The pandemic forced organizations into virtual selling situations. But as we emerge from the crisis, it’s clear that the move to virtual selling will be permanent. While in-person selling will continue to play some role in the sales relationship, more and more organizations report that the majority of their sales conversations will be virtual. Sellers—and buyers—value the convenience, safety, and lower travel costs associated with virtual selling. Above all, this sales model will permanent because virtual selling works.
What is Virtual Selling?
Simply put, virtual selling is a selling experience mediated by technology. Sellers communicate, collaborate, and connect with prospects from any location using the technology of their choice, including computers, tablets, or mobile phones. Integrating virtual selling with online tools and techniques allows sellers to nurture prospects, share information, conduct demos, and host meetings without the need to meet in person.
Why Virtual Selling is Here To Stay
Virtual Selling Statistics
Virtual Selling in the Crisis
It’s no surprise that businesses rushed into virtual selling during the pandemic. During the crisis, virtual connections were the only option companies had for keeping their sales processes going. Research firm McKinsey reports that almost 90 percent of sales have moved to a remote model since the pandemic began. Today, nearly every B2B company’s products and services are now being sold virtually.
A Preference for Virtual Selling
While virtual selling may have started due to a crisis, it is fast becoming the preferred way of doing business today. A survey by McKinsey reports that three-quarters of sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. This preference for virtual selling has intensified even after lockdowns ended, owing to the convenience, safety, and savings on travel expenses that virtual selling affords.
Prospects Are Spending More Virtually
Virtual selling is gaining popularity because it is an effective way to reach buyers—and not just buyers of small-ticket items. McKinsey’s survey reports that B2B decision-makers who had previously not thought of buying online are now considering it. Over 70 percent of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases over $50,000, and 27 percent would spend more than $500,000
Sellers Manage the Entire Sales Cycle Virtually
When virtual selling began, many organizations used it as a way to convert warm leads into sales. But sellers today believe all aspects of the sales process can be done virtually—from prospecting to closing. The majority of respondents in the McKinsey survey—76 percent—report that virtual selling is an effective way to reach new customers. Nearly the same percentage of respondents (75 percent) said virtual selling supported selling to existing customers.
Video is the Preferred Channel for Virtual Selling
When the pandemic caused a massive shift to virtual selling, video and live chat emerged as the predominant channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers. As a result, in-person sales meetings and related sales activities have dropped precipitously, by 52 percent. In contrast, the use of video grew by over 41 percent. The use of chat did not grow as fast as video, but still increased by 23 percent.
Why Virtual Selling Is Challenging
Virtual selling may sound straightforward: take your best salespeople, connect them with your best prospects on Zoom and let the magic happen. But in reality, virtual selling presents specific challenges that go beyond meeting sales targets. Sellers who excel at creating connections in person do not always successfully transition to the shorter calls and faster pace of online selling. Without the in-person cues they used to rely on, sellers often find it challenging to learn the culture and specific needs of a prospect who is also adjusting to a new sales environment. Adding to the challenge is that in a virtual sales world, salespeople can’t rely on the wisdom and feedback of their colleagues who used to be working in the same office.
Techniques For Success In A Virtual Selling Environment
Create Sales Engagement in The Age of Zoom
After a year and a half of Zoom meetings, we all recognize how draining it can be to sit through back-to-back calls, hour after hour. It is hard for anyone to process the blast of information that gets communicated in the Zoom format. Your prospect is no different, so in addition to your online calls, give them other ways to consume your message. For example, as a way of introduction, prepare a pre-recorded video with an engaging sales deck targeted at their needs. Your prospect can watch the video where and when they choose, increasing the likelihood they will engage and remember your message.
Train Sellers for a Virtual Environment
Without the ability to train sellers on-site, many organizations are simply going without training or resorting to ad hoc, shortened training conversations. This lack of training has both short and long-term consequences. In the short run, the salesperson may miss their target because their message is confusing. In the long run, sellers who are not succeeding will end up leaving the company. Video provides a way to give reps the critical feedback they need to succeed. Have sellers record themselves delivering their best pitch and share it with their manager or the broader sales team for input. Keep the cycle going until the rep masters the pitch and can close the deal.
Foster Sales Team Collaboration
Before the pandemic, accessing a colleague’s sales knowledge was as easy as listening over the cubicle wall or running into a leader in the break room. Many sales leaders are now using video to replicate that type of knowledge sharing in a remote environment. Reps record themselves sharing their best sales practices, including whiteboarding techniques, negotiating strategies, competitive intelligence—anything they think will help the team advance their sales. Sellers can watch these videos repeatedly, giving all sellers—particularly newer hires—the information they need to move the sale forward.
Create Personal Rapport in a Virtual World
In a virtual sales meeting, sellers can’t rely on the prompts they used to experience when meeting with prospects in person. Without cues like body language or subtle changes in behavior, it is much harder to create an emotional connection with the buyer. Using pre-recorded video and content sharing tools before and after meetings can add depth and engagement while building trust and personal rapport with buyers. For example, instead of sending a follow-up email with a PDF attached, have the rep send a personalized video explaining the content they’re sharing. This type of video puts a face to the seller’s name and further develops a connection with the buyer.
