The future of work is already here, and taking shape all around us. Businesses in the UK are coming to terms with change on almost every front: a new operational landscape; big shifts in priorities for their employees; labour shortages in areas that were rarely identified as risks before. They’re dealing not just with the impacts of the pandemic but with the rolling impacts of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
“Buyers have taken control, shifted their expectations and redefined the role that they expect a salesperson to play. This has changed what it means to build relationships with prospects, and what it takes to close a deal”
In many areas of working life, it’s still not certain what final form this unfolding future will take. We don’t yet know how many employees will return to offices, how willing people will be to travel for meetings or events, whether the current difficulties involved in trading internationally will remain – or how long it will take to fill the gaps that have emerged in the labour market. However, there’s one central area of life where the depth and the duration of the change is already clear. It involves the driving force of business growth: the fundamental relationship between buyers and salespeople.
I’ve had a front-row seat as this relationship has been transformed not just by technology and the pandemic but by a switch in who’s driving the buying process. Buyers have taken control, shifted their expectations and redefined the role that they expect a salesperson to play. This has changed what it means to build relationships with prospects, and what it takes to close a deal.
A new demand from buyers, and a new role for sales
LinkedIn, more than any other platform, is where the transformation of sales has played out. With more than 775 million members and the highest trust levels in social media, it’s where professionals turn for information and inspiration that can move their businesses forward. And it’s therefore the platform that salespeople trust to help them navigate the new landscape. In the UK, 63 per cent of salespeople now use LinkedIn as their source of sales intelligence, which is 50 per cent more than those using any other sales platform or tool.
In many sectors, this has involved a wholesale transformation of the sales process. I’ve watched sales teams for export businesses, whose lives previously revolved around international travel and events, reinvent how they prospect, gather insight and build relationships. With the future of large-scale trade fairs still uncertain, they’ve turned to sales intelligence tools to fill the gap. In doing so, they’ve found that they are able to reach out with a more informed proposition from the start.
This matters, because buyers are no longer prepared to give up their time for salespeople who don’t already know about their business. They’ve learned that virtual buying is self-directed buying, in which they no longer have to depend on salespeople as a source of
information. That means they no longer need to give up their time to go through the salesperson’s process – or fit in with the salesperson’s agenda. If they’re to take a meeting, on Teams, Zoom or in person, they want to be rewarded with value they couldn’t have generated for themselves through a Google search or a visit
to the company website. In the UK, 80 per cent of B2B buyers say they’re more likely to consider products and services from a salesperson who challenges their way of thinking – but only 46 per cent say this often happens.
Buyers don’t just want advisors. They want advocates who are ready to work for their interests. That’s why the most successful UK salespeople are almost twice as likely as their peers to put the needs of the buyer ahead of their own. They know that the right to engage with buyers involves embracing the future of work – and the new role of sales that comes with it.