July 10, 2020

New Research: How Working Remotely is Changing Sales

By David Kreiger, President and Founder, SalesRoads

The pandemic of 2020 and the resulting shutdown of the vast majority of the US economy had a major impact on how we live and how we work. But how did it impact how we sell? And are those changes temporary, or will they be permanent?

With the SaaS (software-as-a-service) sector – including Salesforce, Zoom, Shopify, Workday, Slack, Zendesk, and many more – being huge drivers of the US economy, and with many of our clients operating within the SaaS industry, I wanted to study the current state of sales within the industry. We surveyed 755 B2B SaaS professionals who are part of the sales process at their companies in the second half of May and early June 2020. In addition, we conducted 25 interviews with B2B SaaS sales leaders to go into greater detail and get a better understanding of what they are experiencing within their own organizations.

Our extensive research into B2B SaaS sales professionals uncovered that 93% are more likely to consider remote in the future as a result of the COVID shutdown: while certainly it was an adjustment for many, working from home seemed to become far more palatable to most during quarantine. “As of now we’re staying 100% remote,” said Steve Richard, the founder & Chief Evangelist at ExecVision, when I asked him about how the shutdown affected his firm. “We surveyed our people, and 95% of them said they’d prefer to stay remote for the time being. Work from home has been a net positive for us.”

Working from home didn’t seem to negatively impact sales professionals’ outlooks for the second half of the year. In fact,  25.7% had a very positive outlook for the second half of 2020; moreover, those who reported, with very positive/positive outlooks outnumbered those identifying as very negative/negative by 4:1. “It all depends on who you’re targeting,” explains Darryl Praill, Chief Marketing Officer of VanillaSoft, a leading sales engagement platform. “High tech is only about 15% of our own install base, but where we are big in other industries like insurance, or healthcare, it’s a banner year for us,” says Praill, given COVID and concerns about property damage relating to civil unrest. “For us, we can’t keep up with demand. So it’s not exclusively a SaaS thing; it’s a ‘who do you target?’ thing.”

Perhaps those positive outlooks are a result of getting face to face time with prospects despite not being able to be face to face in the traditional sense. Post-crisis, 35.2% are using live video as part of their sales process, with 77.6% using it at least multiple times per week: given many of our long-form interviews, we expect live video to receive a major, permanent boost as a mechanism for driving sales.

Some of other interesting observations from our study:

  • Over 60% had over half of their sales teams begin working remotely for the first time as a result of the COVID shutdown, with over 40% expecting half or more of their sales team to continue working remotely going forward
  • The crisis affected the number of opportunities dramatically, with 36.6% indicating the number of opportunities had gone down, compared with 26.4% indicating they had gone up.
  • 6% have shifted some of my schedule to the weekend hours to accommodate for childcare, and other considerations; with 31.8% shifting to early morning and/or evening.

Our research allowed us to better understand how we could help our clients continue to grow in this new normal. Frankly, this new normal might be more long-lasting than any of us would have thought at the outset; most of us might want to return to the way things were a few months back, but none of us can simply turn back the clock. It is clear that COVID has created long-lasting changes to the manner in which we sell. Is that a sobering thought? Maybe. But it also can be exciting.  Either way, to be forewarned is to be forearmed, and those of us who arm ourselves with the best information will survive and thrive.

David Kreiger is the President and Founder of SalesRoads, one of North America’s leading B2B Appointment Setting and SDR Outsourcing companies. He has been named as one of The Most Influential Leaders in Sales & Lead Management by the SLMA four years in a row. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.