It's not exactly mind-blowing to point out that the sales landscape has shifted radically in these past two or so years. A shift to remote interactions, the trend away from physical workspaces, and a host of other changes have left sales reps, managers, and leaders in a bind.
Even as we move toward some semblance of normalcy, sales — as a field — is still fundamentally different than it was just a few years ago. And that kind of adjustment comes with its share of challenges.
So in the interest of helping salespeople identify and meet those issues, we reached out to some sales experts and conducted some research to show you six of the main challenges facing salespeople in 2021 and offer some perspective on how to address them.
6 Sales Challenges Facing Salespeople in 2021
1. Trying to Build Trust Virtually
According to Hubspot Strategic Channel Account Manager Chris Moore, the trend away from in-person interactions that caught steam in the pandemic is bound to be a game-changer. Salespeople are going to need to adapt their strategies and learn how to establish credibility with a virtual barrier between them and their prospects.
He says, "2021 is going to be a different year for salespeople as the sales landscape has changed so much. Before this year, sales reps could go onsite to build trust and demonstrate why their product was superior to their competition, and they're no longer able to do that. Most companies I am working with are still not going into the office, so they have to figure out a way to build this trust virtually.
"The salesperson that can leverage technology in a way to personalize that messaging virtually will win in 2021. Because there are so many salespeople reaching out via email and phone calls now as opposed to meeting with people in person, you have to figure out clever ways to get into these businesses with a personalized approach."
2. Getting in Front of Decision-Makers
HubSpot Sales Manager Jayme Manos raises a concern in a similar vein to the previous one. He suggests that our transition to a virtual sales landscape might mean trouble for salespeople looking to connect with decision-makers.
He says, "The ability to get in front of decision-makers is getting increasingly challenging — especially with the continued high percentage of leaders and executives working from home. Getting a time commitment to meet means there needs to be perceived value very early in the process.
"I believe that non-personalized sales email blasts will become even less effective. Reps will need to ensure they've not just researched an account, but that they come with a strong 'point of view' and a very clear call to action, regardless of medium."
3. Realizing a Solid Product Alone Won't Close Deals
Manos also asserted that sales reps won't be able to rely primarily on how sound their product or service is to land deals. According to him, "The quality of the technology you're selling alone doesn't close big deals."
He says, "That might sound like a simple thought, but with the sheer number of competitors offering any specific SaaS solution, running a strong sales process is more important than ever. When sales reps push for a close, without having executive buy-in and a clear ROI, more deals will be lost to 'no decision' and timelines will push."
4. Adjusting to an uncertain, post-COVID world.
When we reached out to HubSpot Senior Growth Specialist Sarina Kowaguchi, she had this to say, "The transition to the new post-COVID world is a challenge I foresee being top of mind for many salespeople in 2021.
"Amidst COVID last year, we saw many businesses going remote and suspending in-person meetings, resulting in new office culture dynamics fostered over communication tools like Slack and Zoom. We also saw shifts in marketing and sales strategies with the implementation of new digital marketing and outreach tools.
"In the coming months — as more of us get vaccinated — we're likely going to see businesses re-evaluating business protocols surrounding remote work and revisiting their lead generation and customer acquisition strategies.
"A question many businesses may have surrounding the latter could be, 'Should we continue with our remote sales and marketing efforts or go back to in-person meetings? What about trade shows or conferences? Moving forward, which strategy may be more lucrative for us as a business?'
"Depending on which direction their company decides to go in, salespeople may be facing more permanent changes in remote policies — changing the way they work with their managers and co-workers. And if their companies decide to continue with (or transition to) remote sales efforts in the coming year, they may see changes in sales processes to align with these new efforts.
"On top of that, they might have to deal with the implementation of new technology to foster remote sales, marketing, and services coordination. I believe flexibility and willingness to change will be key attributes in the coming year — as it was in the past year as well."
5. Struggling With Productivity in the Face of Uncertainty
HubSpot's Sales Enablement Report found that sales orgs that have transitioned to a more remote sales model might struggle with efficiency and cohesion — an impact made heavier by changes in prospects' buying habits.
According to the report, "Sales organizations have been forced to operate remotely. Reps need to become more creative as buying habits have changed, managers are being asked to find new ways to improve seller productivity, and leaders are being asked to drive growth through uncertainty."
As reps struggle to adapt to prospects' new habits and sensitivities, managers need to step in to provide clarity and firm guidance. Sticking to a solid sales process and thorough communication between sales leaders and their teams will be absolutely essential.
6. Moving Towards a Buyer-First Mentality
According to Kwesi Graves, VP of Sales at Scribe, prioritizing buyer interests will have more bearing on how reps conduct their sales efforts, going forward. He says, "When we think about the concept of buyer-first, it's redefining the paradigm.
"We're going to look at how buyers want to buy versus how we choose to sell to them. It's all about mindset and scrapping out or wiping the hard drive from that old mindset, especially in the way we're selling now in this market."
2021 is going to be a tricky year for salespeople. It's going to bring its share of troubles and hitches, but the issues to come are far from insurmountable. So long as sales reps and managers demonstrate persistence, adaptability, and a constant commitment to solving for the customer, they should be able to handle the challenges of the new sales landscape.
Originally published May 4, 2021 2:15:00 PM, updated June 07 2021