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Has Sales Changed Forever? We Got the Experts to Weigh In

While a lot about the sales profession has changed in the past year, do these changes mean sales teams need to adopt a new set of skills? We put this question to sales experts Tony Hughes and Cian McLoughlin ahead of the Sales Episode at Salesforce Live: Australia & New Zealand, now available on-demand.

Many sales professionals had to rapidly adapt to pandemic-induced disruptions like lockdowns and physical distancing. At the time, these changes felt like temporary adjustments for extraordinary circumstances. However, a year after the first whispers of COVID-19 reached our shores, it’s beginning to feel like some of these changes will become permanent fixtures of the sales process. 

What does this changed landscape mean for the strategies and tactics sales professionals use? And what new skills will they need to meet new demands and expectations? 

Ahead of their session in the upcoming Salesforce LIVE: A&NZ Sales Episode, sales experts Tony Hughes and Cian McLoughlin sat down to give their take on which part of the sales process will be absolutely crucial in the future: the open vs the close. Here’s what they had to say.

Tony Hughes: It’s all about the sales open

COVID has created for all leaders a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive change, and I believe sales leaders and sales reps should use this as a reason to engage new buyers. But to be successful in opening new opportunities in a tough market, everyone must invest in skills and technologies that enable higher levels of effectiveness.  

A great sales opening is the X-factor in the buying/selling process. It’s not enough to be good at building relationships, doing discovery, creating solutions, gathering consensus, navigating politics and closing. If you can’t open a sales opportunity in the first place, all of your other skills are a moot point. 

The way you open also sets the agenda for the rest of the business relationship and frames the conversation from that point on. 

I strongly feel that in this changed world of sales — where it’s more difficult to create real connections selling at a distance — we need to focus on why conversations matter for the buyer to be customer-centric. This is the mindset for a consistent, quality sales pipeline. If you put your effort and attention there, you’ll make progression and closing a natural next step.

Cian McLoughlin: Focus on how to close sales

This past year has brought a huge amount of change not just for sales professionals, but for buyers as well. They are focusing more on risk mitigation, and putting more emphasis on traits like trust, relevance and connection more than ever. 

With that in mind, we can’t look at the sales funnel segments as separate functions — buyers want a seamless process, and the onus is on sellers to connect everything. I see more buyers becoming frustrated at being treated like a commodity. They are feeling like sales outreach is automated and impersonal. 

Nobody wants to be sold to, but everyone wants to be helped. Sales needs to stop selling, put on their consultation hats and focus on understanding what’s going on inside the customer’s organisation and their strategic imperatives. When you get to the middle and bottom parts of the funnel, that’s where you can create your real point of difference.

Ultimately that will build the business case, help them make a buying decision based on trust and empathy and engagement, and that will increase your chances of closing the sale. 

Opening is incredibly important, but you can open until you’re blue in the face. If you don’t put the work into the steps that close, the whole thing falls apart. 

Tony and Cian spoke with Salesforce Trailblazers, Vend and Audata, during our Sales episode of Salesforce LIVE: A&NZ. Catch up on the on-demand session here.

Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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