May 29 was the day that nearly all COVID restrictions were lifted here Massachusetts. How liberating! Or so I thought...
I went to the grocery store and was stunned to discover that I was the only person in the store not wearing a mask. Either everyone in the store was unvaccinated, didn't believe the vaccine would protect them, or they were afraid to go out in public without the mask.
I returned to the store on Sunday and was stunned again when nearly everyone in the store was maskless. It seemed odd that the masked and maskless numbers flipped in twenty-four hours but I loved it. We were much closer to normal. But it did get me wondering what normal means for sales teams moving forward.
My first attempt to understand how 2022 might look was to survey Objective Management Group's Partners (sales development experts that provide OMG's assessments to their clients). Among other topics, we asked them two questions about travel and in-person training and here is what they had to say:
As you can see, roughly 30% are chomping at the bit to travel to an in-person event, but 20% are pretty sure they will be staying home. While another 20% could be persuaded to attend, a huge group - nearly 30% - are undecided and would probably lean towards staying home. So right now it looks split down the middle and these beliefs also reflect whether they would be comfortable leading in-person sales training events for their clients.
We also asked what kind of in-person event they would travel to attend and there was more clarity there, with longer, multi-day conferences having more appeal than shorter, one-day events.
Will salespeople be traveling in their territories, to their big customers, or to sales calls?
The answer appears to be, "It depends."
The decisions have a lot to do with what their companies are requiring them to do, what their customers need and are comfortable with, and salespeople finally being more comfortable selling virtually over video. For a lot of old-school territory salespeople the transition to virtual was like pulling teeth and many of them can't wait to get back out there. But will their customers allow them back on the premises?
Again, the answer is split with some customers saying, "Come on down!" and others saying, "No visitors." In the US, a lot of it depends on geography with customers and sellers in red states much more comfortable with the old normal and customers and sellers in the blue states much more comfortable with the new normal. In Europe, APAC, LatAm, and EMEA, the factors influencing a return to normal have more to do with containment of the virus with outbreaks continuing in many countries.
One of the big factors in all of this is school and daycare. With many schools still closed, and some teacher's unions resisting orders to reopen in the fall, some parents are still forced to stay home and that trumps all of the other factors.
In conclusion, we are making progress, but we are still a hybrid mess with two parts fear, one-part comfort and three parts of the unknown all mixed together. That means for the foreseeable future, there will still be a lot of virtual selling, servicing, training and coaching taking place.