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The End of the Line for Sales Calls?

McKinsey gets a bead on B2B sales.

By: Happi Staff

The End of the Line for Sales Calls?

COVID-19 has taught us many lessons—wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance and keep that damn peddler out of your office! According to McKinsey, the 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. Recent McKinsey research on decision makers’ behavior globally across industries since the crisis began reveals that the big digital shift is here to stay.

More than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions—a sentiment that has steadily intensified even after lockdowns have ended. Safety is one reason, of course. But self-serve and remote interactions have made it easier for buyers to get information, place orders and arrange service, and customers have enjoyed that speed and convenience. Only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales, even in sectors where field-sales models have traditionally dominated, such as pharma and medical products.

McKinsey notes that, far from a local phenomenon, the shift to digital and remote engagement has been embraced by decision makers in all countries surveyed worldwide. B2B sales leaders have moved from being “forced” to adopt digital in reaction to the widespread shutdowns in the early stages of COVID-19 to

a growing conviction that digital is the way to go.

The most notable sign that digital sales have come of age is the comfort B2B buyers display in making large new purchases and reorders online. The prevailing wisdom used to be that e-commerce was mainly for smaller-ticket items and fast-moving parts. Not so anymore. Notably, 70% of B2B decision makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000.

B2B decision makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, or even more so—and they're not just talking about selling to warm leads. Sellers also believe digital prospecting is as effective as in-person meetings to connect with existing customers.

With the massive shift to digital resulting from COVID-19, video and live chat have emerged as the predominant channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers, while in-person meetings and related sales activities have dropped precipitously.

The amount of revenue generated from video-related interactions has jumped by 69% since April 2020. Together, e-commerce and videoconferencing now account for 43% of all B2B revenue, more than any other channel. Customers also made it clear that, given the choice, they prefer video to phone.

According to survey respondents, these pandemic-induced patterns are likely to become permanent. Close to nine in ten decision makers say that new commercial and go-to-market sales practices will be a fixture throughout 2021 and possibly beyond.

While it may not be time for Willy Loman-types to find a new gig, it may be  time to revisit that T&E budget.


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