To close out the past 12 months, we’ve picked key insights from the Sales Lessons from 2021 webinar featuring Salesforce’s EVP and CEO, ANZ and ASEAN, Pip Marlow and Global Growth and Innovation Evangelist, Tiffani Bova. And along the way, we’ve pulled out the best of our 2021 sales articles to help you put their expertise into practice.

How we’ve been informs where we’re going

“Everything in our personal and professional lives had forever changed,” exclaims Tiffani, when recalling January of last year.

With the challenges of a crisis year in our rear-view mirror, tackling 2021 required new thought, strategy and action. But organisations, from the business leader to the paid intern, could only prepare so much. 

“Embrace the ambiguity,” Pip Marlow told her. “Don’t let it be an energy-drainer. Let it be fuel.” 

Letting it be fuel, in this case, required focusing on what could be controlled.

“Hold tight to your values. When everything is changing, they can be your anchors,” added Pip. “Listen to your customers, look out for trends and signals, because the pace of change isn’t going to slow down.”

Finally, Pip told her teams to be mindful of renewal. “Make sure you make the time to slow down, recharge and take care of yourself, each other and your customers.”

While we now have more of an idea of how to face ever-evolving change, these strategies are more relevant as ever as we head into the unknown of 2022. 

Related article: Sales experts Tony Hughes and Cian McLoughlin discuss the changing face of sales.

The humanisation of work

Remote work is now an integral part of the way we conduct business. Yes, it has brought a series of challenges – but sales professionals faced change with such creativity that a new, from-anywhere working paradigm emerged. 

Technological solutions have played a big part in legitimising the hybrid workplace. Collaboration and connection have taken on new meaning through powerful platforms such as Slack and Zoom. And despite the physical distance, we became more connected. 

“I’m still amazed at how unapologetically human this environment allowed us to be,” Pip says. “We showed up more authentically. From our living rooms, with dogs walking around in the background, kids coming in and out, we gained a new appreciation of what everyone was dealing with in this world.”

This appreciation not only connected team members with each other, but with the customer, as sales professionals better met and recognised our similarities on level ground. 

Related article: Justine Gribble, Regional Sales Director, General Business at Salesforce ANZ, shares insights on successfully navigating the work-from-anywhere world. Start prioritising productivity while staying agile in 2022.

The call for meaningful technology is louder than ever

“Pre-pandemic, 66% of a seller’s time was spent on non-selling activities,” Tiffani Bova explains. “With productivity metrics increasing since then, chances are selling time has also been negatively impacted”. 

Tiffani underlines the importance of implementing tools that allow sellers to do what they’ve been hired to do—sell. 

“Making sure you have seamless integration isn’t just a tagline,” she stresses. “It’s about how we can enable and empower our sellers to have all the information that they need at that moment of truth.

“When a seller is sitting in front (or across a video) of a customer, or sending them an email, or connecting with them on social media, we want to make sure they have everything they need to be successful. And there’s no way to scale that—to personalise, to add value— without technology.”

Meaningful technology has also been vital in maintaining internal communications. Pip found that with remote work, holding one-hour team meetings on new customers, for example, no longer worked. Diving deep into Slack allowed for new ways to meet and engage at the same time. 

In fact, since implementing Slack as a digital headquarter for both internal and customer-facing communications, research has shown a 15% faster sales cycle. 

Related article: Learn why brands like Canva are using Slack to help close sales deals.

Skilling up for the digital future

We’ve seen over the last two years the sobering truth that if you didn’t have a digital business, you would find it hard to survive. Every sector, whether retail, health or education, has been accelerated and digitised. 

“Businesses need to be investing to ensure that their employees have the skills and capabilities to participate in the digital economy” says Pip. 

Which is exactly what Salesforce has done via Trailhead, which has enabled over a million certifications over the past year in Australia and New Zealand – with peaks in subject areas like AI, blockchain, and other innovations at the cutting edge of business technology. 

Tiffani agrees, adding the fact that “sellers need to be students of their own profession, because sales is always changing. Keeping an eye out for upskilling opportunities is now more important than ever. If your company offers it, you should take advantage of it, or you’ll get outsold. 

“If you’re not going to invest in yourself, why would anybody else? It really has to start with you.”

Related article: Read tips from me&u’s COO Asheesh Chacko on how he upskilled his sales team with smart AI.

Business as the greatest platform for change

Multiple silver linings have adorned the pandemic-shaped cloud hovering over the business landscape, but none as gleaming as the cultural shift towards leading with values. 

Customers now want to engage with —and are willing to spend more on— brands that align with their values; that are on the forefront of positive change, whether social or environmental. Purpose over profit is no longer interpreted as picking one at the expense of the other, but rather allowing the former to inform and even bolster the latter. 

Conducting business is now a lively conversation with consumers about people, mental health, diversity, the environment. 

Heading into 2022, this cultural shift is only going to intensify, with organisations finding new and ingenious ways to integrate positive values into the core of their business, whether through emissions reductions, inclusivity programmes, or facilitating employee wellbeing

Related article: Discover how 3M has integrated innovation and sustainability to drive sales.