. However, it’s still important to consider the target audience, as some businesses still prefer in-person interactions during the buying/selling process.   

“When communicating virtually, it’s still essential to demonstrate the product or service through online video demonstrations. This is where investing in showrooms and online configurators can help educate and make the offer more accessible during the selling process. 

“With most quotes now shared digitally, the seller can also use various tools to track the development of quote. These tools can even go as far as checking if the quote has been opened, forwarded, and which pages had the most time spent on. Digital signature software has also improved the approval process, with quotes finalised and signed easily.” 

Rob Ranoa, Founder of Hypop

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“The extended lockdowns and social distancing requirements in response to the pandemic have led to a massive shift to online purchasing, which has been a win for many online retailers. However, the dramatic increase in online sales has put a strain on back-end systems: putting pressure on warehouse and logistics processes, and sometimes causing shipping delays. Manufacturing issues and supply shortages have also had an impact on the availability of stock, which has increased the need for waitlist functionality, allowing customers to be notified when products are back in stock. Some businesses have also had to add a click and collect option.

“From a customer service perspective, the increased number of online shoppers has also meant shifting resources to support the increase in online customer queries. Although we’ve always offered bespoke online customer support, traditionally we found that those who had more in-depth, technical questions would choose to come into our showroom to chat with someone face to face. But with lockdowns rendering that impossible, we’ve had to shift these in-depth conversations – which play an important role in our sales process – to online chats, emails or phone calls as a way of mimicking that in-person customer support customers are missing.”

William Zhang, Director of Sales APAC Validity Inc.

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“While the sales-prospect relationship remains very important, the pandemic has taught us that a solid and tangible ROI analysis is more critical to close the deal, as businesses have stricter budget constraints to work with than ever before. 

“COVID-19 has also reinforced the importance of having empathy. We’re all going through a difficult time, so now more than ever it’s crucial that you understand your prospective customer’s challenges and strike a balance between marketing sales and keeping long-term partnerships alive, which may include reducing your interactions at times. 

“Finally, while we all quickly realised the importance of digital to sales in a pandemic, Zoom fatigue is a very real thing. Businesses need to get creative to differentiate their approach from just another video call. For example, have a virtual coffee date by sending your prospect a voucher for a local café prior to the meeting.”

Vijay Raghvani, Head of Customer Experience, Airwallex

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“COVID has had a major impact on the way businesses interact with customers throughout the sales journey. With sales teams and customers missing human interaction, the challenge for businesses is this: how do you blend traditional sales, with your adapted sales approach (built over the last two years), to best service the customers of tomorrow? Consider the following: 

  • Maximise face-to-face interactions with customers, for example, via Zoom or Facetime. COVID has created more digital connection opportunities – with cats, kids and homes entering the meeting room – helping to bridge the gap between supplier and customer. This trend can drive strong customer relationships, and in turn, create long term revenue opportunities for businesses who build a customer centric culture. 
  • Continually iterate digital interactions to return customer value faster, including trying out new tools and processes. Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Collaborate across business functions to deliver a customer-focus throughout your business. For example, we’ve seen huge benefits through cross-geography collaboration.”

Darren Tasker, Executive Director, VentureCrowd 

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“All sales are about one issue: trust. Do I trust the brand, the person, the product, the industry?

“Digital investment platforms, like VentureCrowd, have always had to address these issues and 2020 expedited this process. Sales plans had compliance and education at their core, but now they needed to focus on how they utilised staff and the information they share to support their processes. The combination of great people supporting trustworthy and reliable digital systems is the recipe that we follow, and COVID-19 allowed us to double down.

“The impact on startups looking to raise capital was similar. We increased focus on the startup team itself and information was shared more openly with potential investors via our webinars and follow-up conversations. The information provided gave investors a sense of ‘who’ they are investing in, not just ‘what’. ‘The selling’ may not be done face to face, but strong and trustworthy bonds can still be established.”

Natasha Dunn, Sales Director, Go1.com

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“One major reason our sales teams have excelled throughout lockdown in myriad jurisdictions is our ability to quickly adapt to changing environments.

