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How India’s Sales Professionals are Rising to the Challenge of Tough Times

Sales Trends in In India

Indian sales teams have dealt with radical change due to the pandemic. Here’s how they have responded to build resilience and drive growth.

This year, sales professionals have had to stay adaptive and agile to respond to rapid changes in customer and market behaviours. We asked Indian sales leaders, reps and ops to share how they have built resilience through this trying time.

Successful sales leaders are some of the most adaptable and flexible professionals in the world, pioneering fresh ways to respond to changing customer expectations. Their market is an ever-shifting landscape of new technologies and platforms to meet increasingly complex demands from customers wanting more personalised and more relevant services and experiences.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic crises have put these qualities of adaptability and flexibility to the ultimate test, and have seen sales professionals across the globe using resources in innovative ways to rise to a unique set of challenges.

Our Sales Trends in India report shows sales leaders will be driving the cross-functional partnerships businesses must forge to recover and flourish. Trust and insights have also taken on new significance, as have the efforts of sales operations teams to plan strategically in the midst of uncertainty. Digital technologies continue to drive both demands and solutions, as customers look for ways to stay connected even when isolated.

The data and insights we’ve gained from speaking with sales professionals and business leaders across India give some much-needed form and substance to what the state of sales looks like in these ambiguous and uncertain times – and some definition to its future.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the key takeaways from the Sales Trends in India report.

Understanding and trust are critical

Indian business buyers are wanting more understanding from their sales reps than they are currently getting, with 93% saying they expect a firm understanding of their business and 79% saying most reps don’t have it. But Indian sales leaders are stepping up to the task and tapping into a variety of sources to understand and advise their customers better and stay competitive.

Approximately 60% of Indian reps, for example, monitor industry news and customer interaction histories at least daily. Indeed, improved data quality and accessibility is India’s number two tactic for sales success.

Trust at every point in the sales journey is overwhelmingly recognised by Indian sales professionals as playing a more important role than ever in today’s market. For example, 96% of Indian sales reps say building trust after a sale is more important than ever, compared with other countries in the APAC region such as Singapore (89%), Hong Kong (81%) and Australia/New Zealand (77%).

Visibility matters and AI can help

With the new normal of remote working showing no sign of slowing down, visibility and accountability have taken on new significance – but not uniformly across organisations.

While Indian sales professionals say tactics like activity logging have become more strict since 2019, around half of those surveyed are prioritising flexibility and autonomy for their sales teams.

Whatever the approach, AI-powered technologies are playing an important role in creating visibility and automating tasks. Sixty eight percent of Indian sales professionals say AI has improved visibility into rep activity, and 80% say logging sales data and customer notes is more automated than manual in their organisation.

Sales ops steps up

The increased strategic importance of sales operations is being experienced globally as organisations look for ways to break down silos and align teams and goals more successfully.

Again, this is a priority overwhelmingly supported by sales professionals in India. Globally, 85% of sales professionals agree sales operations are increasingly strategic and 89% say sales operations play a critical role in growing the business. In India, both those figures stand at 98%.

When it comes to efficiency, growth and continuity, sales operations are taking a bigger seat at the table.

Digital technologies take a starring role

Just when you thought digital transformation must have surely had it’s day in the sun, it keeps shining. And nowhere more brightly than in sales where customer demands, remote work challenges, and the increasing need for collaboration drives ever more creative and sophisticated digital solutions.

The numbers show that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact in this area, with 96% of sales professionals in India saying sales technology needs have significantly changed since 2019, and 98% of sales professionals saying digital transformation has accelerated since 2019.

It’s not surprising then, that tools like partner relationship management solutions and mobile sales apps for employees have become more valuable in the past year.

Everyone’s in it together

Disconnected departments and divergent approaches do not make for happy customers. And with customer experience a main priority in the recovery and growth of the Indian market, alignment across departments is more important than ever.

Indian sales professionals say their top tactic for success is improving partnerships with other teams, and sales leaders are busy breaking down silos to that end. Interestingly, this is only the number four tactic Singapore, the number seven tactic in Australia/New Zealand and number two in Hong Kong.

The outlook of India’s sales professionals is overwhelmingly positive, with 97% of sales professionals confident in their organisation’s ability to close deals, 95% confident in their organisation’s agility and 94% confident in their organisation’s long-term resilience.

These figures are higher by far than in most of the other countries surveyed in our State of Sales report, and point to a bright future for the sales profession in India.

We spoke to 300 sales professionals in India to find out how they are preparing for the new normal. Download the Sales Trends in India report.

Arundhati Bhattacharya

Arundhati Bhattacharya is the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer for Salesforce, India. In her role, Arundhati oversees the growth strategy of the company and plays an integral role in defining Salesforce’s relationship with the ecosystem of customers, partners and community across India. Throughout Arundhati's 40+ years in the financial sector, she has also earned a string of accolades to her name, which include "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" by Forbes, “Top 50 globally most powerful women in business” and “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders" list by Fortune.

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