Are you planning your sales strategy for 2022?
We’ve put our heads together at Ethical Sales to outline the hottest sales trends for 2022 and how they can benefit your purpose-driven business.
Our key trends for 2022:
Ethical business drives competitive advantage
Virtual sales are here to stay
Read on for our take on these four areas, plus tips and insights to help you grow your ethical business this year.
1. Humanising sales
All businesses, even tech-driven trailblazers, should take note of this trend…
Humanising the sales process has always been an important part of b2b sales but we believe that now, more than ever before – in a virtual, screen-focused world – it’s highly important for long-term sales success.
Why is this a key trend for 2022? At Ethical Sales, we’ve noticed an increased interest in automated marketing and sales processes. There are lots of tools and platforms available that promise high-volume, low-cost sales solutions. Some of them are great, and add value to an already robust process. But many more are not.
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, the old adage is truer than ever before – people buy from people. There are some key reasons behind why people ultimately buy from people:
– Emotions drive sales (even business related ones)
– Trust has to be earned before buyers will invest
– People need to feel ‘seen and heard’ by your business
It’s tempting to automate all sales processes, add in chat-bots or lengthy email onboarding series for new clients, but we would recommend that all businesses stop and think about how often prospects or customers are able to interact with a real person.
Tech-driven sales processes are often necessary, particularly if you run a business reliant on a high volume client base, but we highly recommend a human-led element at certain key touchpoints. These include:
– Inbound or outbound sales activities
– Product demonstrations
– Troubleshooting customer pain points or challenges (particularly important for consulting or service-driven businesses)
– Customer support
– Client onboarding
Businesses that start with a ‘relationship first’ approach to sales will enjoy long-term sales success and have a higher customer retention rate in 2022.
2. Ethical business drives competitive advantage
We saw a post on LinkedIn in January 2022 that sums up this trend much better than we could:
Thrive are a b2b tech accountancy firm and a certified B Corp. There are now 600 B Corp businesses in the UK and more than 4,000 worldwide. They are all legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.
The certification process is highly rigorous and may not be suited to every business; however, the core fundamentals of the B Corp can be adopted by all ethical businesses and translated into your sales ethos:
How can your business create a positive impact on society and the environment? How will this be translated into your key sales messages and marketing content?
How can your actions as a business be driven by all stakeholders, including your prospective or current customers? How are you going to engage your sales and marketing stakeholders, such as referral partners in your actions?
How can you prove your business practices are ethical by publicly reporting on your social and environmental impact? How can you back up your sales claims? This is particularly important for consumer facing businesses when advertising their products (see the ‘Green Claims Code’.)
Many businesses also refer to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development or ESG to help provide a structure for their reporting framework. There are 17 goals but many smaller businesses or start ups choose to adopt a few goals to work towards rather than all of them.
Why is this important for sales in 2022? Well, in today’s crowded marketplace, businesses have a better chance of standing out if they underpin their sales activities with their purpose and a vision for the change they want to see in the world.
For example, Bates Wells, the first UK law firm to become a certified B Corp, are leading with their key point of difference:
“We believe in making a positive impact, whether that’s achieving legislative and regulatory change around sustainability… We’re not afraid to challenge the status quo”
So how can you lead sales with purpose? Some things to consider:
Find creative ways to tell your story and mission as a business to all prospective customers
Train your sales team on your business values as well as your environmental, social and governance targets
Underpin marketing messages and content with the impact and change you want to be in the world
If B Corp or ESG feels like a daunting place to start, you could also look at joining Business Declares, a community of businesses who are joining together to declare a climate and ecological emergency.
In an ideal world, the sales and marketing functions of a business would work seamlessly in harmony with one another. The reality is often very different, as sales complains to the marketing function about passing over lousy incoming leads and marketing heads get frustrated with sales’s scattergun use of the CRM systems.
According to MarketngProfs, alignment drives value, with companies reporting 38% higher sales win rates and 36% higher customer retention. Here’s some top tips for establishing a better ‘smarketing’ function in your ethical business:
– Schedule weekly meetings with sales and marketing teams to discuss the current calendar of activities and results of the latest campaigns.
– Analyse results of campaigns together and discuss ideas for future ones.
– Set up systems that enable both teams to talk to one another and enable sales success.
– Keep lines of communication open, even when things get difficult.
The good news is that in 2022 there are more clever tools than ever before to enable really effective ‘smarketing’. We’ve listed our top sales enablement tools that keep sales people focused on selling and marketeers bringing quality leads into the business.
Sophisticated CRM’s now include email marketing functions by the bucketload as well as sales pipeline tracking with engagement data. Check out Hubspot or Active Campaign to get a sense of what they are capable of.
Get real time feedback on sales proposals and pitch deck engagement with file sharing tools such as DocSend or PandaDoc. Marketeers will love the deep data element to these solutions as well as the ability to keep control of what their salespeople are sending out.
When used wisely, these tools can be highly effective for enabling sales success and demonstrate the need for both sales and marketing to be talking to one another –- a lot!
4. Virtual sales are here to stay
In our post on sales trends for 2021, we wrote this about virtual sales:
“According to McKinsey, Covid-19 has changed B2B sales forever: ’70-80% of B2B decision makers say that they prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service (vs in person meetings). Only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales.'”
From our own experience of running b2b sales activities plus feedback from our ethical business community, 70% of which are sticking with virtual sales, it’s clear to us that it’s here to stay for 2022, but with some subtle tweaks.
Businesses are getting more sophisticated with their virtual sales approaches and how to engage. We’ve written a guide to virtual sales meetings to cover most bases, but be prepared for some increased expectations this year from prospective customers as we all reach peak ‘Zoom fatigue’ and get tired of this medium. Expect a return to the humble telephone conversation as more buyers opt for phone calls rather than video meetings.
So our recommendations to you for selling virtually in 2022 include:
Have a structured approach to sales meetings and keep to time (30 mins is a good amount for an intro call)
Always give your buyer the option to have a phone call instead of a Zoom meeting, as some people just prefer it (and we find phone calls very effective for sales!)
Mix it up a bit with visually engaging content, such as a short intro video, an animation or a moving presentation where appropriate
On a very positive note, we are likely to see many more face-to-face opportunities for sales arise as we move into a new phase of the pandemic. It’s still early days, but we suspect that we’ll see many more ethical businesses engaging in strategic networking, conference attendance and 1:1 meetings during 2022.
What does strategic mean? We believe businesses will be looking at the overall investment against the return of undertaking some sales (or buying decisions) in person rather than virtually. This investment includes the environmental impact and expense of business travel vs holding a meeting from a home office set-up.
And working from home is very much here to stay: according to the ONS, 85% of remote workers want to be able to continue to work from home in some capacity, while XpertHR cites 97% of businesses surveyed as being prepared to offer hybrid working from 2021 onwards.
The Ethical Sales team are very much looking forward to being ‘out and about’ more in 2022. However, we plan to use our time wisely and also track the carbon footprint of our potential travel plans.
Planning your next steps for 2022
We hope these four areas have given you some food for thought as you look ahead to 2022 and take the next steps to grow your ethical business. Ethical Sales will continue to share insights and sales tips through our blog and webinars, so to get these free resources please subscribe to our monthly newsletter.