The State of Sales 2021: Proof that Virtual Selling is Here to Stay

LinkedIn’s new sales report shows why the UK wants to buy remotely – and how sales teams need to respond

June 10, 2021

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The latest edition of LinkedIn’s State of Sales report is a wake-up call for anyone assuming that UK buyers secretly long to spend significant time meeting salespeople again. It proves that remote buying and a virtual experience of sales aren’t just practical necessities forced on decision-makers by the pandemic and the lockdowns that have followed from it. They’ve swiftly become the strongly preferred choice for doing business both now and in the future. For most transactions, selling now means virtual selling – and this is leading to profound changes in the role that buyers want salespeople to play.

Not so long ago, handshakes and in-person meetings were considered an essential element in building trust. Not any more. Only 12% of buyers in the UK now say that they need to meet a sales professional in-person before buying from them. They are far more likely to say that working remotely has made the buying process easier (45%) than they are to complain it’s made it more difficult (18%). And with 73% of buyers saying they would like to continue working remotely at least half the time, this trend looks set to continue for the rest of 2021 at least.


How virtual selling changes the buyer-seller relationship

This shift in how UK buyers want to buy is changing their relationship with sales in important ways. They have just as much faith in salespeople’s expertise, industry knowledge and ability to understand their business as they did a year ago. However, they are less likely to depend on them as trusted advisors. That’s because buyers are increasingly confident researching information and navigating a virtual buyer journey by themselves.

Impressing buyers with knowledge is no longer necessarily enough to persuade them to engage. What makes a difference is salespeople demonstrating that they are ready to act on a buyer’s interests – even above those of their own organisation. It’s this commitment to acting as an advocate and putting the buyer first that provides value a decision-maker can’t find by themselves.


Top-performing salespeople always put the buyer first

The State of Sales survey compares the responses of top performing salespeople who exceed their quota by 25% or more, to those of their peers. Of all the things that these top performers do differently, a commitment to putting the buyer first stands out as the most significant. Almost half (45%) say that they always put the needs of the buyer first – even ahead of their own organisation. Only 25% of their peers report doing the same.

The full State of Sales report for the UK includes detailed analysis of how sales organisations are navigating the shift to a virtual selling world, including the tech investments they are depending on to keep up, the new roles they’re investing in, the outreach tactics that are now most effective and how they can evolve methodologies to put the buyer first.

Download the full report for free – and explore more of the implications of the UK’s shift to virtual sales, such as:

  • Why UK sales professionals are spending 22% less time selling than before the pandemic
  • How customer referrals became the most important outreach tactic
  • The growing importance of data and sales operations, with over half of sales organisations adding sales ops roles
  • The missed opportunity in challenging buyers’ thinking – something 80% of buyers want from salespeople, but only 10% experience very often
  • The rapid growth of LinkedIn Sales Navigator, now used by half of all UK sales professionals  we surveyed and the most important sales intelligence platform

The UK’s State of Sales has changed for good. Download the full report to make sure that change works for you. 

If you'd like to discover more of LinkedIn's 2021 State of Sales findings, why not join our webinar discussion on June 29th. We'll be discussing the key findings from our global survey with sales experts from across the globe. Register here