Superior sales rep skills in the new normal are a must. It's no secret that customer expectations are soaring to new heights on the back of technological innovation. New expectations coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has driven sales reps into unfamiliar territory. Sales reps need to be skilled in many areas, including:
Successful sales reps are constantly adapting to the latest changes. This is especially true with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global business landscape. So it's important for employers to consider the best way to update the skillset of their sales reps.
New data-driven approaches to sales, increasingly underpinned by AI, are emerging in tandem with big changes spanning customer engagement, staffing models, and cross-functional collaboration. For the third edition of the State of Sales report, Salesforce Research surveyed over 2,900 global sales professionals and leaders to discover which trends are shaking up the sales world and which sales rep skills are essential in the new normal.
Below, we reveal three essential skills for sales reps that are absolutely needed to be successful in the new normal.
Selling has always required a great deal of soft skills. The judgement, integrity, creativity, and empathy of good sales reps will never be replaced. But in this new era, it is not enough. These skills need to be supported by the right technologies.
Knowing exactly when to engage, to which prospects, aren't as efficient without the help of technology. The most successful sales reps are open to innovations and understand how data insights and AI can improve their customer relationships and meet their expectations.
Today’s sales teams are twice as likely to prioritise leads based on data analysis of propensity to buy than on intuition. While top teams are even more likely to base their forecasts on data, underperforming sales teams are 1.7x more likely to forecast based on gut feeling. Even though intuition is a good skill for sales reps, it's not enough to succeed in the new normal. Sales reps must refine their digital skills, be able to understand analytics, and utilise data-driven insights to process leads and prospecting at scale.
In the new normal, successful sales reps are determined to break down silos. They have understood the many benefits of sharing customer’s data with the other departments and they are taking a collaborative approach. In fact, 81% of teams say a connected view of data across the customer journey is important. Moreover, 88% say it’s important to increasing customer satisfaction and 86% in acquiring new customers.
Furthermore, 77% of salespeople say selling collaboratively with other departments is important. Especially as the companies become more fluid and communicative. Enterprise sales, in particular, increasingly rely on this 360-degree customer view of marketing campaign engagement, service history, and more to not only increase customer satisfaction, but ramp up their own productivity.
The most skilled sales reps are leveraging technology to enhance this collaborative approach. According to the research, high performers are 2.1X more likely than underperformers to have fully integrated systems.
Virtual selling has hit a tipping point. As sales reps spend more time in front of screens, the relationships with customers are increasingly developing virtually. One of the many factors driving this increase in virtual selling is the buyer preference. Buyers are increasingly digital-first and don’t feel the need for face-to-face communication.
Globalisation has resulted in an increase in remote work and global companies, with people from all over the world involved in purchasing processes. Increasingly sales reps need to be able to manage these stages virtually, without always meeting face to face. Essentially, being able to communicate effectively virtually is a critical sales rep skill.
Over the past three years, 60% of reps report an increase in virtual meetings. What’s more, there are three times as many sales reps who now spend less time with customers in person than there are those who spend less time with them virtually.
Great products or low prices alone are not enough; today’s customers expect superior experiences in exchange for their business and loyalty. Customers expect sales reps to understand their customers’ unique markets and preferences. Ultimately, customers want sales reps to act as a trusted advisors.
Business buyers’ expectations are being similarly transformed — 82% of B2B buyers want the same experience as when they buy for themselves. As disruptive companies leverage breakthroughs in cloud, mobile, social, and artificial intelligence technology to deliver personalised, valuable, and immediate experiences, customers have more choices than ever. As a result, they grow to expect this superior experience from any business they engage with.
When customers demand more personalised, consultative engagement, it’s the salespeople on the front lines who carry the onus to deliver. This new challenge could explain why customer satisfaction (CSAT) is now the most-tracked sales KPI, the number one measure of sales success, edging just ahead of individual quotas attainment.
While CSAT is a worthy metric, it’s arguably vague. More pointed experience metrics, such as customer usage and Net Promoter Score (NPS), aren’t as widely tracked today — but adoption is on the rise
The way we conduct business is constantly changing in this new era of connectivity. Buyers are digital-first and don’t feel the need for face-to-face communication. In fact, 60% of reps report an increase in virtual meetings over the last three years. What’s more, there are three times as many sales reps who now spend less time with customers in person than there are those who spend less time with them virtually. These new trends might be positive as it leads to a gain of time but sales agents have to adapt and change their habits accordingly.
To provide the best customer experience and win the deal, sales reps need to know their customers. To reach this target, it is necessary to adopt a collaborative approach with other departments. Teams increasingly rely on this 360-degree customer view of marketing campaign engagement, service history, and more to not only increase customer satisfaction, but ramp up their own productivity.
To get further insights into how sales reps and leaders are upskilling and succeeding in a new landscape, download the 3rd edition of the State of Sales report.