The Next Thing to Upend Sales? The Great Reshuffle

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Sales organizations are still adjusting to changes that have upended the industry over the past 18 months. Now, they’re facing another dramatic shift: The Great Reshuffle.

Across industries, employees are rethinking not just how and where they work but also why they work. As a result, many employees are reexamining their jobs and finding opportunities that better meet their needs, whether for more flexibility, better benefits or deeper fulfillment. LinkedIn research shows that hiring is up more than 30 percent year over year in the U.S., and these changes are happening across organizations, from the most junior employees to the most senior.

In the world of B2B sales, this reshuffling adds a new layer of risk to an already uncertain buying process. For example, a key decision-maker could move into another role or leave the company for a new opportunity; a new stakeholder could enter the mix; or the dynamics of the buying committee could suddenly shift. Of course, such shake-ups have always been a reality for sales professionals—25 percent of buyers typically change roles every year, as we found in our recent Global State of Sales report—but The Great Reshuffle is accelerating these changes. 

For those of us who lead sales teams and are responsible for revenue and business growth, The Great Reshuffle is a double-edged sword. It brings potential risks and opportunities, like many changes of this magnitude. It challenges us, as leaders, to think proactively about how we’ll future-proof our strategies. And, it creates urgency for us to focus on a few critical areas where this future-proofing will occur.


Make new connections with a focus on standing out

Relationship-building is not a novel concept for sales organizations, but it has become even more important between the pandemic and The Great Reshuffle. More than ever, trusted relationships must be at the core of selling. Now is the time for sales professionals to invest in fortifying connections and making new ones.

Not only must sellers expand their circle of influence by networking and building relationships across an organization, but they also need to stand out from the rest of the outreach that bombards their buyers every day. Email and outreach by sales reps have significantly increased compared to pre-COVID levels, yet response rates are down to some of the lowest in history. 

Sellers need to stop with the spray and pray generic outreach and spend the extra few minutes to find a way to get a warm introduction–that is, asking someone you know in common to introduce you–or reach out with a personalized note. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve received only three personal sales outreaches in the last couple of years, and that’s out of the dozens I get each week. It’s not difficult to stand out, but it does take a few minutes to learn about your buyer and send them a personalized note. Those extra five minutes are worth their weight in gold.


Be upfront about competitors

Another way to quickly build trusted relationships with buyers is to be forthcoming about the competitive landscape. You should be objective (or as objective as you can be) about the buyer’s options. For example, if you’re selling B2B technology, you can help educate the buyer on the different categories of technology investments that most companies consider. Share what you see your customers purchasing; advise them on the key questions, considerations and tradeoffs; and discuss the leading vendors in each category. 

When it comes to your offering, be upfront about competitors who may offer similar or complementary services. Help buyers understand the differences and guide them so that they make the right decision–even if that is ultimately not your solution. These kinds of open and honest conversations are uncommon, yet they can lead to some of the most robust relationships between a buyer and seller and yield dividends down the road.


‘Multithread’ by going wide within key accounts

Given the movement happening at the senior executive levels as part of The Great Reshuffle, going wide within key accounts and establishing multiple points of contact has become more critical than ever. 

Ensure your team has the tools and coaching they need to build these relationships with multiple individuals—for example, identifying and getting engaged with all members of the buying committee, understanding their respective roles and objectives, and equipping those stakeholders with the information they need to make a decision.


Align with buyers’ business goals

The most effective sales professionals I know are those who align with buyers and support their business goals. They know how to help buyers look good—something that buyers remember when they move into their next role or take a job at another company.

Unfortunately, many sales organizations aren’t structured to incentivize this buyer-centric approach to sales. Instead, they’re designed to drive short-term revenue results by rewarding reps to close deals as quickly as possible and move on to the next. 

Think about policy changes that instead incentivize your team to invest in buyer success. How can you reward sellers who close the deal and ensure successful implementation, which ultimately builds strong relationships with buyers and increases lifetime value? 


Track the right signals

Accurate, up-to-date data is non-negotiable, particularly against the backdrop of The Great Reshuffle. We’ve seen the trend of sales intelligence on the rise for the past several years. In our recent global survey, 74 percent of respondents indicated their organization is planning to invest more in sales intelligence tools.

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Software investments should equip your team with the information they need in today’s landscape, including who’s on the buying committee at a given time. When a key decision-maker leaves, your team should know where they’re going and what their new role will be. 

Sales intelligence is also a powerful tool to help sellers understand buyer intent and where their customers are in their purchasing journey, enabling them to capitalize on the right opportunity at the right moment. A key strategic advantage in today’s competitive environment is making sure your sellers have access to these signals so they can quickly prioritize the right opportunities and take action.


Keep adapting

The new era of sales is still unfolding. Sales professionals are already experiencing some of the early challenges and opportunities presented by The Great Reshuffle. And as leaders, we must support our teams by keeping our finger on the pulse of these changes and embracing what’s next, ensuring we’re looking around corners and adapting to evolving buyer dynamics. 

Alyssa Merwin is Vice President of Sales Solutions at LinkedIn and is dedicated to helping sales professionals modernize their approach to sales.

  • Originally published November 22, 2021, updated December 3, 2021