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

The pandemic was the biggest digital disruption the world has seen, triggering new ways of working, communicating, and buying. When the sales process moved completely digital, B2B buyers got used to less facetime with sellers. Not only that, but they liked it. They gained control over when and how to engage with sales reps. This is a freedom they do not want to give up.

Sellers, too, came to value the convenience, safety, and lower travel costs associated with virtual selling. More than that, they discovered virtual selling—when done well—works.

With both buyers and sellers preferring a digital-first strategy, 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. Research firm McKinsey reports that almost 90% of sales moved to a remote model when the pandemic began. Today, nearly every B2B company sells their products and services virtually.

A Preference for Virtual Selling

While virtual selling may have started due to a crisis, it fast became the preferred way of doing business. 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 intensified even after lockdowns ended, owing to the convenience, safety, and savings on travel expenses that virtual selling affords.

Prospects Spend More Virtually

Sellers prefer virtual selling 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 now consider it. Over 70% of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases over $50,000, and 27% 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%—report that virtual sales is an effective way to reach new customers. Nearly the same percentage of respondents (75%) 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 sales, 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%. In contrast, the use of video grew by over 41%. The use of chat did not grow as fast as video, but still increased by 23%.

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 work in the same office with them.

Techniques for Success in a Virtual Selling Environment

Create Sales Engagement in the Age of Zoom

It’s extremely draining 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. Then create a digital sales room to house those items and any other content your prospect may need. Your prospect can watch the video where and when they choose, increasing the likelihood they will engage and remember your message. Plus the analytics provided with the digital sales room show you when your prospect engages with the content within it.

Train Sellers for a Virtual Environment

Without the ability to train sellers on-site, many organizations simply go 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

In the past, 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 now use 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 sales content management 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 they cover all relevant topics, 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. By putting all videos and collateral in a digital sales room, you avoid the problem of emails and attachments getting lost. Prospects can watch the video and read the content as their schedules allow, and sellers can measure engagement with the content, which is an indicator in the prospect’s interest. 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 prospect’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. Those items can also go into the digital sales room created at the start of the process.

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 grow their skills 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 has become 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 a few years, 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 feel more confident

Manage Sales Intelligence

Accessing and sharing information is critical in any sales environment, but it 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 refine positioning, marketing, and product strategy while also enhancing future sales interactions.

Virtual Selling Examples

Examples of Virtual Selling Tools, Techniques, and Strategies

Virtual selling relies on digital tools and technology to enable sales reps to engage with and sell to customers without the need for in-person interactions. Here are some examples of virtual selling tools, techniques, and strategies:

Revenue Enablement Platform: A comprehensive revenue enablement platform includes personalized sales onboarding and training, a sales content management system that sellers can access from anywhere and on any device, role-play software to simulate real-world virtual sales meetings, sales coaching software to help sales managers coach sales reps in remote locations, and the ability to create customized digital sales rooms for each prospect.

Video Conferencing: Sales professionals can use platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet to hold virtual sales meetings, product demos, and consultations with potential customers.

Social Media Selling: Leveraging social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with prospects, share content, and engage in conversations that lead to sales.

Email Prospecting: Email remains a powerful tool for nurturing leads and closing sales. Salespeople can use email campaigns to send personalized messages, product offers, and follow-ups.

Virtual Tours and Product Demonstrations: Using virtual reality or interactive 3D tours to showcase products or properties, especially in industries like real estate or manufacturing.

Live Chat and Chatbots: Incorporating live chat on a website or using chatbots to engage with visitors in real-time and help with product selection and inquiries.

CRM Software: Sales professionals can use CRM tools to manage customer data, track interactions, and tailor their sales approach based on customer history and preferences.

Personalized Sales Videos: Creating personalized video messages or pitches to send to leads or prospects, making the interaction more engaging and personal.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): These technologies can be used for immersive product demonstrations, such as allowing customers to experience products in a simulated environment.

Digital Sales Rooms (DSR): In these virtual sales rooms, sellers can include personalized videos, product information, demo recordings, and other resources the buyer needs. Many also include chat capabilities, allowing the buyer and seller to communicate within that space. DSRs also provide insight into buyer engagement, allowing sellers to see when buyers read, watch, download content.

Mobile Sales Apps: Sales representatives can use mobile apps to access sales materials, process orders, and interact with customers while on the go.

AI-Powered Sales Analytics: Using artificial intelligence to analyze customer data and behavior to identify trends, preferences, and opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.

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