Fundamentals of Virtual Selling for Financial Services
It’s been over twenty years since Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates published Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy. His premise was that technology was accelerating the speed of business, and eventually this would transform the nature of work—and determine which companies would survive.
Gates understood the power of technology to speed up information exchange, foster collaboration, transform data points to knowledge and to potentially create a competitive edge for those who embraced these tools.
Gates wrote: “The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition … is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.”
Gates was sounding a clarion call that a technology revolution was coming sooner than anyone thought. Those who failed to pay attention would be left behind. In retrospect, the publication of his book highlighted the change from an analog to a digital world. The introduction of technology did not replace the human touch, but rather augmented and accelerated the outcomes, insights, and possibilities we could arrive at collectively.
Today, we’re experiencing a similar revolution—the transformation of in-person sales to virtual selling. And as it was in 1999, companies that adapt to this new selling paradigm will be the ones that succeed, while those who are slow to respond will lose out. Again, firms that embrace technology that facilitates engagement will potentially experience a more holistic relationship with their intended audience.
Adapting to a New Way of Selling
The world has changed for financial services relationship managers and national accounts professionals since the pandemic began. In a business that relies on relationships, it’s much harder to build new connections and maintain long-term ones.
It’s turned into a hybrid world. Some of us are traveling for business, while others are working from home remotely. Some offices are reopening, while others are staying virtual. In any given meeting, you may have a mix of participants Zooming in, calling in, or joining you in the conference room.
In the financial services industry, we value face-to-face interactions. But we’re rethinking meetings and evaluating tech tools that allow firms to do business without the time and expense—or the carbon impact—of travel. I’m seeing a lot of intracompany meetings that required travel in the past that companies won’t do any more, simply because of the convenience and savings of Zoom-like platforms.
Now that in-person meetings have changed to hybrid ones, firms are realizing that there’s lot of meetings on the periphery that can be eliminated or conducted with the help of technology.
Similar to Bill Gates’ book, there’s a guide to today’s virtual selling revolution. A new book by Yuchun Lee and Mark Magnacca, co-founders of Allego, called Mastering Virtual Selling: Orchestrating Sales Success. Lee and Magnacca dive into proven sales methodologies, actionable best practices, and relatable anecdotes to compete successfully in a virtual world.
Here are some of the things I learned from the book about how sales professionals can be more effective at virtual selling.
Learning the Fundamentals of Virtual Selling
Authors Lee and Magnacca say some things haven’t changed. Good selling still depends on the ability to build relationships. That’s true whether you are selling virtually or in person. And for the foreseeable future, client-facing professionals must rely on technology to nurture and close deals.
It’s a new way to sell—and it’s so much more than simply moving your meetings online. Some of you may think, “The best way to sell is face-to-face” or “Using technology creates a barrier between me and a client.” The reality is that virtual selling is the best option when both sellers and buyers are working in remote or hybrid situations.
For individuals to be successful at virtual selling, the whole organization must also adapt to a new way of working. That includes investing in new technology to take advantage of virtual opportunities.
Orchestrating Sales Success
Many organizations are reorganizing around a new vision of team selling that is critical to virtual selling success. Everyone in sales is now on a level playing field—we are all, in essence, apprentices.
One way to understand this new environment is to picture a conductor leading an orchestra. Sales leaders must become masters at coordinating all the moving parts in the buying process to achieve the outcomes they want. Having a clear strategy to orchestrate the process is what separates average salespeople from the masters of virtual selling.
The book shares two main concepts:
Frontstage Selling Activities: Synchronous communication and collaboration where you and the participants interact live virtually through a Zoom meeting, a phone call, Facetime, or in person.
Backstage Selling Activities: Any communication or collaboration that is asynchronous or not happening live or in real time. Examples of this include a text message, email, video, voice mail, or a digital sales room.
Now that 80% of sales engagements are digital, sellers must prepare before they go “on stage.” Think of sales activities as happening either “frontstage” of “backstage.” Sellers win by leveraging resources and sharing content that will help the client’s decision-making process while nurturing the relationship.
Mastering virtual selling involves learning a set of tactics, processes, and technology solutions that equip you to successfully nurture clients, share information, and host meetings without the benefit of being face-to-face. When selling virtually, you depend on technology and must make sure you use it to the fullest extent.
How Frontstage and Backstage Work Together
The nature of virtual selling is that meeting time is shorter, it’s harder to build rapport, and you need to make every minute count when you’re frontstage.
Offloading activities to your backstage will help you overcome the challenges you face in the (synchronous) frontstage arena. Using your backstage to handle tasks that you used to do in in-person will leave you more time in live virtual meetings to interact and collaborate and help you nurture deals more effectively.
Recent advances in technology mean that there are things you can now do yourself that previously required sophisticated production capabilities. This technology also provides insights that will help you analyze every deal and understand the interests of your clients like never before.
Adapting to a New Way of Building Relationships
In the financial services industry, relationships are forged by formal conversations and informal interactions. But now, financial services professionals have to do business in a whole new way. While some may think that virtual selling is a phase that will pass when the world returns to “normal,” the tactics of the virtual world will persist long into the post-pandemic workplace. Using technology to give your firm the best chance to build and maintain relationships is one lesson we won’t want to leave behind. Perhaps we should look at technology that allows for virtual touches as a way to embrace “business at the speed of relationships.”
Visit MasteringVirtualSelling.com to access virtual selling resources and order your copy of Mastering Virtual Selling.