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Survey Reveals 51% of U.S. Salespeople Expect to Travel Less Post-Pandemic

two salespeople talking in masks

Quick Take: A new survey of U.S.-based salespeople shows strong enthusiasm for a return to stability and growth. Despite a sharp rise in the share of salespeople who plan to work remotely for the long term, however, training for digital selling is scarce.

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In May 2020, at the height of the global pandemic, Salesforce conducted a survey of global salespeople for its State of Sales report. Even then, as confusion reigned, 61% of salespeople were confident about one thing: their jobs would never be the same. 

Now, nearly a year later, a new world of digital sales is coming into focus. Economic forecasts are up, vaccine production and distribution is speeding up, and salespeople — along with the rest of society — have a clearer view of what the future holds.

We surveyed 250 quota-carrying sales representatives in the United States to learn how salespeople see the future of their roles, how and where they’ll perform them, and how prepared they are to embrace a new era of selling. Here’s what we found.

Expectations for growth and stability dominate sales outlooks

As layoffs mounted and public health directives restricted movement in 2020, businesses across industries grappled with an existential economic threat that in many cases became too powerful to overcome. Yet according to the salespeople we surveyed, gloomy outlooks have overwhelmingly been replaced by optimism. 

The largest share of sales reps (50%) expect their companies’ revenue streams to grow over the course of 2021, compared to a mere 13% who expect declining revenue. 

With bright outlooks for sales numbers, many salespeople (44%) say they feel increased pressure to deliver revenue. 38% of salespeople are worried that they’ll miss their quotas this year, and an additional 22% remain unsure about the outlook of their quotas. Compounding this anxiety is the fact that just 19% of salespeople say they have excellent visibility into their pipelines.

Digital selling is here to stay

After a year of selling virtually, what was once seen as a temporary change is now largely seen as a permanent shift in how salespeople conduct their jobs. 

A recent study of B2B customers around the world found that 81% expect to conduct more business online after the pandemic than they did before. The implications for salespeople are clear: 

  • 51% of salespeople say they’ll travel less for work after the pandemic than they did before, and a mere 16% disagree with the statement. 
  • 47% go as far as to predict that most selling will be done virtually moving forward.
  • Road-worn outside sales reps are more likely to anticipate a future in which they rack up fewer frequent flier miles (56%) than are inside sales reps for whom virtual selling is not as foreign of a concept (48%).

Sales reps won’t necessarily be swapping their rides to the airport for commutes to the office. In fact, just 43% of sales reps expect their primary work location to be in an office after the pandemic has subsided, a substantial drop from the 55% who say they mostly worked from an office before the global health emergency. The share of sales reps who say they’ll mostly work from home after the pandemic (27%) is 145% higher than that which worked from home previously (11%).

Training for a sell from anywhere world is scarce

Despite apparent enthusiasm for selling over screens instead of in conference rooms, a significant 43% of salespeople say it’s harder to sell virtually than it is from an office. 

A lack of training on the new realities salespeople face could be to blame. 62% of salespeople we surveyed said they had not received training on virtual sales over the course of the past year — a reflection of the fact that just 32% of salespeople rate their company’s training and coaching as excellent.

Sales leaders surveyed for our most recent State of Sales acknowledged the shortcomings of their training programs. In fact, just 26% of those sales leaders felt completely capable of updating their staff’s skills for changing conditions. 

Despite this, the role of training and coaching in sales strategy is prominent: 80% of sales leaders surveyed for the State of Sales report expected changes in the skill sets they require from their staffs, and 64% planned to address those needs through reskilling of existing employees.

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Survey methodology

Salesforce conducted a double-blind online survey of adults in the United States employed full-time as sales representatives. Data was collected between March 1 and March 15, 2020 and yielded 250 responses.