Up to 80% of decision makers increasingly prefer remote sales reps or digital self-serve transactions to in-person, according to new research.

B2B skills trends: 80% switching to remote sales and transactions

The COVID-19 pandemic forced B2B buyers and sellers to go digital in a massive way. What started out as a crisis response has now become the next normal, with big implications for how buyers and sellers will do business in the future.

McKinsey has been surveying decision makers globally across industry since the crisis began. The latest research reveals that the big digital shift is here to stay.

The pandemic has reduced in-person sales meetings in the UK to around 15 to 25 percent of all sales interactions, and has accelerated the adoption of remote (with a sales rep) and digital self-service by customers and sellers. The research shows that 14 percent of business leaders would be prepared to make £750K ($1 million USD) purchases online without ever meeting with a sales rep in person. A further 60 percent would make purchases of at least £38,000 ($50K USD) signaling that remote and self-serve sales are not just for one-off, low-value purchases.

More than three quarters of buyers and sellers say that they now prefer digital self-serve and remote-human engagement over face-to-face interactions—a sentiment that has steadily intensified even after the initial lockdowns eased. Furthermore, three in four buyers stated that they believe these types of interactions are just as effective, if not more so, than older sales models, even for prospecting. E-commerce, video, and chat now drive the bulk of all revenue, demonstrating an increase in perceived effectiveness from 50 percent in early April, to 58 percent in May, and 75 percent in late July.

Other key data driving these changes are:

‘Digital self-serve’ and the ‘remote rep’ are here to stay:

• 75 percent of B2B decision makers in the UK believe that the new (mostly remote) sales model is just as effective if not more so now than prior to COVID-19 (for both existing customer and prospect interactions)
• 88 percent of B2B decision makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run (up from 74 percent in April 2020)
• 61 percent of B2B companies expect to have less than 50 percent of interactions in-person even when their sales force is able to have in-person meetings again (48 percent expect in-person meetings to resume in 2021)
• Enterprises report a revenue increase of 182 percent through videoconferencing and 23 percent via e-commerce; small and medium-size businesses are also seeing increases
• 37 percent of UK B2B leaders have already reduced their numbers of sales reps, with an additional 61 percent reduction expected; 83 percent plan to introduce a more agile sales planning process

*Conducted with 3,600 B2B decision makers in 11 countries, 12 sectors, and 14 spend categories.
*UK Decision makers - 200 senior B2B decision makers

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