Nearly 90 per cent of top sales professionals use sales technology to close deals: LinkedIn report

Virtual selling is increasingly becoming the norm with 9 in 10 top sellers in India using sales tech to close deals in the hybrid world, according to a recent report by LinkedIn.

The professional networking platform on Tuesday launched the third edition of the ‘State of Sales’ APAC 2021 report to understand how these times of change are challenging the world of sales today.

The findings are based on the responses of 400 buyers and 400 sellers in India.

As per the report, virtual selling has become the norm. 74 per cent of Indian buyers said that working remotely has also made the purchasing process easier.

It further emphasized that sales organisations and sales managers must prepare for an ongoing hybrid working world moving forward. This trend comes at a time when 90 per cent of India’s sales managers say that the ability to cope with change is more important now, than 5 years ago.

The report further stated that sales leaders indicate that hiring may also change in two more crucial ways.

“First, with the rise of remote work, sales organisations will be able to hire talent from virtually anywhere in the world — not just the cities where their offices are located. Beyond diversifying the locales of their sales professionals, companies can also expand the diversity of their sales teams when it comes to gender, race, and other characteristics,” it said.

“When the pandemic arrived, it moved the needle for sellers who had previously kept virtual selling at arm’s length. Today, nearly 90 per cent of top sales professionals use sales technology to close deals, a strong indicator of how sales intelligence tools such as Sales Navigator are helping buyers build trusted relationships in the remote world,” said Abhai Singh, Head, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, India.

“For sales orgs, data is more crucial than ever, and sales leaders are increasingly using real-time data and insights to inform their planning and sales strategy,” Singh added.

Key trends

The report further shared certain key trends based on the findings of the report to highlight how sales professionals are leaning on data-driven strategies and intelligence tools to understand buyer needs, build trusted relationships, and close business deals.

In terms of virtual selling, sellers are increasingly embracing sales technology solutions such as sales enablement and sales intelligence tools.

This comes as India witnessed a 7X jump in remote job postings on LinkedIn since the start of the pandemic.

“As a result, buyers have been difficult to reach anywhere but virtually. This online shift has cemented the future of virtual selling in India, encouraging many sellers to embrace tech,” the report said.

Furthermore, 68 per cent of sellers agreed that sales tech helps them build stronger relationships with buyers. 88 per cent of India’s sales professionals also said that their organisations have plans to invest in more sales intelligence tools, while 89 per cent agreed that sales technology is very important to help them close deals in this remote reality.

The report also focused on the need for a shift to a ‘buyer-first’ approach.

“The pandemic has urged salespeople to consider the buyer’s economic and emotional condition, before making a sales pitch. This ‘buyer-first’ approach is critical to attracting more customers, but the report suggests that it’s yet to come into practice, ” it said.

Around 77 per cent of sellers in India said that they ‘always’ put the buyer first, but only 41 per cent of buyers agree. The disconnect was especially prevalent across sales organisations who unwittingly put up barriers that prevent their own sellers from serving their buyers’ needs such as active engagement, product trials, and price transparency.

It further added that sales organisations and sales managers must prepare for an ongoing hybrid working world.

India witnessed an 11x increase in the number of postings of remote sales jobs on LinkedIn since the beginning of the pandemic.

Amid the ongoing shift in the work environment, 90 per cent of sales managers in India agreed that the ability to cope with change today is more important than it was, 5 years ago.

As per the data, sales operations, sales enablement, and customer success will remain a hiring property across sales organisations today, and in the near future.

As sales operations roles evolve, organisations are relying more on and are reinforcing data-driven strategies.

“The digitisation of sales operations and its growing role in strategic planning has put the spotlight on data-driven strategies today. Sales organisations are increasingly using data for a range of tasks, such as sales planning and sales strategy,” the report said.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has also emerged as a key source of data, with 78 per cent of top sellers relying on such tools.

A major challenge for buyers and sellers alike is misleading product information and low understanding of the situation that blocks deals.

As per the data, misleading product information (53 per cent) and inadequate understanding of competitors’ products and services (44 per cent) are the top deal killers in India today.

Further, 40 per cent of buyers also said that a lack of personalised messaging, not understanding the buyer’s company and needs, and not understanding their own product or service are some more deal breakers today.

Separately, buyers and sellers are also leveraging LinkedIn to build connections. 85 per cent of sellers say they are committed to expanding their LinkedIn network in 2021. 77 per cent of top sellers in India plan to write ‘many more articles’ this year, to share content that can position themselves as thought leaders in their industries, as per the report.

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