The Future of Sales — Which Direction?

The Death of Outside Sales?

Out with the old, in with the new, as the expression goes — and the new is here. Accelerated by the COVID19 outbreak, there is a fundamental shift to the sales landscape unfolding right before our eyes.

An assertion backed by McKinsey & Company — which reported 74% of the U.S. sales force is working at least partially remote — the market is pivoting to a future built around inside sales.

“Field sales as we knew it is changed for the future,” says AA-ISP Founder and host of the Inside Sales Studio Bob Perkins. “You don’t go from heavy face-to-face, to completely virtual in six months without permanent changes.”

Consumer Preferences Have Changed

As we all adapt to our increasingly web-based world, B2B buyers have started to mirror B2C consumers with a preference for digitally facilitated communication and self-service options.

Reinforced by the same report from McKinsey & Company, nearly twice as many B2B sellers reported digital communication being more important than traditional sales when compared to the period prior to the outbreak. Although the sizable jump is notable, what makes the change even more intriguing is that nearly half of respondents reported digital channels being more important than traditional methods prior to the outbreak as well.

In other words, this change was in motion.

“Field reps have somewhat acclimated to virtual selling over the years,” notes Bob. “Why? Because their customers demanded it.”

Changes in buyer attitudes are likely to accelerate and solidify as businesses everywhere are forced to take their sales operations, even those that had predominantly existed in the field, inside. So, for salespeople wondering how their buyer wants to be engaged; the results are clear, digital communication is the new standard.

Inside Sales Maximizes Touches and Selling Time

Not only do consumers prefer digitally facilitated communication but it behooves sellers to embrace the change as well. By eliminating the downtime of travel, you can maximize touches across incredibly important digital channels.

Worth considering, Bob continues, “We may have a whole new workforce that says, you know what? I just put in a 9-hour day, when I would have put in an 8-hour day because I had an hour-and-a-half commute.”

Put simply, it’s more than inside efficiency, it’s also outside inefficiency. The opportunity cost of a one-hour in-person meeting could be 20+ digital touches with various prospects. When you consider that it takes an average of 8 touches to simply land a meeting with a prospect, it’s a no-brainer to keep your sales operation inside.

But the benefits don’t stop there; activities such as call listening, email review, and CRM hygiene are all easier to manage from an inside perspective. Ultimately, these activities all drive efficiency and reduce wasted effort.

So, say good-bye to your awkward ride-alongs and embrace the convenience of our new digital world.

Outside Sales is Expensive

If you weren’t convinced that inside sales is the future, consider the real-dollar cost of mile reimbursements, windshield time, per diems, and business class flights; which all directly cut into the profitability of any sale. Although not news; entire products have been created to blunt the cost of sales-related travel. Encapsulated in the recent Salesforce acquisition of route optimization tool MapAnything, which had previously raised $80+ million, the demand for these products is huge.

Layered with a slow rebound for consumer confidence in travel, if clients don’t demand it — why pay for it?

Dead or Alive?

“Although it will be hard to measure in terms of revenue, there will be unintended learnings,” says Bob, “We may see that reps simply don’t want to go back into the office. But as for the death of the field sales rep? I’m not sure about that. Maybe more of an evolution.”

In any event, clear and measurable changes in consumer attitudes coupled with the efficiency of digital sales is sure to change B2B-sales interactions in perpetuity.

How can you take advantage?

“Now is the time to invest in the development of your people,” states Bob; and to that end, “training & development should center around the new reality that engaging with prospects and clients will largely be done virtually.”

David is the President and Founder of SalesRoads, one of North America’s leading B2B Appointment Setting and SDR Outsourcing Firms.