So far this year, it feels like each day brings news that reminds us how much our lives have changed. For many of us, the big question is whether these changes are temporary, or whether the effects of COVID-19 are going to be with us for the foreseeable future. And if they are, which parts of our lives are likely to get back to normal, and which ones are going to be altered forever?
Salespeople have these questions too, especially since our roles are usually the most customer-facing ones in the company. While no one has a crystal ball that can predict the future, here are five things that we think are likely to change in sales after the coronavirus:
1. Face-to-face meetings
Meeting with a client face-to-face was once the primary way of doing business until the telephone then, eventually, the internet reduced the amount of in-person interaction necessary to close a deal. Look for that trend to accelerate as more companies look to minimize their risk by encouraging (or requiring) limitations on in-person meetings. To be sure, it’s unlikely that face-to-face will completely disappear. And perhaps someday there will be a renaissance of in-person meetings. But for the foreseeable future, don’t expect a lot of conference room visits.
2. Workplace flexibility
Millions of salespeople shifted to working from home once the pandemic upended the global economy, and that trend is unlikely to abate anytime soon. Employers and employees have discovered the benefits of a remote workforce, and many have realized that their companies are viable, and might even save money by keeping their sales teams remote. Of course there will be companies for whom a remote arrangement isn’t a great fit, but modern technology, cost savings, and employee demands are likely to accelerate workplace flexibility for the foreseeable future.
3. Office setups
When salespeople do go back to the office, they’re seeing their desks rearranged and new safety measures put in place. The days of open office plans and sharing food are likely behind us as health policy recommendations will encourage – or mandate – social distancing in the workplace, better ventilation, and dividers to help limit the spread of disease. While this might be unpleasant for some salespeople, many others will be grateful not only for the added safety measures, but also for the newfound privacy that will result from them.
Airports and rental car lines were once filled with salespeople on their way across the country to close the next big deal. Not only has COVID-19 put a damper on that, it’s likely to have long-standing implications for travel itself. Look for companies to move things online rather than put their road warriors in harm’s way. Large deals are still likely to require some level of travel, but rather than making a plane ticket the default, moving forward it’ll probably require some special consideration. And, of course, travel itself will be irrevocably changed as airlines put safety guidelines in place that will make the process more onerous than it already is.
This is probably one of the more bittersweet shifts that will happen as a result of the pandemic. Handshakes have long been the greeting of choice in western business, and the fact that they’ve been all but eliminated from our interactions is not only strange, it’s a little sad. While the handshake might come back after the coronavirus abates and a vaccine is developed, there’s an equally strong likelihood that it will become a relic of the past. But no matter what happens, one thing is for sure: this pandemic has changed life for most people on the planet, and salespeople have definitely not been immune.