Digital transformation isn’t coming. It’s here. The Great Quarantine of 2020 put digital transformation into hyperdrive with businesses adapting to our new (virtual) reality right now, instead of next quarter or next year. According to our latest State of Sales report, 84% of sales operations professionals say digital transformation has accelerated since last year, in no small part due to the pandemic.
Virtual tools are no longer a nice-to-have. What used to be optional is now mandatory, as virtual tools helped companies stay connected with their customers during a year where everything shifted.
At Salesforce, we wanted to understand this tectonic shift toward virtual tools. So we surveyed 6,000 sales professionals to learn how they’re working and coping in our new work-from-home world. If you want to dig into all of the findings, download the full report. Below, we highlight three tools that helped your peers survive and thrive in the quick pivot to digital.
Video conferencing went from an afterthought to the first thought
This one might feel obvious, but don’t underestimate it! Video conferencing, something that had been a bit of a second choice in how we communicated before, took on renewed relevance during our work-from-home era.
Instead of meeting clients for coffee or hunkering down in a conference room, you found yourself staring at each other through laptop screens. Sales reps had to strive to make up for lost ground and figure out how to virtually replicate the magic of face-to-face interaction.
“I’m not able to take them out to dinner. I’m not able to whiteboard. I’m always on video,” said Stephanie Svanfeldt, a strategic account executive at Salesforce. “The connection is stronger when you can actually see faces and reactions, especially when I’m presenting. There’s an emotional intelligence aspect you lose when you’re on a phone call.”
It’s difficult to be apart and not see our clients or colleagues. Using video conferencing — as opposed to calling and emailing — gives us an opportunity to rebuild these interpersonal experiences. Anything that humanizes our now-remote interactions is crucial for a salesperson. Once you get past the awkward and everlasting “You’re on mute,” “Can you see my screen?” — it becomes clear how much salespeople relied on video chatting to engage customers in quarantine.
Valerie Papa, a manager of revenue operations at Andela, says platforms like Zoom have been foundational to their success this year. “We are always jumping on and sharing screens. As a sales ops professional, we need a tool like that to allow us to see through the salesperson’s eyes and see the steps they’re taking and where they’re having trouble.”
“I don’t think that we would be surviving without it,” she added.
Some CRM companies even debuted their own video conferencing products catering specifically to this shift. Salesforce Meetings, released earlier this fall, is a meeting management system that allows reps to better prepare for clients before, during, and after meetings with automated action items and improved presenting tools. The goal of all this new or reappropriated tech is to turbocharge the online selling process at a time where every salesperson has become a virtual seller.
Mobile CRMs kept salespeople plugged in from anywhere
If it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist. This isn’t a new saying, but it’s now words to live and work by in 2020. The CRM is a well of information and lets you make data-driven decisions. We already knew this, but the way we used the CRM has changed. Reps had to adapt their selling practices to new post-COVID-19 buying behaviors; they had to sell smarter. With sales reps shifting from working in a central office to being scattered across the country or globe, the adoption of a mobile-ready CRM was a necessity.
“I use it on my laptop, but I also have Salesforce on my mobile phone,” said Hassan Abdalah, an account director at Salesforce. “I’m looking at the pipeline, I’m looking at opportunities that are live. I’m using those insights to help oversee strategy on accounts. It’s all encompassing.”
Many of us have to do more with less, and that doesn’t just refer to money, but also time. With so many sales reps at home, they’re having to juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities with competing obligations across work and family.
Svanfeldt appreciates that she’s able to log sales calls on her cell phone, which then automatically syncs into Chatter, an internal collaboration software. It was a mobile feature she didn’t use before but has really counted on this year to stay on top of tasks. The visibility offered by a mobile CRM equipped her to build relationships and ultimately drive revenue, regardless of where she was.
“I’m a mom, and I’m here at home with my one-year-old because of quarantine,” said Svanfeldt. “So I’m taking calls while I’m walking in the stroller, I’m taking calls from the road. Having a work-from-anywhere CRM is huge because I’m not always at my desk anymore.”
Artificial intelligence gave human intelligence an edge
Adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) by sales teams has increased by a whopping 76% since 2018, according to our State of Sales. It’s become an undeniable game changer.
With the proliferation of artificial intelligence into how we work, there’s sometimes a fear of it taking away sales jobs. That hasn’t happened during this pandemic. Instead, AI has made existing talent more capable and efficient. From analyzing customer data to generating prospects, sales and sales ops professionals leaned on AI from their remote offices.
“The utilization of AI tools became more calculated this year since we needed to get more predictive in the sales process in order to stay competitive,” said Papa. “You had to make a more educated approach instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. How can we tailor our message to better sell?”
With AI, reps are able to drill down into various dashboards and reports to predict outcomes, such as a customer’s propensity to renew. They’re able to use data to form an opinion as to how they might approach a customer.
AI allows reps to answer such questions as: how is the client using the service? Are they satisfied with it? What opportunities exist to drive engagement?
Machine learning technology can examine data from past deals and provide insight on how to close new ones. The end result is less wasted time, a precious resource in this uncertain era.
“In a normal environment, I would do a lot more face-to-face prospecting and getting to know them. Now there’s this barrier,” said Abdalah. “Because of quarantine, I’ve gotten our tools to work harder and dig as much as possible so that when I do get that face-to-face on the camera, I’m ready.”
Though 2021 may find some of us possibly returning to our cubicles, conference rooms and water coolers, virtual tools are here to stay. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the ways tech can keep us connected even when we have to be apart.
Said Abdalah, “These tools have been out there forever. What’s been beneficial about this time is sales professionals have learned to use and appreciate them.”
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