The past year has seen sales professionals work through extraordinary circumstances. In the lead-up to Salesforce Live: Australia & New Zealand, which will have a dedicated episode for sales professionals, we’re revisiting insights from the latest State of Sales report that showcase how the profession is transforming to build resilience and drive growth.
Sales professionals have always naturally been responsive to changing customer and market behaviours, but this past year has emphasised the importance of adapting an agile mindset in this profession.
COVID-19 greatly accelerated change within organisations, and many current or emerging sales trends are driven in large part by a desire to evolve operations for the next normal.
Our fourth edition of the State of Sales report highlighted how sales leaders around the world rose to the challenge by keeping their finger on the pulse of their teams’ needs, augmenting where necessary and adjusting strategies to find the path through uncertainty.
The role of sales ops also took on new significance, and an increased need for data-driven insights to drive business growth and continuity have provided the role a seat at the decision table.
The challenges of the past year have also placed renewed emphasis on relationship building for sales reps, and many organisations are investing in training to make sure reps have the right skills for the changed selling landscape.
Ahead of Salesforce Live: A&NZ, which includes a dedicated episode featuring insights from our sales Trailblazers, here are the key takeaways from the latest State of Sales report highlighting how Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) sales professionals adapted to new ways of working, and the trends that are shaping the future of the profession.
Insights are building better customer relationships
More than ever, buyers in ANZ are looking for personal interactions with sales teams, with approximately 80% of ANZ business buyers expecting sales reps to have a firm understanding of their businesses. There are serious advantages for sales teams that can master this, with almost 90% of buyers stating they are more likely to engage with companies that show a firm understanding of their needs and challenges.
Data can help provide these insights, and improved data quality and accessibility is in the top three tactics identified by sales professionals as crucial for success over the next 12 months.
However, our research shows that sales teams are not tapping valuable sources of client and customer information as much as they should.
While the majority of reps check local and national news daily, customer-specific insights like purchase history, communications activity and competitor analysis fall further down the list, with less than 15% of reps accessing this information daily.
Considering that 81% of ANZ sales professionals say building trust before a sale is now more important than ever, gaining deeper insights into customer behaviours and expectations at the front end can help teams meet greater demand for personalised experiences and lead to stronger relationships in the long-term.
The new way of selling means a skills refresh
Business-as-usual took a serious hit during the pandemic, and many sales teams adapted by changing ways of working. Rather than just adjusting for the time being, though, 65% of ANZ sales professionals expect their role to be permanently changed as a result.
As we’re unlikely to return to the status quo, this is an opportunity for sales professionals to learn new skills and broaden their remit. Already, 73% of respondents say they’ve taken on new responsibilities at work.
Sales leaders are busy evaluating how best to balance budgeting and economic uncertainty with business needs. Many are looking to redeploy current team members to plug gaps, with 67% saying they plan to reskill existing employees.
Visibility is increasing thanks to technology
With remote work likely to continue for the foreseeable future, keeping team members accountable has taken on new significance. Sales leaders seek more visibility into sales rep activity, while sales reps are challenged to align activities across the organisation.
As a result, more sales organisations are looking at how to better manage pipelines and make sure everyone is working towards a common goal.
’Keep it simple’ seems to be the preferred approach, and ANZ sales professionals named simplified sales processes as the second most important tactic for success over the next 12 months. Many organisations are creating transparency through collaboration, with sales professionals reporting an increase in both the frequency and length of pipeline management meetings.
Technology is also helping to provide transparency at scale – potentially mitigating that time lost in long meetings or on admin tasks. Seventy-three percent of sales teams reported their technology needs have changed significantly in the past year.
Sales ops is stepping up
Over the course of the past year, countries around the world reported that sales ops is becoming increasingly important, especially as organisations look to improve cross-department collaboration and make better use of data insights.
ANZ sales professionals overwhelmingly supported this, with 85% saying the role of sales ops has become more strategic and 87% saying sales ops is playing a critical role in growing the business.
As organisations look to do more with less, improving operational efficiencies through data-driven decision-making will see sales ops continue to move from the backroom to the boardroom.
Digital transformation takes a leading role
Digital transformation has been on many organisations’ agendas for years, but it has accelerated. Shifting customer demands, remote work and the increasing need for collaboration are all colliding, driving the need for ever more creative and innovative digital solutions.
Our research found that 80% of ANZ sales professionals believe their digital transformation has accelerated in the past year. Uptake of technology to deal with new ways of working is helping to drive this, with 73% saying sales technology needs have changed significantly.
Given the effects of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that sales tools including mobile sales apps for employees, video conferencing tools and customer relationship management systems became more valuable since 2019.
Together, these trends demonstrate that sales teams in ANZ are not only adapting to what’s in front of them, but their commitment to improve and evolve to overcome any challenge indicates a bright future ahead.