Ways COVID-19 Has Permanently Changed Sales

The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to quickly transform to a virtual sales environment. While the pandemic will pass, it has established a new normal for sales teams that requires sales leaders to reevaluate their overall approach. 

I recently partnered with N3 to lead a discussion with top sales executives where we shared best practices around how to adapt with decisiveness and agility.

The Biggest Takeaway? Virtual Sales is Now The Standard.

When the world went virtual, trade shows became digital experiences, in-person meetings became video calls, and working remotely became the rule, not the exception. As technology sellers, we may see the shift as an extreme acceleration of the digital transformation we’ve championed for decades.

This new virtual environment requires your sales reps to expand their skill set and drive efficiency with technology, all while adjusting their approach to customer conversations. 

Expanding the Sales Skill Set

Selling virtually is fundamentally different than in-person. It’s all about how to sell effectively in a virtual environment — and this goes beyond understanding how to use video conferencing tools.  

As a sales leader, you must assess and coach your teams around how to maintain strong eye contact with the camera, how to have a similar level of energy while conducting conversations virtually, and how to employ social selling tactics as part of their sales strategy.  

Driving Efficiency in Virtual Sales with Technology

When COVID-19 forced an immediate work-from-home environment, many companies were caught off guard and ill-prepared to support a virtual workforce. Technology has rocketed to the top as a solution for enabling companies to manage the business and allow sellers to interact with customers and prospects.  

However, as sales leaders, we need to be mindful of technology overload. When you have the right tech stack in place, it will drive efficiency — removing bottlenecks, tracking sales rep performance, and automating tasks. Technology should help keep sales reps focused on their primary objectivesales. 

Adjusting the Approach to Customer Conversations

It’s no secret that in virtual environments connecting with a customer or prospect becomes much more difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread isolation and financial obstacles, making it even harder to keep a client or prospect’s attention, let alone lay the foundation for long-term trust.   

However, sales reps can still create connections if they adjust their approach: 

  1. Clarity – With all this chaos, people will only respond to a very succinct and clear message. Many organizations may need to revisit what it is that they stand for and how they communicate that, both internally and externally.  
  2. Empathy – Expect customers to be distracted, self-protective, and risk averse. While the most successful sales reps have always empathized with the customer’s operating reality, communicating with greater sensitivity and precision will be of paramount importance for the foreseeable future.  
  3. Collaboration – Enlisting clients and prospects to share their experience via feedback mechanisms not only helps in building a collaborative relationship but can also inform the path forward for your organization’s people, process, and technology. 

While the current environment requires a more empathetic approach, the fundamentals of clarity, empathy, and collaboration will continue to be key to sales success. Make sure your sales teams understand this and are focused on building trust and relationships, not just pipeline. 

The bottom line? Now is not the time to engage in analysis paralysis. Every business is struggling to identify the path forward, but the cost of inaction is greater than any misstep. This moment is serving as a catalyst for change that will impact us for decades.  

For more strategic insights on how to adjust to the new normal, read N3’s solution brief on Digital Transformation 


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About the Author

Greg Holmes

N3 Guest Blogger: Greg has more than a decade of experience in sales and management in the SaaS space. Most recently, he served as Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Revenue Officer at Zoom Video Communications. His storied career brought him from school teaching to leadership positions at CA Technologies and the Nimsoft product division. He also helped build the web touch selling model at Webex, and successfully ran the Canadian business unit for Cisco Webex. Connect on LinkedIn