The new standards of customer engagement will be different in the next normal. Understanding the macro trends shaping technology, the economy, and society as a whole is the first step for any business seeking to survive -- let alone thrive -- as they navigate a series of crises. Businesses must plan for the future, not a return to the past.
The new fourth edition of the State of the Connected Customer report from Salesforce shows that experience remains the key competitive differentiator for companies to acquire new customers, earn the loyalty of existing ones, and ultimately gain market share. The customer expectations in the next normal will required new customer engagement models in sales, customer service, marketing and commerce.
Nearly six out of 10 customers around the globe say their engagement with companies has transformed, with greater shares having transformed how they live online and offline. Eighty-eight percent of customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19. The impact of digital transformation may radically change how companies sell to existing and new customers. High performing organizations will lean into new technologies and business processes to remote and safely engage with customers.
According to McKinsey research, top 30% of sales reps will outperform the bottom 30% by as much as a factor of four. McKinsey research also shows that a new data-analytics strategy can help improve sales execution. Here are the key findings of the latest research from McKinsey on use of data-analytics in sales and the business-to-business (B2B) customer sentiment survey during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- High-performing sales reps spend 22% more time with customers -- and customers prefer that time to be spent remotely.
- Since COVID-19, interacting remotely is preferred by 70% to 80% of B2B customers.
- For a range of deal sizes, face-to-face meetings are not necessary at all. About 50% of small deals and 12% of large deals were closed with fewer than ten emails.
- During the pandemic, 12% of companies were comfortable closing deals of $500,000 to $1 million without face-to-face interactions, while 15% of companies felt the same for deals more than $1 million. The effectiveness of new B2B sales models in reaching and serving customers does vary by region.
- Top performing sales reps favor cold calls over cold email, and video is emerging as a top channel. High-performing sales reps relied on cold calls more than unsolicited email, making 82% more cold calls than low performing sales reps, and 26% fewer unsolicited emails. Effective remote or digital sales engagement also depends on existing versus new customer demographics.
- Digital interactions with sales reps have increased 41% since the pandemic began, and online chat has increased 21%.
- Seventy-six percent believe that remote sales interactions are equally or more effective than traditional in-person engagement in prospecting for new customers.
- Successful deals in North America involved double the amount of phone calls and 40% more emails than in Europe. Since the COVID-19 crisis, sales organizations on both sides of the Atlantic have found that remote sales models for reaching and serving customers are as effective or more than traditional approaches (75% in Europe and 74% in the US).
- More than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions -- a sentiment that has steadily intensified even after lockdowns have ended.
- Only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales.
The McKinsey research shows that the trajectory of sales engagements, regardless of deal size, industry, or geography, is toward greater adoption of remote and digital engagement models. The response to the pandemic was an immediate adoption of a distribute, digital only, engagement as a stabilization effort due to the pandemic.
In general, most businesses may have assumed that this is a temporary measure versus a more likely permanent model of a hybrid -- remote digital and in-person -- engagement. Digital channels of customer engagements have grown during the crisis. Customers turn to an average of nine channels to browse inventory, seek advice, and make purchases. Millennials claim to use more channels than other generations, even Gen Z. Seventy-six percent of customers prefer different channels depending on the context.
Based on the recent Salesforce's Stated of the Connected Customer Report, it is clear that the standard of customer engagement in the next normal will require development of new skills and adoption of digital technologies and new processes. In the next normal, companies must continue to invest in strengthening their ability to remotely sell products and services using digital channels.