Nobody could have imagined a black swan event would completely disrupt the lives of consumers and entrepreneurs alike. But that is what the pandemic has done during the past year. As their operations stand disrupted, companies are finding novel ways in keeping sales going via digital channels and hybrid models, including remote sales.
In the case of sales teams, the threat has been partially unexpected. Before the pandemic, the on-road sales teams were a common sight. But lockdown restrictions and changing consumer expectations during 2020 have meant on-road sales teams are no longer the main driving force for sales. Tele-calling activities for sales and marketing, along with on-demand telemarketing services have seen rapid growth in the last year.
Rise of Remote Sales
As per a 2020 KPMG report on ‘Distance Selling’, their research shows customers prefer to themselves undertake about 70 percent of the pre-selling process online, only getting in touch with salespersons for the remainder 30 percent. What’s more, in select sectors, this ratio has reached 90/10. According to PwC, apart from millennials, even people above 50 years are rapidly turning to digital shopping.
Given the changing customer needs, companies have little choice but to place a rising emphasis on inside sales, marketing, distance selling, and e-commerce. Consequently, hiring traditional in-house sales teams is no longer a viable response given the current uncertainty and volatility in consumer demand across industries. Moreover, full-time sales teams harbor legacy baggage of extra expenses and the allied infrastructure costs, which are difficult to sustain when margins have eroded sharply.
It is in the present pandemic and post-pandemic scenarios that remote sales will be pivotal in reaching out to customers even while keeping BCPs (business continuity plans) going. Here, an on-demand or gig workforce is an apt solution in meeting volatile demand without bearing fixed remuneration and maintenance costs.
A joint report from Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group, ‘Building the On-Demand Workforce’, the early-adopter entities are growing comfortable in shopping for talent on the digital marketplaces. As a result, they are shifting towards a more flexible organizational structure built on a blended combo of full-time and part-time employees via the on-demand workforce, rather than that premised on fixed costs and personnel.
The report reveals that on-demand workforce benefits comprise greater labor flexibility, faster speed to market, and innovation via new business models. Of course, the requisite changes in building such capabilities may seem formidable initially. But it notes that the advantages far outweigh the costs.
However, not all companies are leveraging the full benefits of the on-demand workforce. While some have already made the transition, others are waiting for the pandemic’s second wave to wane before returning to their legacy systems. These companies are fondly hoping that all will be well before long.
Benefits of Gig
Unfortunately, the pandemic has triggered a paradigm shift in how the world lives and businesses are run. Therefore, the ‘good old days’ of traditional business operations will not return. Instead, the gig or on-demand workforce is increasingly becoming a way of life across all geographies and verticals. Sooner rather than later, those failing to read the writing on the wall will be left behind in the wake of companies successfully adopting the on-demand workforce model, particularly in the marketing of products and services.
Companies embracing this change will discover a plethora of business benefits and better outcomes. For instance, companies with workforce flexibility of on-demand staff would be able to gain a stronger foothold in the market. Using gig model staff also allows these companies to scale up or scale down human resources as per the demand-and-supply dynamics without worrying about recurring costs.
Additionally, the pressure of leasing or buying extra office space and more equipment will be missing because almost all gig staff would be working remotely. In such situations, setting up satellite operations in other regions is not a constraint since only the hiring of human resources is required rather than real estate and other infrastructure.
With an on-demand workforce, the hidden expenses on training and development are also eliminated because these professionals come equipped with the relevant skills and certifications. In many cases, industry-trained or specialized sales executives are available on gig platforms. Thanks to their training and experience, this personnel hit the ground running in remote or distance selling. The difference in their productivity levels versus that of in-house sales teams will be palpable from month one.
In the post-pandemic period, the difference in business outcomes can make or mar the prospects of any organization. Furthermore, the flexibility of the on-demand workforce permits employers to hire resources depending on whether the projects are high or low value. Accordingly, hiring costs are commensurate with their skills and outcomes, unlike full-time staff.
In the Internet age, sales demand can be maximized via proper search engine rankings. Overnight, companies may find that their online sales have dipped for no apparent reason. But a tech-savvy gig-based salesperson will reveal the drop in orders may be due to a change in Google’s algorithm.
Backed by a sales team trained in new SEO practices, a pool of talented freelancers will then revise hundreds and thousands of web pages with product descriptions. Within weeks, the company’s web presence could be revamped, ensuring its products/services once again show up on top of the heap. In the digital universe, such speedy turnarounds by SEO-savvy sales personnel can be a game-changer for any enterprise, big or small.
The choice before brick-and-mortar businesses is clear. The disruptions of digital talent platforms are here to stay. Deploying on-demand or gig professionals is no longer a choice or luxury. Rather, it is a business imperative for companies to survive, thrive and stay relevant in 2021 and beyond.