The year 2020 has pulled us straight out of our comfort zones and made us do things we never thought we could or would be able to do. The world over, operating environments have changed so drastically that they demand a shift in the way we engage with and sell to customers. According to consulting firm McKinsey, since the pandemic began, almost 90 percent of sales have moved to a remote model. Traditionally, sales have relied on face-to-face contact and in-person presentations but unfortunately, in the current scenario, those benefits are no longer available to us.
In virtual channels, sales are driven by multiple factors including technology, distractions, number of people in a meeting, etc. Besides, different people behave differently: some don’t engage enough, many are easily distracted and almost everyone is so busy that sometimes, tracking key client associates can be a challenge. Now if you look at LinkedIn’s 2020 Global State of Sales Report which is based on responses from more than 10,000 buyers, salespeople, and sales managers, trust is at the top of the list that matters most to decision-makers when engaging with sellers. This calls for looking at neoteric ways to develop relationships and trust – the pillars of any sales – and most importantly, closing deals virtually.
Not An Interim Solution
Before we proceed, it’s important to understand that virtual selling is not just a solution to weather the storm. It is here to stay. When you look at it that way, your entire perspective towards virtual selling changes and you would then reimagine the sales process for the long-run. According to a report by research and advisory firm Gartner, by 2025, 80 percent of B2B sales interactions will occur digitally. This means the solutions we are looking,for now, cannot be just ad hoc. Sales leaders will need to invest in infrastructure and rework their sales kickoff events and training formats to equip their sales professionals with the right tools and training to break the barriers of a virtual setting.
Investing in Virtual Selling Infrastructure
To create a more engaging and connected buyer-seller experience, organisations will need to be equipped with better and faster software and tools, relying mostly on cloud-based technology. Apt collaborative tools such as Zoom, Webex, Meet, Livespace, Microsoft Teams, Google Spreadsheets, Digital Notes, Calendar App, etc must be available at the sales teams’ disposal. Also, know that these need an optimal environment – adequate internet speed, working microphones and a suitable background. At the same time, some sellers would need to deliver presentations using a different technology used by the customer – so a working knowledge of these are important too. Besides, a good seller always goes the extra mile to make proficient use of technology to engage participants in a meeting with polls, relevant videos etc. Sellers who are tech-savvy have a better chance at winning deals.
Building Virtual Selling Skills
Having said that, even with the best tools at hand, a salesperson’s level of preparedness to create a real connection over a virtual medium is what will matter the most. There’s an entire host of new skills that sellers need to master in order to succeed in a remote environment. An interesting point to note is that the LinkedIn report also shows that sellers who demonstrate a clear understanding of their buyers’ business needs, provide personalised communication, and share relevant content are the ones who succeed at building more meaningful relationships over time, ultimately cultivating deeper trust and respect. This means to deliver high impact in a virtual setting, there must be a robust collaborative and engaging game plan that needs to be structured differently.
Not everybody’s game
Virtual selling is not everyone’s cup of tea. The sheer complexity of it makes it imperative to look at the best in the industry who offer new-age learning solutions to accelerate business and economic performance. Look at strong virtual selling training programmes from industry leaders who will teach you to turn around a complex challenge into an opportunity. Something that will equip the sales team with the required skills and techniques to increase credibility among clients and create long lasting connections that drive sales opportunities to closure. It must focus on subjects like selling on camera, engaging with customers without digressing, projecting professionalism and effectively using technology. There needs to be valuable tips on effective remote meetings and on topics like how to hold effective webinars and other ways of holding clients attention, digitally.
Most importantly, the training should never be scripted or have long, monotonous tutorials – it is best to make the learning fun with scenario-based selling practices, gamified training, interactive video contests, quizzes, and scorecards. This kind of motivation will significantly boost the confidence required for arresting customer’s attention during frequent digital interactions with them wherein one needs to display virtual professionalism and engage in meaningful discussions while holding the customer’s attention.
On the back end, remote selling requires a higher level of preparation to drive desired outcomes from a meeting. From having market insight to navigating sales journey through powerful storytelling and doing your homework on available opportunities – its important to build that human connections over the digital divide. Currently, over 80 per cent sales professionals are spending more time on business related social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter for their B2B clients. From how to craft an insightful introductory email or LinkedIn message to nailing that first crucial two minutes of a phone call to arrest customer’s interest, to having a firmed up monthly social media calendar – sales reps will require training on the how-tos of developing an opportunity, working proactively on prospects, and analysing client situation.
Mastering the old tricks
A good course would include a brush up on critical sales methodology covering the right pitch, value selling and negotiation techniques like ZOPA and Batna as well. These will help bridge the gaps in virtual selling as well. Basics like wrapping the call by summarising and reiterating next steps and meeting dates must be looked at to leave a professional impact. It is about bringing in the added human touch, sometimes without ever meeting the prospective client in person. Of the existing customers, remember that the customer is going to remember how you treat him in these trying times. So take time to get to know them better and stay in their good books – it will take you far into the future. This is also why a systematic training on documenting progress and closing opportunities effectively is also needed.
Once you’ve learnt to enhance your social brand and mastered the art of virtual engagement, when things go back to normal, you’ll have more ways of engaging your customers in addition to face-to-face interactions. In the near future, this will add an advantage of building a new landscape of hybrid sales process that combines virtual and face-to-face meetings. That is going to be the next normal. The pandemic has created a new future for selling where the need for face-to-face interaction will be a small part of the customer engagement process. But then once you are armed with the training on how to close artificial barriers with renewed go-to-market strategies and gain customer confidence – you are well on your way to drive growth in both scenarios. And that for a sales person is a win-win deal!