New research: sales have changed for good. But is it for the better? 

Kimmo Salmela · September 27, 2022 · 5 mins

How have sales developed since the COVID pandemic generated a major push into the digital channels? And in particular, what are the changes in one of the countries that boasts some of the best resources to support online sales?  

This is what a recent survey tried to find out here in our native Finland. We think it makes interesting reading as, according to research by the World Bank and the likes, Finland has for quite some time been one of the trailblazing countries when it comes to public and private adoption of digital technologies.
 

The study 

Run by sales coaches Sani Leino & Jan Ropponen, the study covered interviews with 253 sales professionals. Its main target was to pinpoint the key challenges and improvements they have encountered in domestic sales during and after the COVID pandemic. It was made in cooperation with the School of Sales in the summer 2022.  

The study gives a voice to sales professionals, managers and entrepreneurs from 16 different industries. Let us now look at what they revealed about how they see the future prospects of sales and the changes they made and took place during the pandemic.
 

The digital leap to online sales has finally been taken 

Based on the answers to the survey, the leap to online sales has now been taken and sales are now considered to have completed the transition to digital channels. New tools and practices that enable remote sales have been well adopted. Online sales meetings are perceived as being more effective than in-person.  

However, engaging customers, creating a genuine connection and building trust in remote sales are perceived as challenging – even getting customers to meet online does not seem to pose any major challenge. 

Setting up customer meetings online does not pose any major challenge.

Setting up online sales meetings does not pose any major challenge.

 

Customers’ purchasing behavior has changed 

The challenges in sales right now seem to be more on the side of the customers and purchasing processes than in the sellers’ own operations. As many as 84% ​​of respondents reported changes having happened in the way customers make decisions during the pandemic. Customers were said to be more cautious and avoid changes, which prolongs procurement processes or moves them forward in time.



Customers started taking a prolonged time to make decisions during the pandemic.

 

Outlook & motivation for sales are on a good level 

Overall, the respondents saw the business as going well despite the uncertainties in the world. The commercial outlook for the near future seems positive, as only 37% of the respondents saw them as challenging.
 

Sales prospects look good after the pandemic and despite the Ukraine war.

 

 Moreover, up to 72% of the respondents believed that they will achieve their sales goals for this year fairly or very likely. Also, their drive to do their work seemed to be strong. As many as 84% ​​of the respondents said that their motivation to sell is either the same or even better than before the pandemic. Meanwhile, just 19% reported their sales results having deteriorated. 

A whopping majority of the interviewees said they had the same or improved sales results during the pandemic. 

 

Support from the organization and superiors leaves room for improvement 

The benefits that come from marketing measures are recognized by the sellers. However, they find much room for improvement in the collaboration between marketing and sales. As many as 44,8% of the respondents were not quite sure if the marketing team’s work had really helped them.

  

Salespeople require more support from marketing teams. 

 

In general, the salepeople find the tools they have and the support they get from their organization fine. Still, shortcomings are perceived in specific areas. For example, almost 50% of the respondents said that they don’t get enough support to succeed in remote sales from their superior.

Support from superiors to salespeople leaves room for improvement.

Constant changes challenge work productivity and meaningfulness 

Many changes due to the pandemic and the Ukraine war challenge the time management skills of both salespeople and managers. Especially administrative and sales support tasks eat up their time. The majority of 74% of the salespeople said that more than 25% of their time is spent on other than active work with customers – for example on document production and sales reporting. In addition, 42% of them felt that there simply is not enough time for active sales work.

Supervisors, in particular, pointed out that with the constant changes going on and uncertainties that prevail, work has become much harder than before. 

Salespeople feel administrative and support tasks like sales reporting and documents take too much of their time.

 

Conclusion: there is no turning back 

We find the study results very much in line with our experiences here at Documill – and not only concerning Finland, but in the markets we serve in Europe and the US, for instance. Clearly, sales have changed for good and there is no return to how they used to be.  

What about you, do you agree or disagree? How do you find the development in your country? 

Kimmo Salmela

Written by

Kimmo Salmela

Kimmo Salmela is a communications manager at Documill. Earlier on, he worked in several industry and solution marketing and communication positions at Nokia. Now Kimmo focuses on online collaboration technologies and their future prospects for businesses.

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