“Investing in the latest communication and collaboration tools held us in good stead as communicating via video and online chat – both to maintain great customer relationships and generate new sales leads in a virtual setting – was second nature to us.

“With remote interactions replacing traditional means, trust and relationships mattered more than ever, as well as understanding the (potential) customer’s thinking and decision-making approach.

“With sales teams spread across different locations, implementing streamlined internal processes ensured visibility across the board.

“We have implemented data and automation tools to boost our leads-nurture process, remove manual requirements so sales teams can focus on building relationships, and ultimately qualifying leads faster.

“Our sales rhythm and processes have and will continue to change to adapt to client requirements but with streamlined processes every sales member, no matter where they’re located, is on the same page.”

Lindsay Brown, VP of APAC, LogMeIn

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“Now that most of us have adapted to remote or hybrid work environments, many organisers have the ability to build sales teams in regions without physical offices. For example, at LogMeIn previously our APAC sales teams were primarily based in Sydney or India. However, as a remote-centric company, our talent pool has expanded beyond the geographic radius of our offices. 

“We can now have ‘boots on the ground’ in other countries or regions where we see sales potential. This in-region presence of employees working from home offices allows us to have sales reps that know the area, speak the language, and ultimately, better connect with local customers.”

Nikhil Daftary, Managing Director, Coral Healthcare Pty Ltd & Moments Condoms

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“While COVID-19 didn’t affect what we sold in terms of our product, it did affect how and where we sold it. With state lockdowns restricting physical movement, resulting in fewer people getting out, we had to think outside the box and change our strategy in order to remain relevant and front of mind. 

“As a result, we shifted our focus from concentrating on in-store selling and placed a higher emphasis on selling directly to the end-user. By increasing our online marketing and advertising spend, we were able to personalise the selling experience and directly suggest relevant products to consumers through social media channels and online retailers. The pivot to online selling resulted in a 200% increase in sales during the first lockdown. 

“The combination of smart advertising spend, key influencer marketing and new products ensured we were able to continue to grow our sales despite the challenges that occurred as a result of COVID-19.”

Cameron Buckley, Country Manager, AUS/NZ, Trustpilot

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“Many businesses have had to re-evaluate their sales process as a result of COVID-19, and the impact that working from home has had on employees, and Trustpilot is no exception. Due to a combination of less face-to-face interactions, and many people not being as readily contactable by phone while at home, selling through social platforms such as LinkedIn and communicating via collaboration tools such as Slack, has become increasingly important. Interactions have also become less formal due to the environment we’re communicating and conducting business in. 

“This has led to people sharing insights into their personal life, based on the pet or child that appears in the background of a Zoom call, when previously they might not have. The benefit of this is that it helps build a stronger rapport and a more personal connection between people, both of which are essential in sales.”

Greg Crowl, Director, Sales Engineering, APJ Kofax

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“I’ve been surprised that the velocity of work has increased due to Covid-19. Without the ability to see customers in person, they are instead just a click away and you can fit many more meetings into the workday. Of course, the interactions are less immersive than in person, so, perhaps the quality of interactions has gone down, whilst the quantity of interactions has increased.

“As a technology company we have all the tools we need to get work done and so do our customers, therefore the fundamentals have not changed much with the sales process. With everything moving online, we’ve found it useful to create more video content showcasing our products and solutions.  Another small but helpful piece of advice is – since we are missing in-person interactions with people – try making sure your camera is on for your online meetings, it’ll help you be more present.”

Gordon Starkey, Chief Operating Officer, ELMO Software 

Let’s Talk: How has COVID-19 changed the sales process?

“It’s well known that effective sales is about identifying and solving the problems of customers. While it’s easy to assume that every business is facing the same challenges during COVID-19, that only covers a fraction of the situation. 

“The reality is that COVID-19 has required sales professionals to better understand the unique challenges of each business by making the discovery phase of the sales cycle much more detailed and robust. Although a business might be like countless others in moving to remote based working, the challenges that organisation is facing are likely to be unique. 

“Savvy sales professionals take the time to understand what challenges each organisation is facing. This can be tough to do when your interaction is all done virtually, which is why sales professionals need to listen more and ask the right questions.”

Read more: Let’s Talk: How can you entice existing customers to spend more?

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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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