In a lot of ways, COVID-19 was a catalyst for change as businesses quickly adapted to remote workforces, local restrictions to protect public health, changes in consumer needs, budgetary concerns and more.
While many are hopeful that things will return to some semblance of normalcy, it won’t be the same normal that we experienced pre-COVID. The pandemic accelerated trends already in existence rather than inventing them whole cloth.
Consider, for example, the rise of digital sales. Consumers and businesses have been gravitating towards more digital self-service and virtual interactions for years now. Once social distancing became a necessity, these efforts became the new normal. And, according to a recent PwC survey which says less than one in five executives want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic, no one is eager to push back the clock.
There are two primary factors driving the rise of digital sales. One, Field Sales, traditionally an outside sales role, is stuck at home due to the pandemic, essentially becoming the new Inside Sales. Two, B2B buyers want a fully remote selling or 100% digital buying experience.
Field Sales Is Now Digital Sales
In the good old days, Outside Sales or Field Sales reps could visit prospects and sell to them in person. But treating a prospect to lunch and greeting them with a firm handshake are largely limited or off limits in the current climate. Instead, the customer journey begins on your website or via a virtual event, is fostered over email and concludes with video conferencing. Digital sellers need to recreate the buying experience to match this new normal.
B2B Buyers Want a Digital-First Experience
The other driving force behind the rise of digital sales is consumer expectations. As it turns out, the vast majority (80%) of B2B decision-makers prefer digital self-service or remote human interactions over in-person interactions.
Customers list several benefits to digital-first interactions including:
- Ease of scheduling,
- Savings on travel expenses,
- Avoiding travel restrictions,
- Health and safety concerns
- And the ability to self-educate.
This shift also reflects changes in demographics. Millennials make up 60% of all B2B tech buyers and are most comfortable with digital-first self-service and virtual interactions.
Organizations must match their strategies to consumer expectations in a digital-first world or risk losing customers to digitally enabled competitors.
Using Conversational AI to Scale and Drive Revenue Opportunities
These shifts to a digital-first world have, perhaps unsurprisingly, increased the numbers of leads generated through online content, webinars, virtual events, and website visits. While this increase in visibility is a good thing, it can leave the customer journey feeling impersonal and undirected. Adding the personal touch of a Sales Development Representative (SDR) via email or phone call can go a long way, but Sales teams only have so much capacity to chase down leads.
This is where Conversational AI fills in the gaps. By automating a personalized first touch after a webinar, for example, a Conversational AI solution like an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) can engage leads in two-way communications at scale. IVAs can ask if the lead has any questions or is interested in booking a virtual meeting with your Salespeople.
By intelligently automating lead outreach and follow-up, Sales organizations discover more revenue opportunities, boost ROI on Marketing investments and expand team capacity and efficiency.
It’s clear that the new normal is all about digital selling. How businesses react and adapt to these changes will define their success going forward.
By shifting field sales to digital sales, matching customer expectations for digital self-service and leveraging Conversational AI to acquire new customers and boost productivity, your organization can thrive now and in the years ahead.