Sales After the Pandemic
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Sales After the Pandemic

REMOTE SELLING WILL SURVIVE THE LOCKDOWN, ACCORDING TO A COMMERCIAL EXCELLENCE LAB SURVEY OF 1,220 SALESPEOPLE AND SUPERVISORS, BUT BUSINESSES NEED TO DO FIVE THINGS

The lockdown was a period of forced technological learning that changed the way businesses handle fundamental processes such as sales. The study "COVID-19 and Remote Selling", by Paola Caiozzo, Paolo Guenzi and Marco Aurelio Sisti, shows that, in the period following the Spring 2020 lockdown, remote selling was slightly reduced, but it is far from disappearing.On the contrary, the experience has highlighted a different way of managing interactions with customers, with pros and cons, and businesses are reflecting about what to keep in the future.
 
“A positive aspect of this emergence is represented by the stimulus that it has given and can continue to give to the process of digitalization of networks and commercial processes, and to the identification of alternative ways of managing commercial relationships with which to prepare the ground for recovery,” says Paolo Guenzi, Scientific Director of SDA Bocconi School of Management Commercial Excellence Lab (CEL).
 
A survey conducted by CEL involved 1,220 subjects, two thirds of whom were salespeople, and one third supervisors and sales managers. A change in sales networks behavior emerged: 58% of the sample had a high degree of decision-making autonomy, used new materials to support the sales session (78%), or increased the use of existing materials (80%). But the most interesting data unveil a marked increase in the involvement of colleagues from other functions (78%).
 
The personal balance, understood as the level of perceived satisfaction, is also good, especially in relation to the technologies that companies have made available (50%). The learning effort was not perceived as onerous, but 76% of the sample stated that the effort involved in preparing a meeting is high. Digital interaction is more difficult as interactions are less frequent and shorter. In fact, the sample declares a skill gap to be filled, especially in communication skills, with different needs due to the digital tools.
 
The only sore point is the perception of results: according to the networks, the effectiveness of digital interactions and customer satisfaction are on average lower than in face-to-face interactions.
 
So, do networks intend to use remote selling in the future? The sample is polarized, with differences between sectors: financial-insurance is more inclined to remote selling (+17.1%), pharmaceutical-medical less so (-16.5%).
 
However, there's no turning back. Salespeolple want to maintain the efficiency they've gained, but much will depend on corporate support to address some open gaps:
technology support, skills training to increase the effectiveness of digital interaction, and, most importantly, adjusting sales performance management goals and systems and a different guidance and rewards model.
 
Among the first actions companies can put in place to change perceptions of results and stimulate intentions are:
 
      working in a targeted way, segmenting the customers in order to decide whether to pursue pure or hybrid digital transition (mix of interactions managed in traditional face-to-face and remote modes);
 
  updating sales processes to identify the phases that need to be protected or enhanced with a view to remote selling;
 
  continuing to invest not only in technologies, but also in training to ensure that salespeople develop effective and diverse communication skills, consistent with the new channels;
 
  rethinking leadership models to support change and maintain a high level of internal dialogue, encouraging integration between units and pushing towards team selling;
 
  adapingt Performance Management processes and systems to the new reality.

 


by Fabio Todesco
Bocconi Knowledge newsletter

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