Covid-19 touched virtually every area of our lives and, while its impact on our personal lives is receding, the pandemic-related business adaptations will likely become the new industry standard, new research reveals. According to LinkedIn’s “State of Sales 2021 Report,” 86% of sales managers agree that the capability to cope with change is more important than it was five years ago.
That’s not to say these changes are bad; in fact, they gave companies the push needed to adapt to the modern landscape and embrace the complex needs of digital era buyers. The “State of Sales Report” emphasized the changing buyer’s journey, identified common disconnects between sales and prospects and discussed the new sales enablement technologies organizations should consider investing in.
In an unrelated yet complementary study, business messenger platform Intercom partnered with Forrester to publish “Drive Conversational Experiences For A Future Ready Customer Support Strategy.” Intercom’s report unintentionally built on the “State of Sales’” findings by discussing the specific technology that will provide companies with success in the age of the modern buyer: Conversational support.
Conversational solutions help businesses meet buyers’ desires for instant responses, self-service buying journeys and preference for digital interactions. According to Intercom’s research, 55% of those surveyed said the pandemic increased customer preferences for interacting over digital channels, while 58% believe customers will prefer conversational, messenger-based engagements with brands going forward.
The New Wave Of Sales Technologies
The primary area of focus in LinkedIn’s “State of Sales Report” revolved around the disconnect between sales reps and buyers. While 65% of sellers said they “always” put the buyer first, only 23% of buyers agreed that they were put first — a stark contrast. However, according to Jonathan Lister, VP of Global Sales Solutions and Canada Country Manager for LinkedIn, that divide is starting to close as sales teams embrace the variety of sales intelligence software at their disposal. Predictably, that realization was brought about by pandemic-related changes.
As selling teams embrace that evolution, LinkedIn’s report revealed that 77% of sales professionals said their sales organization plans to invest “significantly more” or “more” in sales intelligence tools, as “new sales technology can help sales professionals build more trusted relationships and close business,” Lister explained.
While the “State Of Sales Report” fell short of naming any solutions in particular (aside from the 74% of sellers committed to expanding their LinkedIn network), Intercom’s research filled in the blanks by focusing on conversational support.
“Consumers are demanding real-time, personalized, conversational experiences with businesses,” said Jane Honey, Sr. Director of Product at Intercom. “This is because messenger-based experiences are friendly, quick and easy, can happen both in real-time or asynchronous, and they’re always contextual to deliver a rich customer experience.”
Conversational Support Functions & Services
One of the pandemic’s biggest impacts in the business world — aside from remote and hybrid workplaces — is the accelerated adaption companies made to digital channels, specifically buyers’ demands for immediate responses to their inquiries. Sales and customer support teams that don’t have the proper tools at their disposal to keep up with those demands will start to fall behind, Honey explained.
“Conversational support is business critical because it’s the most effective way for businesses to support and build relationships with their customers, without sacrificing support team efficiency,” explained Honey. “It combines messaging, bots and humans working in tandem to deliver personalized and convenient support conversations, helping achieve both a higher quality customer experience and more efficient support teams.”
When discussing pandemic-related changes to conversational support and customer support in general, 71% of those surveyed in Intercom’s report believed that the pandemic would have an enormous or large impact on how they address customer support in the long term, with 73% of support leaders saying customer support is now recognized as a more important function at their company.
With an additional 71% of support leaders saying that conversational support will allow them to either stay competitive or become an industry leader, Honey explained that “the near-limitless choice for customers means businesses must build strong relationships with their customers.”
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