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SalesFuel: While Retail Rebounds, COVID Has Impacted Sales Calls, Staffing.

While a strong percentage of U.S. media sales reps and managers expect annual retail sales revenue to finish 2021 up significantly vs. 2020, there are key concerns regarding finding high-quality salespeople, employee stress and anxiety, and COVID's impact on sales calls. These are some of the findings from SalesFuel's annual “State of Media Sales” survey of nearly 400 respondents, conducted in August.

The survey, gauging the level of optimism in media sales and where sales professionals see their greatest opportunities and challenges, shows those in digital media sales most upbeat about retail rebounding, with more than six in ten expecting annual revenue to be up significantly over 2020, vs. closer to one-third of reps and managers in other media. Categories with the highest level of expected gains over 2020 include recruiting/employment, local service businesses and entertainment, while, not surprisingly, expectations are far lower for auto dealership advertising given the semiconductor chip shortage.

The pandemic continues to impact how sales calls are made, according to SalesFuel's report. Nearly half of reps say in-person meetings currently account for between just 1 to 20% of their total calls, while over half say connecting with prospects and clients via email makes up 50% to 100% of calls. Nearly 40% are using the phone for half or more of sales calls, while video chat now accounts for anywhere from 21 to 49% of calls for four in ten respondents.

For management, the greatest challenges involve finding high-quality salespeople and dealing with mental health concerns on their current staff. Anywhere from two-thirds to close to 90% of respondents (the latter in digital media sales) feel it is harder than this time last year to find qualified salespeople. As for their current sales staffers, anywhere from 40% to 70% of managers (the latter in cable TV) feel it is harder than this time last year to navigate issues of employee stress, anxiety and mental health.

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