All legal Covid restrictions in England have now come to an end. The pandemic has turned the way many industries work on its head, forcing innovation and causing us to rethink many established norms. This is particularly true of many sales roles that previously relied on face-to-face contact.
What has the pandemic done to sales?
Covid-19’s impact on sales has been intense. It has made those of us in the sector realist that we can still sell without relying on the usual working methods that so many of us previously considered essential.
Most salespeople thought that sales teams had to be together in an office to be effective, or that we had to be in a face-to-face setting with a client in order to sell to them. Clearly, the pandemic has blown both of those notions out of the water. We can sell without all sitting in an office together and we can sell remotely. Of course, that’s not the same as saying we should be doing both of those things – I’ll come to that in a moment.
Ultimately, the pandemic has shown us that sales teams can be run from many different sites, including people’s homes, and that we connect to clients in many different ways and still sell effectively.
How has sales adapted during the pandemic?
Salespeople have proven themselves to be highly adaptable during the pandemic. They’ve certainly improved their video call technique over the past couple of years! And, as a group, salespeople have shown that they can be effective outside of the sales office environment.
But it’s not just selling techniques and processes that have been impacted. Managers have had to improve their skills in managing home-based sales teams. They have had to take care of the practical side of the work and also the emotional side, sustaining team contact through online meetings (often twice daily, at the start and end of the day) and finding ways to encourage camaraderie despite the geographic isolation of the team.
Of course, adapting to the restrictions and changes resulting from the pandemic hasn’t always resulted in positive outcomes. In some ways, sales management has become more intrusive, with people working from home finding that managers are suddenly checking their activity both more carefully and more frequently. Companies varied in their approach to this, but some salespeople certainly found that their dials, conversations, talk times and meetings booked and attended were all under more scrutiny, with tracking on a daily basis.
What does the future hold for sales, now that there are no further restrictions?
This increased and sometimes intrusive monitoring leads back to my earlier point – just because we can adapt doesn’t mean we should. Our ability to adapt under Covid restrictions is, in some ways, dangerously misleading. We have made things work during the pandemic but that doesn’t mean that the newly formed ways of working are better than before. In our personal lives, did our ability to find a way to enjoy Christmas, birthdays and other occasions alone during lockdowns mean that we’ll continue to celebrate such things alone? Absolutely not. Instead, for most of us, the lockdowns just reminded us how critical social contact is at these times.
In many ways, this is mirrored in what we’ve learned in sales. We can make it work while not being in the office together. And we can make it work by meeting with clients over video, rather than visiting them in person. But it’s all a great deal more enjoyable – and in many cases more effective – when doing it the previous way!
Clients buy based on trust. That means salespeople have to build a trusting relationship that ensure the client knows they are being listened to and that the salesperson has the client’s interests at heart (as opposed to their own commission). Building that trust is best done in person.
What’s more, selling from home while working alone is done successfully by very few people. Most of us in sales work better within a team environment – a face-to-face team environment.
Finally, there’s the mental health aspect to consider. A huge proportion of us have felt the impact of the pandemic on our mental wellbeing. This has been particularly so for many salespeople as, after all, they work in roles that mean they suffer high levels of rejection every day. We’re collectively safer back within the social interaction and reassurance that comes from being surrounded by our teammates.
Yes, the pandemic showed us that we can adapt admirably. However, in almost all ways, the pre-Covid way of selling was better, both for clients and for salespeople themselves.