How to build a Sales Pipeline for online and offline sales to meet the buyer of the future
Perhaps one of the biggest frustrations stemming from the sales landscape of tomorrow is that it’s not going to be an either/or situation; it’s not going to be a future entirely of remote sales, nor is it going to be a future entirely of face-to-face selling. This is one of the primary obstacles preventing sales leaders from developing new sales strategies: how to build a sales pipeline that incorporates both online and offline sales practices? Sales leaders need to build a sales pipeline that really has what it takes to win over tomorrow’s customers and be front of mind during the buyer decision making process.
The new hybrid model
The COVID-19 outbreak sparked an unprecedented overnight shift to remote working. While everything was normal one day, it was disrupted the next, with organisations across the world advising employees to work from home where possible. Remote sales became the new urgent focus, but will it dominate in the sales world of tomorrow?
It is clear that remote selling brings a number of benefits for those able to effectively drive remote team performance. However, as the landscape continues to introduce greater levels of normality over time, face-to-face sales will undoubtedly return in some capacity. McKinsey notes that around 20% of buyers are keen for face-to-face selling to return, highlighting the importance of a hybrid model.
But understanding how to build a sales strategy that works for both online and offline sales and results in a robust sales pipeline isn’t always easy. And that’s because the hybrid model introduces a number of new complexities that challenge both the buyer journey, and the team experience.
The challenges of hybrid
When considering how to build a sales pipeline that matches the requirements of the hybrid model, sales leaders must take into account how this model affects their most valuable resources: their people. Sales representatives who had grown accustomed to meeting their client contact partners personally - such as pharma sales reps, for example - may have found the shift to remote quite difficult. Throw in the need to combine remote with a face-to-face approach, and it gets even trickier.
Potential issues of the hybrid model include:
- A loss of routines and success principles. The routines and processes that sales reps have previously relied on are no longer valid, creating greater insecurity.
- A lack of remote sales skills and confidence. Reps need to understand how to blend online and offline approaches; something they may not have the skills for.
- A loss of motivation. Having to step out of the comfort zone and face growing insecurities can significantly affect a sales rep’s motivation to sell and succeed.
How to build a sales pipeline for the future
Understanding how to build a sales pipeline that meets tomorrow’s buyers - whether they’re happy to interact remotely, or are keen to return to a more traditional face-to-face system, means taking a 3-step approach to implementing change:1. Identify & train remote skills
While face-to-face sales aren’t expected to die out just yet, it can reasonably be expected that remote selling will become the norm in the future of sales management. This means that sales leaders can’t afford to overlook the importance of building and developing new skills across the team. Right now, sales leaders need to take a look at what skills are set to be essential for operating remotely, analyse the existing skills of the team, and organise rapid training sessions that bridges the gap between the two.2. Embrace technology
Operating between the in-person and remote sales world means having access to the essential tools necessary to bridge that gap. While sales has typically been slow to embrace tech, now is the time to make the shift to digital and harness the positive impact of technology on sales in this new normal. Off-the-shelf tools such as MS Teams and Zoom, along with quality headsets, can be valuable for mimicking face-to-face experiences in remote environments, while sharing tools such as Google Drive and SharePoint can enhance collaboration between online and offline reps. An innovative CRM which meets the sales pipeline requirements, will ensure sales reps around the globe can come together and remotely work on accounts while having real-time information and insights.3. Put people first
Perhaps the most important aspect of all is to understand that there are many possible reasons why a hybrid approach may be failing to deliver results. Maybe reps miss having the same level of interaction with customers. Perhaps they’re getting frustrated jumping between online and offline methods, or are struggling with the new IT infrastructure. As a leader, it is critical to listen to the needs of the team, understand what’s working, what isn’t, and put people first to find solutions to these new challenges.
To effectively meet the buyer of tomorrow - regardless of whether that buyer is online or offline - it’s important for sales leaders to work backwards when building a sales pipeline, starting with their people, rather than the customer. By understanding the frustrations of the team, and the challenges they face in the new sales landscape, it becomes easier to design, develop, and implement an effective process that enables sales reps to perform and deliver using the optimal blend of remote and face-to-face methods.