Is Europe Prepared for the New State of Sales?
5 key findings from LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2020 - Europe Edition
June 23, 2020
LinkedIn’s State of Sales report for 2020 shows how sales in Western Europe is being transformed by the impact of COVID-19. Face-to-face meetings are now the exception; virtual selling the norm. Changes that sales organisations might have expected to make over months or years have taken place in days. However, our report also shows that many of the region’s sellers have already evolved their tactics, techniques and tools in ways that prepare them well for the months ahead. The crisis may have been unforeseen, but the pivots that are required are not completely new.
The 2020 State of Sales report – Europe Edition compiles data from a range of different sources to capture both enduring trends and new realities faced by the sales industry. These include surveys of 500 sales professionals and 500 B2B buyers in each of the UK, France and Germany, which took place at the start of this year. We also surveryed 700+ sellers in the US to get a broader sense of how sales has been affected. We’ve added to this data a wealth of insights derived from LinkedIn data, and 3rd party information that help to show how sales organisations and their buyers have been reinventing their approach over the last few months.
Our full report contains in-depth analysis of the way that sales strategies are evolving, the differences that separate top sellers from the rest, and the technology and techniques that will prove most valuable over the coming months. Here are some of the key findings:
Virtual selling is here to stay
By the numbers: Time spent learning about modern selling increased 93% in April
Sales professionals in Europe are racing to learn the skills they require for a remote selling world. LinkedIn Learning data shows that the time they spend learning about modern selling jumped 71% month-on-month in March and a further 93% in April. Time spent learning about Inside Sales rose 63% in March and then increased 2.5x in April.
The skills that these salespeople are learning haven’t just been a way of getting through the last few months. They’re part of a fundamental shift in selling strategy that both sales organisations and buyers expect to become a long-term change. By early May, 97% of B2B marketers in Europe had adjusted their Go-To-Market sales model, according to McKinsey. Tellingly, 60% of B2B leaders say their new remote-selling model is as or more effective than traditional techniques – and 78% expect to retain it beyond the next 12 months. It looks very much as though virtual selling is here to stay.
Top sellers win by demonstrating value
By the numbers: ROI is the most important factor closing deals for top performers in France and Germany
Buyers’ trust in the sales professionals they deal with remains strong in difficult times. Trust is the factor most commonly recognised by salespeople as important for closing deals and trustworthiness is chosen by buyers in every country as the most important characteristic a seller can have. However, Europe’s most effective sales professionals don’t take this trust for granted. They are committed to earning it through demonstrating value, ROI and strategic insight from the start.
CRM and Sales Intelligence are the must-have tech tools
By the numbers: In Germany, use of LinkedIn Sales Navigator is up 61% year-on-year
Europe’s top-performing sales professionals use more sales tech than their peers. They attach particular importance to CRM and Sales Intelligence tools, and they are significantly more likely to use both LinkedIn and LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
Sales professionals are catching on quickly, as the pivot to virtual selling increases the value of warm outreach and relevant insights. The time that sales professionals in EMEA spend learning about Sales Navigator jumped up 41% in March and grew another 54% in April. In Germany, the proportion of sales professionals using LinkedIn Sales Navigator for sales intelligence is up 61% year on year.
Coaching is crucial for remote sales teams
By the numbers: In the UK, top sellers are 48% more likely to spend significant time being coached by their manager
As sales teams make the adjustment to virtual selling, hands-on coaching is becoming an essential element of a sales manager’s role. Four out of five sales reps say they need support staying engaged when working remotely – and 58% say that more regular communication from managers would help.
State of Sales data shows that sellers in Western Europe are crying out for more active coaching from their managers – and that their performance improves significantly when they have access to it. In the UK, only 24% of sellers say that coaching is one of the top two activities that they get to spend time on with their manager – but 33% say it’s one of the activities they would prefer to focus on.
Active listening is becoming the most sought-after selling skill
By the numbers: Active Listening is the Number 1 characteristic that sales organisations in France hire for
Active Listening, the ability to concentrate, comprehend and respond in a relevant and constructive way, will be crucial to salespeople’s ability to build and strengthen relationships virtually. It’s a quality that buyers consistently value among the sellers they deal with, and it’s crucial for building trust and demonstrating ROI. Sales organisations that have invested in this key skill are likely to benefit in a world of virtual relationship building.
As sales professionals navigate a new and disrupted sales landscape, their ability to apply sales technology in the right way will be critical to their success. Top performers prioritise the tools that can help them demonstrate value and ROI from the start. In doing so, they earn the status of trusted advisors to their customers. In the State of Sales survey, 87% of B2B buyers describe the sales professionals they deal with in this way. At a time when the Edelman Trust Barometer showed Europe’s trust in institutions like media and government to be in decline, trust in these types of sales partners has increased. It’s a valuable asset to have – and one that sales organisations across Europe are finding new ways to earn.
For more details of how buyers and sellers are responding to the new landscape, see our full State of Sales Report 2020 – Europe Edition.