7 Trends Sales Leaders are Predicting for 2021

2020 is (blessedly) wrapping up, and a new year is almost upon us. And just like every year before it, 2021 will come with its unique challenges and changes — and the sales landscape isn’t exempt from those kinds of shifts.

The sales game won’t look the same as it does a year from now, and it can be a big help to get ahead of those transitions early on. To help you get there, we reached out to some sales leaders to hear their takes on what salespeople can expect to see in the coming year.

So without further ado, here are some of the most pressing, prominent sales trends to keep an eye out for in 2021.

1. Video for sales outreach will have a much greater presence.

It’s no secret that video was a mainstay of sales outreach in 2020. Frankly, it was a matter of necessity — so it might be easy to write off its popularity as a product of special circumstances. But HubSpot Sales Director Dan Tyre doesn’t think so.

He believes the prevalence of video as a sales outreach tool will continue into 2021. He says, “I am offering this [prediction] sheepishly because I made it in 2017 and was wrong. So I made it again in 2018, only to be wrong again. I followed that up with the same prediction in 2019 and 2020 and we’re almost there.

“I’m confident that video will stick in 2021. The underlying statistics are undeniable — salespeople who use video will connect at three times the rate of those who don’t, reducing the inefficiency of the outreach process as a whole.”

2. Quick prospect surveys will take off.

Several sales organizations survey prospects as a means to generate leads, engage with and qualify prospects, conduct research, and communicate with potential customers.

And according to Dan Tyre, that practice should become even more popular in the coming year — he also suggests the use of shorter surveys will lead the charge.

He says, “Using quick prospect surveys to get to the point quicker will be a trend. Most of our prospects hate long surveys, but most everyone is okay filling out a three or four question survey to better assist a sales professional to drill into the right area of interest to make the most effective use of their time.”

3. Chatbots are becoming an absolute must.

Chatbots are a valuable resource for both sales and service departments. Being able to reliably answer common questions and automatically point prospects and customers in the right direction can take tremendous strain off your real-life reps. Dan Tyre stressed that kind of technology’s value, importance, and significant place in the future of sales when we reached out to him.

He says, “Everyone needs a chatbot on their website. As much as I love humans, I don’t want them to answer transactional questions on order status, product availability, and shipping information. Chatbots work because I can get basic information quickly. Make sure you are playing into those trends.”

4. We’ll see companies trend away from onsite presentations.

It’s no secret that businesses have been trending towards remote work. For many — if not most — businesses, it shifted from a novelty to a necessity in 2020. A study from Gartner found that an estimated 88% of companies mandated or encouraged their employees to work from home this past year.

That same study also found that roughly 97% of organizations have canceled work-related travel. So, what does this mean for salespeople? Well, as Zach Drollinger, Head of Sales at Coursedog, points out, “Onsite presentation will become a thing of the past.”

Sales success in 2020 rested, in large part, on adaptability. Sales organizations had to shift their processes, strategies, and methodologies to fit a more remote, less immediate sales landscape.

That push away from in-person presentation probably won’t reverse itself overnight. Onsite presentation was largely phased out of sales this past year, and you should expect that trend to continue.

5. Building rapport and authentic relationships will become even more important.

The massive volume of sales outreach in 2020 has seasoned many prospects — they’re hip to the tricks, tactics, and demeanors salespeople approach their interactions with.

According to Founding Partner of Eternal Works Tim Jones, “Stakeholders are getting very efficient at spotting people trying to ‘fake it until they make it.'” He suggests that reps will “need to push past one or two conversations to build real rapport and trust in 2021, and building authentic relationships over time will be a requirement for all sales reps, going forward.”

Establishing rapport and forming meaningful relationships with prospects should always be a priority for sales reps. But it’s more important than ever under present circumstances and will continue to be as the new year comes.

6. Setting expectations with OKRs and Dashboards is going to matter to more people because of remote work.

Remote work comes with its share of challenges, roadblocks, and distractions. It can be harder for businesses and individual salespeople to remain on the same page and work efficiently.

So, going into 2021, sales organizations will need to do what they can to keep reps on track. Setting expectations through OKRs and supporting those efforts with the right tools will be key.

Alysha Dominico, CEO of Tangible Words, says, “Big business has been managing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for years and SMEs have just not had the capacity. But with remote work, OKRs are the ultimate way to see that the tasks you’re doing each day and whether that work is ‘busy work’ or if that work is important to your overarching company goals.

“With remote work, companies are starting to use tools like Asana to see what everyone is doing. I believe with remote work that’s the best way now to help your team work more productively. When the directives are clear, everyone can achieve more.”

7. Empathy will be key.

Empathy should always have a place in sales, but given the events of this past year, it’s become absolutely vital. And HubSpot SMB Growth Specialist Vajra can attest to that.

He says, “With businesses closing at an unprecedented pace and many prospects sustaining significant personal trauma in 2020, incorporating empathy into your sales process became mandatory. You had to care — You had become as much of a consultant as a seller.

“Even as COVID becomes less of a factor, empathy will still be important — and the next 12 months will be defined by reality-based fear selling. And as ominous as that might sound, it doesn’t imply anything bad or evil.

“It means salespeople will have to focus on the things that a business owner should be scared of, including their competitors, lost time, and changing buyer psychology.”

It’s no secret that the business landscape has changed — and will continue to change — no matter what. The sellers that win in 2021 will be up to date with the challenges their prospects face, empathetically articulate those challenges to their prospects, and present meaningful solutions for creating and sustaining growth.

As 2020 comes to a very welcome close, we need to start looking ahead at what’s to come. 2021 is bound to come with a change of pace and a host of new trends and challenges. Though this list isn’t exactly prophetic or set in stone, it’s a good place to start when hashing out what the sales landscape might look like over the next year.