The most successful and resilient organizations have adapted to all things virtual — including events and learning, talent acquisition, as well as their sales strategy. One trends that is here to stay is digital or virtual selling – a strategy that has radically increased since the COVID-19 crisis began and is seeing tremendous success.
LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, today launched the third edition of the ‘State of Sales’ APAC 2021 report to understand how these times of change are challenging the world of sales today. Based on the responses of 400 buyers and 400 sellers in India, survey findings reveal seven enduring trends that can help sales organizations stay one step ahead of change.
Selling changed forever in 2020, and this year, virtual selling has in fact become the norm. 74% of Indian buyers say that working remotely has also made the purchasing process easier. This year it has become evident that sales organizations and sales managers must prepare for an ongoing hybrid working world moving forward. This trend comes at a time when 90% of India’s sales managers say that the ability to cope with change is more important now, than 5 years ago.
LinkedIn data also states that sales leaders indicate that hiring may also change in two more crucial ways. First, with the rise of remote work, sales organizations will be able to hire talent from virtually anywhere in the world — not just the cities where their offices are located. Beyond diversifying the locales of their sales professionals, companies can also expand the diversity of their sales teams when it comes to gender, race, and other characteristics.
As communication, trust, and sales tech becomes imperative in the virtual world of sales, the LinkedIn State of Sales APAC 2021 report highlights 7 trends that showcase how sales professionals are leaning on data-driven strategies and intelligence tools to understand buyer needs, build trusted relationships, and close business deals.
- Virtual selling is good for sellers; it’s even better for buyers
- Sales organizations are preventing sellers from putting buyers first
- Sales organizations and sales managers must prepare for an ongoing hybrid working world
- Misleading product information and low understanding of the situation block deals
- Sales technology provides the key pathway to building trust
- Evolving sales operations roles are reinforcing data-driven strategies
- Buyers and sellers are finding greater connection on LinkedIn
“When the pandemic arrived, it moved the needle for sellers who had previously kept virtual selling at arm’s length. Today, nearly 90% of top sales professionals use sales technology to close deals, a strong indicator of how sales intelligence tools such as Sales Navigator are helping buyers build trusted relationships in the remote world. For sales orgs, data is more crucial than ever, and sales leaders are increasingly using real-time data and insights to inform their planning and sales strategy,” says Abhai Singh, Head, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, India.
He explains some of the key findings from the report:
Virtual selling is good for sellers; it’s even better for buyers: India saw a 7X jump in remote job postings on LinkedIn since the start of the pandemic. As a result, buyers have been difficult to reach anywhere but virtually. This online shift has cemented the future of virtual selling in India, encouraging many sellers to embrace tech solutions such as sales enablement and sales intelligence tools in these times of change. Buyers in India appear to like this arrangement as 74% say working remotely has made the purchasing process easier.
Sales organizations are preventing sellers from putting buyers first: The pandemic has urged salespeople to consider the buyer’s economic and emotional condition, before making a sales pitch. This ‘buyer-first’ approach is critical to attracting more customers, but the report suggests that it’s yet to come into practice. Around 77% of sellers in India say they ‘always’ put the buyer first, but only 41% of buyers agree. This disconnect is particularly prevalent across sales organizations who unwittingly put up barriers that prevent their own sellers from serving their buyers’ needs such as active engagement, product trials, and price transparency.
Sales organizations and sales managers must prepare for an ongoing hybrid working world: This shift to remote operations has also enveloped the sales landscape as India witnessed an 11x increase in the number of postings of remote sales jobs on LinkedIn, ever since the pandemic struck. As COVID-19 continues to accelerate change in the world of sales, 90% of sales managers in India agree that the ability to cope with change today is more important than it was, 5 years ago. Against this backdrop, data reveals that sales operations, sales enablement, and customer success will remain a hiring property across sales organizations today, and in the near future.
Misleading product information and low understanding of the situation block deals: In these times of change, many organizations have found it tough to keep pace with evolving customer demands. But it remains imperative for sellers to perceive the changing customer aspirations and adapt to them consistently. Because data indicates that misleading product information (53%) and inadequate understanding of competitors’ products and services (44%) are the top deal killers in India today. In fact, 40% of buyers also said that a lack of personalized messaging, not understanding the buyer’s company and needs, and not understanding their own product or service are some more deal breakers today
Sales technology provides the key pathway to building trust: In India, 97% of buyers in India consider their salespeople as trusted advisors. This indicates the importance of trust when closing business deals. But given the hard stop on in-person interactions due to COVID-19, sellers are leaning on tech tools to build trust among their customers as 68% of sellers agree that sales tech helps them build stronger relationships with buyers. Further, 88% of India’s sales professionals also state that their organizations have plans to invest in more sales intelligence tools, while 89% agree that sales technology is very important to help them close deals in this remote reality.
Evolving sales operations roles are reinforcing data-driven strategies: The digitization of sales operations and its growing role in strategic planning has put the spotlight on data-driven strategies today. Sales organizations are increasingly using data for a range of tasks, such as sales planning and sales strategy. The most common benefits of data among sales organizations include evaluating patterns from business win, assessing performance, and selecting industries to target. In fact, CRM has also emerged as a key source of data, with 78% of top sellers relying on its efficiency.
Buyers and sellers are finding greater connection on LinkedIn: With traditional ways of meeting and connecting with clients now on the halt, buyers and sellers are increasing their reliance on LinkedIn since the pandemic. Benefiting from the platform’s powerful sales insights, 85% of sellers say they are committed to expanding their LinkedIn network in 2021. Platform tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator help sales professionals to find the right client in the right market. In fact, 77% of top sellers in India plan to write ‘many more articles’ this year, to share content that can position themselves as thought leaders in their industries.