LinkedIn Looks at the State of Sales in 2020, and It’s Mostly Virtual

The professional network surveyed 500 buyers and 500 sellers in the US

70% of sales managers said the ability to manage through change was more important than it was five years ago LinkedIn
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The fourth annual State of Sales report, released by LinkedIn earlier this week, put some numbers behind the coronavirus-spurred shift to virtual selling discussed by professionals in the industry earlier this month.

LinkedIn said its report is based on a survey of 500 buyers and 500 sellers in the U.S., and two additional surveys of sales professionals conducted over the past two months—in order to gauge the impact of Covid-19—were incorporated.

According to the professional network, 70% of sales managers said the ability to manage through change was more important than it was five years ago.

The same percentage said they are prioritizing customer retention, and LinkedIn said this correlates with the finding that sales organizations are highlighting long-term metrics—customer satisfaction and retention—over short-term metrics such as quarterly quotas.

LinkedIn said sales professionals are increasing their reliance on data to help them navigate the current climate caused by Covid-19 and more accurately target businesses, industries and geolocations providing the most likely opportunities for closing deals, with 56% of respondents saying that they are using data to do so.

In addition, the number of sales professionals relying on sales intelligence tools, such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, is up 54% over the past two years.

Overall, 47% of sales professionals said they use sales technology at least once per day, while 34% do so weekly. In addition, 77% are having more video meetings and 51% are sending more email.

LinkedIn also looked at data about its LinkedIn Learning offerings, saying that time spent on courses about social selling and inside sales more than tripled in North America between February and March, with time spent on courses about Sales Navigator rising 39% during the same time period.

The professional network said, “Building a sales team with the right skills remains challenging. The skills required to thrive in the current environment have shifted, and sales professionals are working hard to expand their talents.”

Addressing the pandemic’s impact on sales, LinkedIn said 55% of respondents anticipated decreases in the pipeline, 44% see decreases in responsiveness to outreach and 60% foresee closing fewer deals.

On that note, only 40% of buyers surveyed said they believe the sales profession in general is trustworthy, while 25% described it as “morally and ethically challenged.”

However, once that trust is forged, 88% of buyers described salespeople they do business with as “trusted advisors.”

Korn Ferry sales effectiveness and rewards leader Joseph DiMisa said in the report, “We are seeing a few trends among sales organizations adjusting to the current climate. Everything has shifted to virtual selling, using videoconferencing, sending emails, creating webinars and info sessions … We’re also seeing a rise in data-driven selling. We are finding that sales organizations are placing more emphasis on using data to help a client make informed business decisions based on quantifiable information and numbers.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.