The effect of COVID-19 on everyone’s lives has been momentous. COVID-19 established a new reality, forcing businesses to close their doors or adapt to new working conditions. Many employees embraced remote work or a social distance and mask policy that companies established to keep everyone safe. However, one of the least talked about changes was the effects of COVID-19 on salespeople and sales teams.
As an owner, you were probably aware of the feverish stock market, and how many brick-n-mortar businesses experienced significantly decreased sales and had to close their doors.
Like everything else during the pandemic, the ups and downs varied depending on industry.
On average, respondents to The CMO Survey special report stated their company’s sales revenues had declined 17.81% during the two months preceding the survey in May 2020. However, the revenue impact varied significantly across companies. “Nearly one in five of the respondents (19.5%) reported that sales had declined by 50% or more, and nearly half (46.8%) said sales had fallen by 20% or more.”
Overall, B2B companies did better than B2C companies. On average, respondents from B2B product companies reported “sales declines of 14.28%, and respondents from B2C services companies said their sales had fallen by 16.92%.”
Outreach surveyed over 600 people, “70 percent of them said they believed their organization would experience long-lasting change as a result of COVID-19.”
Many sales leaders knew they needed to make changes to their sales structures— COVID-19 was a significant catalyst.
Before COVID-19, many sales leaders did not have excellent visibility to field salespeople, they didn’t have a concrete process, and they also struggled to align with marketing. While these sales leaders wanted to standardize their process, they didn’t have an immediate need to cause unnecessary chaos by shifting their strategy. When the pandemic struck, field salespeople were greatly disrupted when in-person calls and meetings halted and other methods had to be adapted.
Organizations without a standardized process found themselves facing months of lost sales and pipeline activities. Outreach goes on to say, “Over 80 percent of Account Executives reported that their sales processes would experience long-lasting changes.”
Many sales leaders have had to look beyond fixing their immediate issues and think about a more adaptable, resilient sales process.
COVID-19 affected in-person communication like nothing before. According to ComputerWeekly, back in June 2020, “55% of surveyed remote employees identified not being able to communicate in person as one of their top three challenges.” So, leveraging tools to collaborate over distances was vital.
Communication is key to the success of any organization. With the rise of remote work, and the tendency for miscommunication to be even higher, sales leaders had to find ways to communicate with their salespeople effectively.
Sales Leaders needed to keep their team engaged. So, communication was done more through instant messaging, phone calls, face-to-face video chats, digital collaboration groups or projects, and others. Technology was leveraged at its best to achieve more effective team communication.
Many salespeople thrive at conferences, networking events, in-person gatherings, etc. But because of COVID-19, many organizations had to pivot to virtual events and content marketing to drive leads.
Bizzabo analyzed their data from over 1800 virtual events that took place in 2020. According to their research, “The majority 93% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward.” Data showed event markers found virtual events have many benefits but will not be replacing in-person experiences. Many salespeople are looking forward to in-person events again.
Another effect COVID-19 had on sales was with company target markets. Typically, a company assesses whether a particular target market logically fits with the company’s strategic direction, whether it is the best use of its resources (opportunity cost), and to what degree the company will compete in the segment successfully. However, COVID-19 had companies shifting their target markets.
A report from Statista in 2020, surveyed 452 marketers from the United States. The survey looked at the impact of COVID-19 on the targeting of audiences in marketing. “The biggest shift was the one of targeting audiences whose needs changed due to the pandemic, at 43%. At the same time, 39% of marketers claimed that they had made no shift in targeting audiences.”
COVID-19 has had many effects on sales, including but not limited to revenue decreases, sales process changes, and market re-targeting. The pandemic has also helped salespeople develop different ways to communicate and navigate the rise of virtual events.