The Pandemic Expedited the Growth of the Hybrid Sales Professional, Highlighting New Ways of Connecting Buyers and Sellers in B2B Sales.
The future of B2B sales includes a strong mix of hybrid sales professionals into the customer’s buying journey. The hybrid salesperson conducts their work and connects with their customers with a balance between face-to face and remote/virtual interaction. With more and more buyers also working (in many cases) in a hybrid position, and the fact that technology continues to provide buying solutions with less friction, we believe there is a greater desire for hybrid roles to supplement and in many cases replace the traditional field sales, considered the most critical B2B role in sales pre-pandemic.
54% of companies reported they increased hybrid roles headcount over the past 12 months, with hiring for this role remaining strong as we head into 2023.
This is good news for both salespeople and the companies that hire them. From the employee perspective, less travel equates to a healthier lifestyle that extends to sleeping patterns, eating behaviors, and the ability to connect with family and friends with a less frenetic pace. Less burnout for the employee, and lower travel expenses for the company places a focus on making sure that every encounter matters to both the buyer and seller and clear meeting objectives are known.
The hybrid sales role does NOT replace inside sales though, which was the fastest growing role pre-pandemic. We know that complex high-dollar expenditures and highly technical sales still require that face-to-face interaction, and this role will need to be sharp and focused on their customers’ biggest challenges and solutions to solve them.
As office life was non-existent during the pandemic, we saw the inside sales center of excellence literally disappear, reappearing in a “virtual” form, but now with an increasing return to the office there is a desire to bring back the CoE, particularly for new entrants into the workforce and people who are just learning the role. Enthusiasm from the C-Level and concerns about development from the front-line balanced with other concerns ranging from safety, “empty cities” and long commutes puts us in a “wait and see,” as the CoE continues to evolve and find solid footing. That said, 43% of companies of have increased inside sales headcount, illustrating its importance within the sales operating model.
New business development is the priority focus as companies hire across different sales role types. Finding people with the right skills, talent, and connections to develop and bring in new business for the company is key. Account acquisition through outbound calling and prospecting is a priority over account management and inbound response to marketing campaigns. This is going to require new skills development, sales enablement through the right technology, and a focus on providing better data and insight to them than ever before. It isn’t just about the product anymore, but bringing solutions to business problems by leveraging creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. We know that what buyers value most is information about their industry, their competitors, and how they can best solve their business problems and achieve higher bottom-line results. Golf and dinner is a side note. Solving complex business problems is the keynote.
What’s Happening with Retailers and B2C Interactions?
During 2020, many retailers shut down completely while others shifted to new methods of selling that included simple innovation such as the convenience of curbside pick-up, thereby complying with a shut-down mandate while keeping business going to operationalizing full ecommerce capabilities. We know that in 2021, on-site retail business picked up steam across the U.S. as the country began to open again, and retailers understood that consumers continue to value the ability to shop in a brick-and-mortar location. 52% of companies have increased retail direct sales headcount, even as we are experiencing an evolution in retail, with many companies finally figuring out what implementing an omnichannel strategy means to their own business. At SalesGlobe, it is our belief that that those companies who will have the best customer experience delivered through the sales associates (no matter where they are located), not to mention achieving the highest bottom-line results, are those that figure out how to pay their sales associates for all sales within their geographic footprint, regardless of which channel the customer ultimately chooses. Creating a seamless experience with the ability to purchase anywhere and at any time with a sales associate who is engaged with the consumer and will be rewarded for their sales efforts (regardless of how the consumer finalizes the purchase) will win out every time. To do that, companies will need to make employee pay a seamless experience as well.
What’s Happening with the War For Talent?
Another implication of the pandemic was extremely high levels of employee attrition that created “the great resignation” that has been impacting both traditional office “white collar” and “blue collar” positions. People have begun to rethink their professional aspirations and where and how they want to work and live. The sales organization is not exempt from this dynamic, and there have been a series of short-term high-impact actions that are taking place as companies work to retain their top talent and attract new talent. There is a warning out there regarding some of these actions. Consider the long-term implications of the decisions that are being made today. Unintended consequences can include overcompensating for talent that you find out is not a good fit, to creating internal pay compression and pay equity problems. These are just a few examples of the downstream impacts companies are faced with as they offer solutions to attract and retain talent.
Pay leads the way as companies’ top actions to stem turnover and acquire new talent, which includes increases to both base pay and incentive opportunity. We caution, however, that companies may be overpaying on salary within the sales organization to attract new talent. Pay compression continues to be on the rise, with little difference between unproven new hires and top performers, and we believe this contributes to higher-than-normal attrition and is a short-term fix that will create longer-term business problems. Companies that are increasing pay should place their bets on incentive pay. Incentive pay is better aligned to performance than base salary, and you have a better chance of “getting what you pay for” in the war for talent. This also allows you to level the playing field with your top performers by creating a more lucrative incentive program that differentiates low, expected, and high performers incrementally based on their sales results.
Sales Compensation Programs and Practices Survey Results
WorldatWork, in partnership with SalesGlobe, conducted a survey to gather information on sales compensation plan structures and practices to reward for sales success and drive performance to the goals of the business. Click here and complete the form to receive your copy of the full survey results.
In this survey we reveal big stories that include:
- The future of sales is hybrid! Hybrid sales roles lead the way on headcount growth and are here to stay.
- Inside sales roles are second in growth behind hybrid. The center of excellence is not going away.
- Brick-and-mortar is returning, with over half of companies surveyed increasing retail sales headcount.
SalesGlobe is a leading sales effectiveness and data-driven creative problem-solving firm. We specialize in helping Global 1000 companies solve their toughest growth challenges and helping them think in new ways to develop more effective solutions in the areas of sales strategy, sales organization, sales process, sales compensation, and quotas. We wrote the books on sales innovation with The Innovative Sale, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation, and Quotas! Design Thinking to Solve Your Biggest Sales Challenge.
Chief Operating Officer and Partner at SalesGlobe
She hosts the podcast, “Riding the Big Wheel,” a platform for women in leadership to share their personal and professional stories and insights.
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