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4 Sales Trends That Reshaped the Way We Worked in 2020

Liz Alton
January 19, 2021

3 minute read

Sales trends changed quickly—and in unexpected ways—throughout 2020. The pandemic, rapidly shifting economic conditions, and the larger social (and socially distanced) context demanded that brands develop new strategies to reach buyers. Here’s a closer look at four sales trends that reshaped the way we worked in 2020 and a preview of what to expect in the year ahead.

The digital customer journey is being redefined

In the wake of the pandemic, a significant amount of sales moved online. Nielsen’s global ecommerce study found that 30% of online buyers in 2020 were new to digital purchases. 2020 changed not just how consumers bought, but what their journey and consumer buying patterns looked like. In fact, buying habits shifted as frequently as weekly based on changing health, economic, and social factors.

Those frequent shifts demanded a change in the way brands tracked sales data, notes McKinsey: “Whereas in the past, companies might have fielded high-level usage and attitude surveys and brand trackers a few times a year, it’s especially important now for companies to keep a closer eye on the evolution of consumer behavior on a weekly or monthly basis.”

B2B sales move from the trade floor to Zoom

The Gartner Future of Sales 2025 report predicts that 80% of B2B sales will be online by 2025. 2020 gave us an important preview of what a digital-first sales environment looks like for B2B companies. The “Global B2B decision-maker response to COVID-19 crisis” survey from McKinsey found that 90% of companies moved their sales operations to online video conferencing. The move from trade shows and association meetings—along with copious global travel—to platforms like Zoom, Slack, and Teams signaled a major change. Optimizing for digital selling has forced many sales organizations to invest in technology, revise their compensation and sales strategies, and ultimately find ways to create value from a distance.

AI-powered sales tools reshape sales enablement

Companies ramped up their sales enablement activities to better serve the needs of a remote workforce. However, in 2020, sales enablement far exceeded simply providing articles or case studies to sales reps. Oracle introduced new AI-enhanced tools that can help sales representatives identify their most promising prospects, quickly move through the configure, price, and quote (CPQ) process, and even determine the best next step in the sales process to drive to a conclusion.

For the past decade, sales has focused on gathering better data. The introduction of AI sales enablement lets companies take those insights to a new level, with deeper personalization and faster responses that meet the expectations of today’s most demanding customers.

The sales methodology space shifts

Sales methodologies are an important behind-the-scenes part of the sales space. It’s not just about what you sell, but how you do it. One Forrester analyst says that in 2020, sales methodology vendors became more flexible as brands needed to experiment with what worked. Sales methodologies flexed with changing market needs, working to help brands adapt their approaches to changing customer demands, virtual selling, and market realities. As a result, brands that needed an infusion of fresh ideas to help create winning approaches to survive and thrive in 2020 turned to sales methodology vendors to introduce consultative selling, more effectively meeting customer needs, and much more.

While selling changed over the past year, new sales trends emerged that will reshape the way we interact with buyers. With sharper selling tools, virtual selling expertise, and updated customer journey data, brands can succeed in the year ahead.

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Liz Alton
Liz Alton
Liz Alton is a writer and content strategist specializing in B2B technology, digital marketing, and the customer experience. Her clients include creative agencies, Fortune 500 brands, and venture-backed startups.
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