Emerging Sales Signals: 5 Trends to Consider in 2021

Every year in the sales industry brings new trends and processes for business leaders to consider. Over the last few decades, we’ve seen the rise of everything from e-commerce, to virtual reality sales. As technology continues to evolve, the possibilities of what could come next are endless. 

While it’s impossible to predict what 2021 and the years beyond may bring to sales, assessing the confusing marketplace in 2020 does give us some useful insights to use as a launchpad.  

To help companies of all sizes approach the new year in the right way, the team at Revenue Grid used data from over 550 cutting-edge B2B sales teams to help track down the most important trends in the future. Here’s what we discovered for 2021.  


1. Channels in the sales playbook are evolving 

The number of touchpoints necessary to transform a cold lead into a completed sale is evolving, which means a lot more pressure for today’s agents. Even before the pandemic began in 2020, the sales journey was growing increasingly complex. Studies found that around 18 percent of deals took more than a year to close fully – a common concern in the B2B landscape.  

Our research into the sales teams from 2020 found that before the pandemic emerged, the average number of touches in the sales cycle was around 17. After the COVID-19 issue hit, that number leapt to a massive 26. The number of calls required to speak to a company’s internal team increased to almost double the amount, and it began to take a lot longer to simply schedule a sales call.  

So, how do you speed things up for your team? The easiest option could be to simply add a new channel to your sales cycle. We found that despite the concerns of the changing sales landscape, companies incorporating SMS into their strategy were reducing the number of touches required for a sale. The number dropped by around 19percent.  


2. Reaching out in the right order

There’s no arguing with the fact that 2020 changed the nature of the salesperson. The rise of the pandemic meant that virtually all salespeople became virtual sellers overnight. Around 70 percent of organizations, according to Salesforce, are now training reps to sell from home. Instead of customer lunches, onside meetings and demos, outside reps are now building relationships through the web.  

With a new sales journey to consider and more competition for customer attention than ever before, a lot of in-depth planning is a must-have for any sales team. Setting up meetings isn’t as simple as it once was. We’re discovering that sales teams are usually beginning their outreach with the wrong platforms, and this could be preventing them from achieving success.  

Bringing the social media landscape into the sales journey straight away could be a powerful step forward for a lot of companies. It’s no surprise when you consider that around 71 percent of decision-makers say that social media is an influential channel for them when it comes to making decisions.  


3. Customers have new demands 

It’s probably no surprise that your customers have new concerns to focus on in this sales landscape. With sales cycles expanding, buyer teams growing, and corporate purchasing power becoming more restricted, all sales teams need to work harder to figure out what their clients really want. Salesforce’s annual selling report outlines the importance of better customer relationships and figuring out what customers really need before a sale.  

Discounts are a brilliant way for companies to connect with clients who are struggling with the extra pressures imposed by 2020. The pandemic meant many companies were dealing with lower profit margins and a limited amount of spending budget. Falling win rates and cut budgets means that no one can afford to spend much without careful consideration.  

Our research into B2B companies discovered that discounts had increased by around 60 percent since the beginning of the year. However, the discount path might not be the best way to generate new sales for your team. Indeed, we found that companies could create more lucrative relationships with customers by offering longer trials instead.  

Demos and trials of software or services are an excellent way to prove the value of whatever you have to offer to your audience. A longer trial gives your customer more time to get used to the product and discover all of its advantages. Offering longer trials also means that it gradually becomes more difficult for decision-makers to say no to the offer.   

On average, we found that when teams offer discounts to clients, they win about 22 percent more deals each month. On the other hand, the number of deals won per month with extended trials increased by a massive 56 percent. 


4. AI plays a bigger role 

Intelligent tools have been quickly gaining a lot of ground in the sales landscape. The Gartner Future of Sales report for 2025 says that around 60 percent of B2B organizations are set to transition into data-driven selling in the next five years. That’s because B2B buyers are searching for a more contextual and relevant experience.  

To leverage data and intelligence more effectively, the best solution may be to increase your focus on guided selling opportunities. Part of the research we did into the current sales trends of this era involved looking at the tools that teams are using to accelerate their sales. We discovered that the people using AI-enhanced tools capable of suggesting the next steps in a sale were seeing the most benefits. Guided selling operations led to a 30 percent increase in the chance of winning opportunities.  

Teams reported that using AI-powered strategies for sales made it easier to eliminate the issues with “at-risk” deals, too. Once a deal emerged as at risk, agents could use AI to plan the next best strategy to get things back on track.  

The more you can use artificial intelligence to strengthen and enhance your knowledge of the customer and their purchasing journey, the easier it is to unlock new opportunities for sales. According to Salesforce, around 37 percent of sales teams are now using AI.  


5. Teams need better deal coaching 

AI doesn’t just play an important role in guiding teams toward opportunities to save lost deals. The right intelligent solutions can also make a huge difference to the way you coach and support your sales teams. In today’s remote-selling landscape, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for sales managers to keep track of their employees and ensure that they maintain the right levels of productivity. Salesforce even says that sales reps usually only sell an average of 34 percent of the time.  

To keep your employees on the ball, you need a way to constantly support and coach them through sales with the right dynamic playbooks and information. We found that having automated systems in place that help with coaching and direction is the key to success. Guided selling solutions can enhance the productivity of teams and reduce the duration of internal admin work by around 27 percent.  

Our research revealed that salespeople are usually spending around 50 minutes more each day in meetings and calls, trying to build on the relationship they have with clients. However, a lot of time is still wasted on back-and-forth conversations between agents and supervisors. With guided selling to suggest the best sales plays for your agents automatically, you can eliminate these inefficiencies.  

The right guided selling solutions will pull information together, from everything from your buyer personas to your AI analytics and CRM technology. Having this information on hand immediately unlocks new sales opportunities while reducing the risk of stress and burnout for agents.  


Get ready for the sales signals of 2021 

Ultimately, the age of digital selling that we’re rapidly moving into will demand a lot of granular changes to both your sales process and your technology stack. Preparing for what comes next means that teams need to ensure they’re properly equipped with the right processes, analytics, and digital solutions.  

We believe that the keys to better selling in 2021 will start with the evolution of the sales cycle with new journeys that start in social media and include channels like SMS. Additionally, companies will need to rely more heavily on sales tools to help them understand customer demands and automatically adjust the sales strategy to suit that client.  

Finally, sales leaders and managers will need to be equipped with the correct tools to train and support their employees in this shifting landscape. This could even mean having automated coaching systems in place.  

Now it’s time for you to go and experience the new sales trends of 2021 for yourself.  

Roman Shovkun is the EVP of Worldwide Sales & Marketing at Revenue Grid, the only Customer Engagement platform that equips revenue-generating teams with everything they need in one place.

  • Originally published January 26, 2021