Salesperson on a video call

Living through a pandemic is something none of us anticipated we’d do in our lifetime. But here we are. Many employees have had to change their habits and start doing things differently. Many work from home now, and some may never go back to an office environment. 

Salespeople have had to adapt, as well. Although it’s common for field salespeople to work from home, the rules have changed. Now they have to maintain social distancing requirements, wear masks, and handle sales presentations via conference calls instead of meeting with potential clients face-to-face.

For some, these new behaviors pose no problem. For others, they’re more of a challenge. A 2019 study by Buffer uncovered the following:

  • 22% of remote employees say their biggest issue is unplugging at the end of the workday
  • 19% of remote employees report feeling isolated from peers and co-workers
  • 17% of remote employees say communication issues are their biggest challenge 

While the results above came from remote workers who were not necessarily in sales, Sales Hacker surveyed its community in 2020 and got similar results. Here are a few of the things that salespeople struggle with most in a remote-work environment:

  1. Lack of face time. No, we’re not referring to the app on your iPhone. It turns out that salespeople like face-to-face communication. Successful salespeople know there’s a lot more to communicating than the words used. Body language comes into play, as does eye contact and personal energy. All that is hard to capture on a video call.
  1. Lack of attention. It’s far too easy to get distracted these days. When it comes to remote selling, salespeople find that it’s harder than ever to get prospects’ attention. This lack of focus may be due to the overwhelming emotions many have felt over the past year. It could have something to do with the social or political climate. Or it may be due to something else entirely. Whatever it is, it’s causing salespeople to work a lot harder to get their message to prospects – without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting.
  1. Lack of collaboration. Many sales organizations thrive on the energy generated by the members of the sales team. Now, as a result of social distancing, sales professionals are struggling to generate that energy on their own and keep themselves motivated every day. It’s tough work when you work by yourself. This is an issue that freelancers have struggled with for years. The difference is that in the past, freelancers could head to their local coffee shop to soak up some of the vibes of strangers. For the past year, that’s been a little more challenging to do safely, and salespeople are noticing a drop in their sales because of it.

So what’s the good news?

The good news is that salespeople are, overall, an adaptive species. They’ve learned to roll with the punches; many hear the word no multiple times a day and don’t take it personally. The Sales Hacker survey shows that salespeople are learning to adapt and bounce back, creating a new normal for themselves and the way they do business. In fact, 66% of respondents said they feel very confident about navigating a fully remote sales process in 2021.

As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the pandemic starts to loosen its grip. Eventually, life will get back to normal. It’s pretty safe to say, however, that “normal” may look a little different for many people – including some sales professionals – as employers embrace the work-from-home mentality and do away with expensive office space. It’s hard to say exactly when face-to-face presentations will be okay again. But it’s likely that salespeople who’ve figured out how to be okay with selling in a pandemic will be okay with the new normal, too – whatever it looks like.

For more information on this topic and to read tips for sales leaders working in a remote reality, see the Sales Hacker article here.