Has COVID Changed How We Sell?

The COVID lockdown changed almost everything. After more than a year of not going to the office, limited travel, living in a virtual world, and few in-person meetings, we are discovering new ways to do business.

Jack Derby is my go-to guy for how to make sales organizations work. We recently talked about how COVID has changed selling, the selling process, and sales management. Jack founded the Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts University and is CEO of Derby Management.

The heart of most sales programs prior to COVID was trade shows, meeting customers at their location, demonstrating the product, entertaining customers, and being present. The sales team was expected to be meeting with customers or at the sales office talking to customers.

Most of those selling routines stopped with COVID. Barriers to in-person meetings are now lower, but sales practices changed, and some changes will stick. Here are Jack Derby’s observations:

What Has Not Changed

  • Selling value to the customer
  • Talk to the customer’s journey, not about your technology

What Has Changed

  • Salespeople are not going back to the office
  • Marketing will dominate sales outreach
  • Online sales meetings are here to stay
  • Blogs, posts, video, and Zoom are essential sales channels
  • “Let’s have a coffee” is history!

Sales Management

We have discovered that virtual sales work for everyone. Your sales team gains 2 or 3 HOURS of selling time every day. They can be more flexible with their prospect’s schedule, and they have more control over their family time. The salesperson’s life is more manageable, and turnover may fall over time.

The job of the sales manager has also changed. Most of the manager’s contact with the sales staff is virtual. Setting expectations, training, supervising, and resolving disputes is mostly done virtually. The salesperson’s workday has shrunk, but the manager’s day has expanded. The manager must be available essentially 24/7 to answer questions, give direction, and coach members of the sales team.

We are still learning. The most successful companies will not try to go backward and hold onto what worked before COVID. These companies are learning from what changed and what worked over the last year. The core requirements for success, such as selling value to the customer, will not change. COVID accelerated changes that were already underway. Discovering the changed business practices to carry forward is the challenge we face.

Fall in New England
Most of us live in or near major urban centers. Our landscape is buildings, cars, and streets. Getting away from the city scene to rural Vermont is a special treat for me and a reminder that a wonderful world exists away from the city.