Changes to SMB sales cycles better position teams for the challenges ahead
By Maggie Mazzetti, Content Marketing Manager
Last updated March 31, 2023
Sales cycles for smaller teams had long been changing, even before a global pandemic transformed everything about the way that businesses and customers interact.
In response to an increasingly digital customer base, teams have adjusted not only how they communicate, but where they advertise and how they manage leads. And many of these changes have actually left them better prepared to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, even as they face layoffs, fewer conversions, and increased customer churn.
To better understand how sales cycles have changed for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), as well as the challenges of selling to customers in the age of social distancing, Zendesk partnered with Dimensional Research on the 2020 State of SMB Sales. The report is based on an online survey of 403 sales executives, sales managers, and sales reps between April 23 and May 4 of this year.
Customers are changing, and so are teams
Over the past five years, sales teams have seen the nature of their role drastically change.
Many buyers don’t need to have multiple phone calls or in-person meetings with sales reps to make a decision. They’re often more informed and looking to make a quick purchase, without ever picking up the phone. Half of the respondents say their customers would prefer to buy online, while a similar number want to communicate over digital channels like WhatsApp, text, or social media.
Despite the dizzying rate of change, teams are finding ways to adapt. And nothing has prepared them better to operate in the age of social distancing than their own customers.
As customers increasingly go digital, teams have tried to keep pace. Investments in sales technology are up, with nearly half of respondents leveraging software for online meetings, web sales, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). And at the same time, smaller companies have focused their energy on online advertising (think AdWords and banner ads) and social media, where they say they get their best leads.
Navigating a new normal
While many of these changes have been significant, nothing has transformed the sales landscape more quickly or more dramatically than the current global health crisis. Nearly all respondents say that their sales operations look different as a result of the outbreak, and 60 percent say their team members have shifted to remote work.
Stress, fatigue, and the daily challenges of working from home are just a few of the burdens faced by teams. And amid staff layoffs and falling morale, reps report fewer leads and lower customer retention.
Despite the dizzying rate of change, teams are finding ways to adapt, and nothing has prepared them better to operate in the age of social distancing than their own customers.
Many have already adopted technology solutions that streamline workflows and help teams stay connected.
Faster sales cycles and increased digital communication means there’s less of a need for travel or face-to-face meetings. And many have already adopted technology solutions that streamline workflows and help teams stay connected.
In response to COVID-19, over half of SMBs (53 percent) have already adopted new technology to make it easier for reps to work from home, while a little over a third (36 percent) say they have plans to do so.
Teams may want to also consider investing in additional CRM capabilities, such as Zendesk for small businesses, which helps reps to track contacts, opportunities, pipelines, and deals. Nearly half of respondents say they have a CRM system in place, and those that did were more likely to report better lead conversion, higher customer satisfaction and referrals, and increased customer lifetime value.
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