While the Covid-19 pandemic may be nearing an end, this massive global event has fundamentally changed the way we do business. That’s especially true in the world of B2B sales, where deals have traditionally closed over meetings, handshakes, and other face-to-face interactions.
Today’s sales organizations are facing challenges unlike any they’ve seen before—but the most successful teams have always been flexible, agile, and adaptable. The key lies in recognizing potential pitfalls and finding smart ways to overcome them.
As we move to the midpoint of 2022, we’ve compiled this list of top sales challenges for 2022, along with tips and recommendations for navigating them successfully.
Challenge #1: The Great Resignation
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 48 million people voluntarily left their jobs in 2021. This unprecedented exodus from the workforce—dubbed “the Great Resignation”—has hit sales teams especially hard, with average turnover rates estimated around 35 percent.
Even in the best of times, attrition makes it difficult for sales teams to operate effectively. Sales leaders are forced to focus on hiring and onboarding instead of strategy and execution. Performance suffers as depleted teams struggle to meet revenue goals. And morale declines as those who remain are left to pick up the slack. The best way to protect your team—and the bottom line—is by retaining the employees you already have.
How to manage it
Here are some tips to increase retention and minimize the impact of the Great Resignation:
- Show your appreciation. This should be obvious, but employees are less likely to leave when they feel valued. Take the time to recognize accomplishments and celebrate milestones. Invest in sales training and provide opportunities for career growth. Most importantly, treat each person as an individual—not just a cog in the sales machine.
- Clarify your employer value proposition. Of course your comp plan should be competitive, but retaining your sales talent is about more than money. Give them something to believe in! Develop clear messaging about your company’s culture, your mission, and your products—and show how you’re making a difference in the world. (This is especially important for Millennials.)
- Uncover the real problems. Despite your best efforts, some people will inevitably choose to leave. As painful as they may be, exit interviews are your best opportunity to discover the issues that are driving talent away, so don’t treat them as a formality.
Challenge #2: Coming out of “pandemic mode”
As we emerge from more than two years of pandemic-induced uncertainty, sales teams everywhere are struggling with the questions of a new reality. Live events are starting to return, but will they ever be the same? How do sales meetings work when my prospects work remotely? Are the virtual processes we put in place on-the-fly appropriate for the long term?
The fact is, the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to innovate, and some of those innovations are more efficient and effective than the old way of doing things. Rather than waiting for a return to “normal,” smart sales teams are seeking a way forward—which requires a creative, hybrid approach that blends digital channels with traditional in-person interactions.
How to make it work for you
As you prepare your team for post-pandemic selling, here are a few recommendations:
- Learn how to work virtual events. In-person conferences are making a comeback, but virtual events are likely here to stay. Without a traditional booth to make connections and book meetings, you’ll need to get creative with your event strategy. Every virtual event is different, so investigate the event platform and agenda to identify the best networking opportunities. Then get involved with the event itself. Attend as many sessions as possible and participate in sidebar chats to make organic connections.
- Adjust tactics for digital leads. A greater percentage of leads are likely to come from digital sources (rather than trade shows), so you may need to fine-tune your nurture tactics to move them through the funnel. Email remains a go-to channel for sales communications, but consider adding a personalized video to build rapport without face-to-face contact.
- Invest in training. Now more than ever, sales is an evolving field. A proactive approach to training will keep your team up-to-speed on emerging skills that can help them sell in a virtual-first world. Regular training also keeps everyone aligned and ensures you’re all working toward the same business goals.
Challenge #3: Gen X buyers take the reins
We’ve touched on the Great Resignation, but there’s another employment phenomenon that’s impacting sales teams: the Great Retirement. The Baby Boomers (currently 58-76 years old) are retiring in droves, and the Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated their employment exodus. As of late 2020, nearly 30 million Baby Boomers had retired—and a year later, more than half of adults age 55+ had joined them.
As Baby Boomers vacate long-held leadership roles, a new and different cohort is taking control of B2B buying decisions. Generation X is a much smaller population than either Baby Boomers or Millennials—so they’re frequently overlooked—but understanding the nuances of “Gen X” is now critical to selling success.