Reading a Virtual Sales Room
In addition to personal connections, virtual selling also makes it difficult to pick up on a company’s culture. Without spending time in the company’s lobby or the prospect’s office, it’s more difficult to gauge someone’s prestige or learn how they interact with others in their organization. These factors can be critical to understanding how an organization functions and how the buying cycle plays out. Train sellers on how to be more observant of what they can see on-screen during a virtual sales call, paying attention to the prospect’s background, home office details, and personal items in view. Also, have the rep practice active listening skills, paying attention to the buyer’s choice of words and the tone they use. All of these can be (virtual) clues to the buyer’s intent.
Develop Agile Salespeople
On a virtual sales call, the prospect can often be distracted in ways that are not a problem in person. The prospect’s attention can be diverted by other people in their home or office, technology glitches, or their incoming stream of messages. These distractions can make it difficult for the seller to ensure they cover all their key points as thoroughly as they would like. In these cases, content can be a salesperson’s best weapon. Invest in a content platform that allows reps to create, access, and share the right content at the right moment.
Prepare Successful Virtual Sales Presentations
While everyone occasionally struggles with sound, video, or internet connectivity, these issues can make or break the momentum of a sales cycle—especially if you’re forced to reschedule the meeting. Before they get in front of a prospect, sellers must be thoroughly trained on the platform they are using and how to best present themselves on that platform. Have the seller prepare a practice video that tests their technical setup, shows how their office and lighting appear, and how they present on-screen. Review the video and provide any adjustments needed to ensure the seller can deliver professional presentations that move the sale forward.
Prepare for a Shorter Sales Call
In a virtual sales world, sales meetings happen at a faster pace and in a shorter amount of time than in person meetings. Calls are often shortened due to scheduling or technical issues. In these quick sales calls, sellers have less time for demos and often have to rush to make all their key selling points. To ensure all relevant topics get covered, be sure to have sellers prepare their prospects ahead of time. Before the meeting, sellers can share engaging information in a pre-recorded video or provide sales collateral that details key points of the discussion. With this advanced preparation, both buyer and seller can come to the call prepared to make the most of every minute.
Create Personalized Follow-Up
When you cannot meet in person, it can be hard to gain insight into the seller’s thinking. What are their real objections? Are there any unspoken obstacles or competitive threats? How long will the sales process take? In this virtual sales world, getting insight into the buyer’s intent requires the seller to establish a personal rapport using other online tools and techniques. Instead of the usual email follow-up, have the seller create a personalized video that recaps the conversation, covers any missing points and extends the connection created at the meeting.
Learn from Every Interaction
Just as sellers could adapt to virtual selling quickly, they can now make the needed adjustments to their virtual selling techniques to ensure continued success. That means they must learn from everything—their successes and their failures. Ask sellers to record themselves in a selling situation and share that video with their sales leaders. Then have sales leaders review the interaction to highlight effective selling techniques and provide feedback on areas where the seller can improve. This type of feedback helps the seller to improve and the sales team to stay on track.
Tips for Selecting the Right Virtual Selling Tools
Make Video Part of the Virtual Sales Process
Pre-recorded video is becoming the go-to resource for sellers working in a virtual world, so any virtual selling solution must include this essential capability. Sellers find that creating high-quality, personalized videos and sharing them with prospects can support each stage of the selling process. Sellers can generate a video to include in an introductory email, a follow-up to a sales meeting, or even as a thank you after closing the sale.
Don’t Overlook Sales Learning
Even though we have been selling virtually for over a year, there is always room for learning and improvement. Be sure your virtual selling tool goes beyond just facilitating a sales call and provides features that help the salesperson feel informed, connected, and supported throughout the selling process. Find ways for sellers to capture and share best practices and receive feedback on their presentations and skill sets. Providing this type of support improves the salesperson’s performance and helps the team to meet their goals.
Give Managers the Ability to Coach
Without feedback, virtual sellers are left to figure out best sales practices on their own—often with disappointing results. So, in addition to sales learning, choose a virtual selling platform that can be a resource for managers to help their sellers improve. For example, a manager could have sellers record a sales pitch or role-play in a live or a pre-recorded video. Watching the seller’s video gives the manager insight into what action the seller needs to ensure success.
Provide Easy Access to Content
The fast-paced world of virtual sales means salespeople must be able to provide their prospects with the right content at the right time. Therefore, any virtual selling tool must empower reps by letting them create, access, and share content at the moment of need. Knowing they have access to the right content enables the seller and helps them to feel more confident
Manage Sales Intelligence
Accessing and sharing information is critical in any sales environment but can be especially difficult in the world of virtual sales. So your virtual sales system must include ways to harvest data that comes from deals that have closed and from deals in progress. Pulling this intelligence from sales conversations and making it actionable across departments helps organizations to refine positioning, marketing, and product strategy while also enhancing future sales interactions.
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