Now that vaccinations are rising, many people assume that we’re on our way back to normal. But whatever version of normalcy we’re heading toward, it won’t look the same as it did before 2020. In fact, we’re not really sure what it will look like at all. All we know is that it won’t ever be the same as prior to the pandemic and that getting there will be a progression—not a light switch.
Here’s what we think sales will look like in the near and far future based on what we’ve seen this year. (Hint: The buyer will decide what normal looks like.)
Get Ready to Do Less In Person—Permanently
The world is now increasingly remote, whether or not you are working remotely. Even if your company is ready to go back to the office, that doesn’t mean your prospects and clients will be doing the same. You need to be prepared to follow the buyer’s lead on where to meet. And it’s likely that it will rarely be a conference room or coffee shop because more people now prefer remote interactions.
According to an S&P Global Market Intelligence survey, nearly 80% of organizations implemented universal work-from-home policies this year and 67% intend for these policies to remain in place long-term. People have proven that they’re more productive working from home. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) shows that workdays are now 48.5 minutes longer on average. Companies are also getting rid of office space and opting for real estate with a smaller footprint to cut costs. So if you used to drop in on your clients to chat, that probably won’t work anymore. They may only be in the office a few days a week at most.
If your clients do go back to the office, they still may not want you there, even after the vaccine is distributed. According to McKinsey’s research, B2B buyers prefer interacting digitally and only 20% want to return to in-person sales. They’ve gotten used to remote interactions and they prefer it, and they’re the ones you need to please. That means the availability of in-person meetings may never go back to what it was prior to 2020.
Find Worthwhile Reasons to Meet
Now that the world is more comfortable meeting remote, if you want to meet someone in person, you need to give them a good reason. There’s so much we can effectively replicate while remote so there needs to be a tangible benefit to meeting in person. What’s worth the trip? What can’t you do from a distance?
If you’re selling physical products and services, meeting in the physical world can have clear benefits. For example, if you’re a packaging company, you may want to show samples and discuss them in person rather than just shipping them over.
If you find a good reason to meet in person and someone agrees, make sure to show up prepared. Meeting in person can differentiate you if you make sure the conversation benefits the buyer and is worth the time they dedicated to meeting in person. The NBER shows that people have about 13% more meetings now and those meetings have 13.5% more attendees. If you have a good reason to meet in person, it could be what sets you apart from other vendors. You’ll stand out in a world where most meetings are now remote.
Make Sure the Buyer Is Comfortable
Just because you’re in the door, that doesn’t mean things go back to the way they were before. Even if a buyer does want to meet in person, you need to get a sense of what they’re comfortable with (and everyone’s comfort level is different). You have two choices: Play it safe or read the room. Show empathy and let the buyer set the line.
Keep the following tips in mind:
- Keep Your Distance When Greeting – Handshakes, hugs, and other greetings involving touch will likely take a long time to come back. Some people may be okay with a fist bump or elbow bump, but keep your distance unless they initiate.
- Consider Going Paperless – Buyers may not want you to hand them a brochure anymore. It’s safer, better for the planet, and more affordable to go digital with your sales collateral if you haven’t already.
- Leave the Swag at Home – Maybe you used to bring gifts, but people may not be as comfortable with you handing them something anymore. They may prefer that you keep your distance.
- Think Through the Mask You Wear – Wear something comfortable that makes it easy to talk and doesn’t fall off your nose. Be ready to leave it on during the entire time you’re meeting in person.
- Share Content on Their Screen – Don’t share content over someone’s shoulder. Mirror the content you’re sharing on their screen so you can stay 6 feet apart.
- Take on a Hybrid Mentality – Even if you schedule an in-person meeting, be prepared for 90% of the people to be remote.
No one likes to buy when they’re uncomfortable. Don’t assume you share the same comfort level and show the buyer empathy and respect.
Remember That Change Is Incremental
While things will likely never go all the way back to normal, we’re definitely on our way to the way things were. The future is bright for sellers who are able to maintain a consistent customer experience as the world adjusts. You’ll likely need to ease back into meeting in person and you won’t get things back the way you thought you would. First, you’ll be let in the building, but half the people won’t be there. Eventually we’ll be able to take our masks off. Then once everyone is vaccinated, we may all finally be comfortable meeting in person again. Remember to follow the buyer’s lead and get comfortable with the uncertainty that awaits us on the transition back to normal.
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