How to embrace it
As you navigate this new generation of B2B buyers, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Gen X values authenticity. Unlike Baby Boomers who don’t mind being “sold,” Gen X buyers value marketing that is personal and authentic. Earn their business by becoming a trusted advisor. Your sales messaging should demonstrate how you can help them achieve a specific business result, like saving money or avoiding risk.
- Gen X questions everything. As the original “latchkey kids,” Gen Xers were often left to fend for themselves, and major economic events like the dot-com bust shaped their formative years. As a result, Gen X buyers tend to be independent thinkers who value data and unbiased research. They want the straight, unvarnished truth—and they want to see the proof, not just the pitch.
- Gen X is tech savvy. Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen Xers have spent their lives adapting to new technology. While they aren’t digital natives, they’re comfortable with a wide variety of digital channels and tech platforms. But they’re also a nostalgic group, so the occasional direct mail campaign may land well—if it’s authentic and well executed.
- Gen X has unique communication preferences. While Gen Xers are often stereotyped as loners, the isolation of the pandemic affected Gen X buyers just as much as everyone else—so they’re likely ready for some face-to-face contact. Their feelings on phone calls are somewhat ambivalent—they’re more likely to answer than Millennials, but far less likely than Boomers.
Challenge #4: Remote work limits expansion opportunities
“Land and expand” is a popular sales strategy—and with good reason. Starting small and building on that foundational relationship lets you earn more business and land bigger deals throughout an organization. Studies show that 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations influence more than 90% of B2B buying decisions.
Of course, expansion becomes more difficult in a remote workplace because your customers aren’t having those everyday water cooler conversations. That means you’ll have to get creative—and proactive—if you want to connect with internal decision-makers.
How to overcome it
Following are some ideas to help jumpstart your expansion efforts:
- Do your homework. Develop a clear value proposition to explain how your solution can help different parts of the prospect organization. The selling points that resonated with your initial contact may not have the same impact in another department.
- Use all the tools at your disposal. Tools like LinkedIn and ZoomInfo make it easy to identify additional prospects within an organization. Your CRM data can also provide extensive insights on the people who make purchase decisions at your target company.
- Be proactive with outreach. If you have a solid relationship with a contact, ask for referrals. Requesting introductions to specific people is usually more effective than a blanket referral request—which makes your prospecting research even more important.
Challenge #5: Lack of alignment between sales, marketing, and success teams
Internal alignment isn’t a new challenge, but it’s even more common among remote teams. In many organizations, the tools to enable remote work were selected hastily and implemented haphazardly, leading to poor integrations and siloed communications. And remote teams tend to communicate less overall, which creates more opportunities for misunderstandings and conflicting priorities.
Misalignment has significant consequences, including tension between teams, poor customer experience, and missed revenue targets. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to give sales, marketing, and success teams the tools and support they need to work together effectively.
How to fix it
Here are some tips to help you build (or rebuild) alignment between internal teams:
- Leverage technology to improve communication. Real-time chat tools like Slack, Google Chat, and MS Teams can go a long way toward replicating face-to-face conversations. Because they’re so easy, they encourage more frequent and informal communications.
- Schedule recurring meetings. Regular sales team meetings are a must, but you should also schedule monthly or quarterly meetings with marketing and support teams. Meet in person when you can or use video conferencing to increase engagement on remote calls.
- Get on the same platform. Giving everyone access to the same data is a huge step toward improving alignment. A unified CRM platform (like Insightly) serves as a single source of truth, to give cross-functional teams a 360-degree view of each customer.
- Optimize integrations. When evaluating your tech stack, consider the tools your team already uses. Any new additions should integrate easily with the tools your team relies on, to increase adoption and utilization.
Meet your toughest sales challenges head-on with Insightly
At the end of the day, the solution to most sales challenges boils down to three things: consistent processes, internal alignment, and deep customer insights. The right CRM puts these goals—and more—within reach.
Insightly CRM was designed to help growing teams develop and manage customer relationships through a simple, scalable platform. Insightly is the only solution that aligns sales, marketing, and services on a single, shared data platform for unprecedented transparency and a seamless end-to-end customer experience. And with its intuitive user interface, Insightly CRM puts customer insights at your fingertips for more strategic decisions and better business outcomes.