These 7 Stats Shed Light on the Future of Sales

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As we’ve done for the past three years, LinkedIn recently compiled and released our Global State of Sales report. It’s an immersive survey of salespeople and buyers that casts a light on sales trends, both prevalent and emerging. This edition feels more important than any before, because sales (and business at large) is undergoing a distinct transformation. It is very likely that many of the changes we’re seeing this year will shape the nature of B2B sales for many to come. 

The Future of B2B Sales in 7 Stats

There’s plenty of future-focused information to be found in the 2020 Global State of Sales report. We pulled seven particularly telling statistics and featured them in an infographic, which you can scroll down to find below. But first, here’s a sneak peek at the future of B2B sales.

1. 77% of people say they’re holding more virtual meetings in the wake of COVID-19

It may seem obvious, but salespeople are taking more meetings from behind their keyboard and computer screen. There’s been a fundamental shift in how B2B sellers connect and communicate on an interpersonal level. There are no firm handshakes. No fresh-printed sales dossiers. Everything from the pitch to the proposal is going digital, which means B2B sellers need to adapt. For three-quarters of companies, it means revamping the sales funnel and the pitch process in a major way. 

Looking Ahead: Even after the pandemic ends, it is likely that virtual meetings will be more commonplace. With more than three-quarters of sellers saying they are holding more virtual meetings, the tools and skills are gaining traction; meanwhile, buyers are also becoming more familiar and comfortable with this method of interacting.

2. Customer satisfaction is now the No. 1 metric for sales performance, outranking individual and team quotas

Businesses want partners and vendors they can count on. This statistic is a telling one, because it provides perspective into the value hierarchy of business customers. Happier customers have longer tenure, higher spend, better upsell opportunities and better terms—all affecting sellers’ bottom lines. Meeting a quota is great, but it means little if there’s high churn. Customer satisfaction is the metric more businesses are using to determine the effectiveness of their sales strategy from a sustainable standpoint. 

Looking Ahead: Measures of success that are strictly results-based, like hitting quota, are likely to keep fading in prevalence. Sales leaders are becoming more interested in tracking the factors that reliably contribute to long-term success, and customer satisfaction ranks highly on that list. Managers should rethink how they measure and incentivize sales rep activities in light of this. 

3. Only 32% of people describe sales as a “trustworthy” profession; 88% buy only when they see a salesperson as a “trusted advisor”

Used car salespeople aren’t the only sellers with a bad rap. Roughly one-third of B2B customers don’t trust salespeople and are reluctant to buy from them, let alone listen to a pitch. It’s a perception problem and one that could stymie even the most well-crafted sales funnel. The solution? Pivot from sales to solutions. People need to feel like they’re making an informed decision about a purchase without background sales pressure. Don’t think of it as selling: think of it as providing the information, benefits and value so the customer can sell themselves. 

Looking Ahead: We need to close this gap. Trust is of the essence now more than ever in B2B sales, as buyers are making clear. Building trust and rapport at the early stages of your engagements is an urgent priority.

4. 76% of salespeople cite sales technology as “critical or extremely critical to closing deals”

B2B sellers rely heavily on technology to help them track and close sales. From the CRM that keeps them organized to the file sharing platforms that help them deliver sales collateral to customers, technology is deeply ingrained in the sales process. And while this likely isn’t news for many B2B sellers, the speed at which technology is accelerating sales is big news. Thanks to business clouds and software integrations, sales time is decreasing. Every good salesperson knows time is money. Every minute counts.

Looking Ahead: Those organizations that aren’t taking full advantage of emerging software and tools capable of bringing greater efficiency, productivity, and efficacy to the sales process are in danger of falling behind the pack. 

5. 84% of salespeople are active on LinkedIn, up from 70% in 2018

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: LinkedIn is more than a place to get hired—it’s the place to build business relationships and drive sales results. The professional ethos LinkedIn sets the tone for meaningful engagements, direct marketing and targeted prospecting. From powerful search criteria, to messaging, to groups, feeds, hashtags, and channels, B2B sellers are flocking to LinkedIn. They’re finding an audience that’s receptive and engaged, and who cares about what they’re selling. 

Looking Ahead: Sales teams everywhere are making LinkedIn a strategic fixture. If you’re not using the platform to research, interact, and reach out, it’s very likely that your competitors will be. 

6. 49% of salespeople use data to assess their sales performance and prospect new sales

Salespeople want to know if what they’re doing works. More and more, B2B sellers are using data from within the sales process to evaluate and refine their process. Are they getting more conversions from general managers or department heads? What’s the average time between first contact and final sale? How many touches does it take to prime a sale? Every data point matters as sellers seek to craft a refined pitch that’s foolproof—one they can lean on to automate their success. 

Looking Ahead: The fact that fewer than half of all salespeople are currently leveraging data for these purposes represents an opportunity to get ahead of the curve. There is little doubt as to the value and benefit; as Joseph DiMisa shares in the State of Sales 2020, “Sales organizations with a clear data strategy for their go-to-market efforts reported that 11% more of their sellers made goal and they won forecasted deals 8% more of the time.”

7. This data is global, from 10,000 buyers and sellers in 10 countries

All these statistics become even more telling and important when you realize they’re compiled not only from the United States, but from countries around the world. LinkedIn’s State of Sales report brings together data from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States to paint a picture of world B2B sales trends. 

Looking Ahead: As business keeps moving into the virtual realm, borders are diminished as barriers. In this new environment, it’s much easier to engage with, partner with, and do business with people from anywhere around the globe. Broaden your thinking!

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