Will Sales Transformation of the Future be Virtual or Face-to-Face?


Enterprise sales transformations typically involve a multi-year plan to improve the people, processes, and technologies of the entire sales organization.  The best part about working for and with Sandler is exposure and learning that comes from partnering with work-class companies across industries.  Our clients teach us things constantly and one item we found fascinating was that many of our clients and prospects were not calculating travel costs when budgeting sales transformation programs, creating an inaccurate picture of actual costs. 

Here’s a real-life example.

For the past 3-years, a client with 300 learners had been investing approximately $900,000 annually with Sandler.  Their target ROI of the Sandler investment was 5x or $4.5MM annually.  But what is the actual investment?  Should we count the 900 flights, 1,800 meals, and 1,000+ nights in a hotel?  That’s another $600,000 annually spent on getting people to and from training events.  The annual investment would be closer to $1.5MM – and 40% of those costs were related to travel.  When travel is factored in, ROI drops to 3x.

In March 2020, Sandler pivoted 100% of clients to virtual learning.  A handful of clients delayed, but the vast majority pushed ahead in the virtual environment, and a weird thing happened – it kind of worked.  As budgets across the board were cut, Sandler encouraged clients to go back to their finance teams to calculate the actual investment:  sales transformation, plus all associated travel costs.  From the example above, the CRO presented the budget to remove travel but keep the same investment level for training.  This client placed a premium on workforce engagement, which was improved with effective virtual learning.  The budget was approved, and our partnership was renewed for another three years.

Do not cut back the investment in your people when they need it the most; simply modernize your approach.

For the last 12 months, Sandler has seen retention, engagement, and satisfaction with our clients steadily increase every month since March 2020.  Re-imagining your transformation as virtual/hybrid isn’t just suggested; it’s the best practice and will continue for the near future.  In-person meetings won’t go away, but they will have to be budget and time justified and take on a different form; smaller groups, workshop-focused, retreat-style in-person events will be the norm.  Virtual learning allows Sandler to see their clients more frequently and work on real-life problems and opportunities, moving from the abstract and conceptual to the concrete and actionable.  Over the last 12 months, Sandler participants average annual time spent learning (not counting peer to peer) remained constant at 21 hours, but the frequency of learning events increased from 3.5x to 12x per year, making our approach more iterative and in the flow of work, where the real learning happens.  In most cases, it’s more effective to see our clients 12 times per year for 90-minutes than three times per year for six hours.

Lastly and maybe most importantly, sales has changed forever. 

Before the pandemic, field salespeople were typically the most tenured, highest paid, and racked up the most expenses.  Inside salespeople were paid less, never traveled, and generally junior in organizations.  Post-pandemic, salespeople are emerging to find the rules have been re-written.  The salesperson of the 2020s will have competency in both the virtual and in-person environment.  They will be able to whiteboard in a boardroom or a Zoom breakout room.  Salespeople of the 2020s will jump on a plane for the right reasons, not a boondoggle, and CROs will be keeping tabs not just on how much someone brings in but the total cost of sale. 

These are just some of the lessons and findings of the last 12 months for Sandler.  Sandler has been blown away by the resolve of sales leadership, managers, and salespeople throughout our client base.  Sandler’s job is to support our clients in executing sales strategy – but it’s still their job to execute.  Given the results we’ve seen thus far – we expect 2021 to pay handsome dividends for the work of the last 12 months.

Contact our Enterprise Team to learn more about sales process and skillset transformation.