COVID-19 Illuminates New Digital Sales Realities

Alex Wilson Thumbnail
Alex Wilson
Published September 30, 2020

Customer engagements aren’t what they used to be. Even before the pandemic, research by Bain indicated that 50% of sales interactions were digital. Meanwhile, 75% of buyers agreed, or were neutral, to the point that virtual sales were as effective for complex products as in-person engagements.

Traditionally, most organizations ran a two-track sales operation. The field focused on high-value accounts and digital sales channels mopped up the rest.

COVID-19 has forced many to tear up the rulebook and (virtually) start again, as the lines between field sales and digital operations continue to blur beyond recognition.

It appears that the pandemic has put a rocket behind sales’ natural evolutionary trajectory, just as previous societal and technological shifts moved everyone away from Rolodexes to Salesforce, or from landlines to mobile phones and videoconferencing. Businesses will always seek out more efficient ways of selling. The biggest difference has been the change of pace and the fact that we have unprecedented levels (and richness) of data at our fingertips.

The latter point is crucial. Today, digital sales teams can rapidly, and specifically, mine and act on data with unprecedented precision. Rapid advancements in technology have paved the way for powerful activity prioritisation at both speed and scale.

During the initial lockdowns earlier this year, interest in our remote working solution (Access Policy Manager) soared as workforces across the world, almost overnight, migrated from offices to home bases. Adapting to such a dramatic spike in demand would have been impossible without robust digital sales channels and the ability to react to data-driven insights in real-time.  As a vivid case in point, we were able to expand Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s remote working capacity tenfold in just a few hours. For projects of this nature, the margin for error is minute and the need for speed paramount. There are countless other examples and, irrespective of industry, we anticipate that customer expectations for secure and scalable project execution will be markedly different in the coming years.

Out of necessity, and due to the tools available, digital sales will only grow in scope and influence. At the same time, businesses will save on physical infrastructure and travel. However, making it all work in the long-term will require some adept changes to both mindsets and field strategies. Not everything will be virtual. Not every individual or industry is set up to engage remotely.

Sales teams have already started to re-evaluate the question of how many accounts one representative can feasibly manage while staying effective. Yes, digital sales teams can handle more volume at speed, but they also sidestep the opportunity to connect in person. Aligning to customer engagement preferences in an optimal and safe manner has never been more important.

As lockdowns gradually ease or are reinstated across Europe, Middle East, and Africa, we expect that new and more customer-centric sales organisations will emerge. Digital and field teams will complement each other far more. Both will clearly rely more heavily on data.

Nowadays, every organization needs to ensure agility and adaptability at every juncture. Most importantly, they need to be targeted in their approach and data-led in their delivery—irrespective of location or route to customer.