Virtual Selling: Be More Competitive & Close More Deals
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Work from home was a growing trend long before the pandemic started.
Back in 2018 Gallup found that at least 43% of workers were working remote at least some of the time.
Now of course that number has exploded.
And it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that WFH arrangements are going to continue to grow.
The sales industry is especially keen to maintain virtual selling arrangements. A recent survey found that 68% of sales professionals plan to work remote, at least part of the time.
So how do we get the most out of virtual selling?
And how to use virtual sales to be more competitive and close more deals.
And how to make virtual sales work in your favour.
Let’s get started!
Remote Sales Works For Buyers, Too
Sales teams aren’t the only people affected by the shift to a virtual environment. Buyers are too.
And to be frank, it doesn’t matter whether sales leaders like virtual selling, or not. The opinion of prospective buyers matters more than that of would-be sellers.
Fortunately there doesn’t seem to be any worries in that respect.
Research from McKinsey suggests that 80% of B2B buyers actually prefer remote communications and transactions for their purchasing decisions.
So the buyers are largely onboard with online sales, too.
And this shift to online buying is set to continue. According to the Gartner Future of Sales 2025 report, up to 80% of B2B sales interactions are predicted to take place through digital channels by 2025.
Part of your job is to make the transition to virtual buying as seamless as possible.
But not all buyers are used to making large purchases online. So make an extra effort to inform them about your sales process. And what they can expect from you each step along the way.
Attack Bigger Markets
The best part about virtual selling is access to new, larger markets.
When you eliminate geography as a sales constraint, the world becomes your oyster. Literally! In some industries you can sell anywhere in the world.
So why not give it a try?!
If you aren’t ready to sell across borders, why not try a nearby city? There are lots of locations you’ve never sold into just because they are a little too far away.
None of that matters now!
So narrow down your sales targets and build a prospect list that’s focused on the people you can most help. If geography isn’t a limiting factor, you can double down on prospects who will most benefit from your solution.
Just keep in mind that competition is a 2-way street. Your competitors now live in a virtual world, too. Their frontline sellers can enter your territory just as easily as you can enter theirs.
Virtual Sales Means No Travel Required
When done right, selling virtually doesn’t impact the effectiveness of your sales meetings or your results.
In fact, 63% of sales leaders find virtual meetings to be more or equally as effective as in-person meetings.
The key to making remote sales work for you is to maximize the advantages you’ve been given. And also minimize the disadvantages of working from home.
By far the biggest advantage of remote work for sales is the lack of travel.
Before the pandemic, a typical day might involve a couple of sales meetings. You’d fight your way downtown to your first meeting. During which, there was a lot of pleasantries and time spent waiting for people to show up.
Since you wanted to keep your calendar tight you booked the next meeting right after the first. So now you need to scramble several blocks over. And there’s no time to make notes on the meeting you just finished.
In short, sales travel kinda sucks. And the bigger your sales area, the worse it becomes.
Video calls eliminate a lot (or all) of your travel time. And lets face it, they can reduce the total amount of time you’re in meetings, too.
All this extra time means improved productivity!
Selling via video call means you’ve got more hours in your day. So how are you going to use them?
The obvious place to start is by booking more meetings with a lot more people.
You always said you wish you had more time to prospect. Well, now you’ve got the time.
And you can accelerate your research even more by getting a little help. A virtual assistant for sales is like a private marketing team that digs up opportunities for you. It’s the best way to get more opportunities. So you can book more sales conversations.
More Time For Best Practices
Every sales professional knows they should be following sales best practices. It’s literally the job!
But it’s not always easy. The time pressures on sales teams are very real. And sometimes best practices devolve into ‘good enough’.
It’s hard to be perfect when you’re rushing between meetings, or trying to book your next meeting. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
And that’s when administrative selling activities like CRM inputs don’t get the attention they deserve.
Working in a virtual environment means more time for these important tasks.
You can improve your sales approach to increase your number of personal touches.
Or increase the number of channels across which you connect. Including using social selling as part of your lead nurturing process.
The Medium Is The Message
One nice thing about a virtual selling environment is you have easy, natural transitions to many types of media.
For example, if you need to show an illustration, or short video then they’re just a click away.
Also, shared screen functionality means detailed information can be accessed. This opens opportunities for deeper level conversations.
You can use multimedia to get the most value out of your short time with your prospect. Just be sure to prepare in advance so you aren’t fumbling around to find the right content during your discussion.
Also, don’t go crazy with the visuals.
Too much talk, numbers, and text can overwhelm your buyer. People’s attention spans have gone down by four seconds, from 12 to 8, between 2000 and 2019.
And pretty much everyone agrees that Powerpoint presentations are hard to sit through. No one wants to watch you click through slide after slide.
Natural Follow Ups
A good thing about virtual meetings is the content lends itself to natural follow ups.
For example, you can send your prospective client a copy of the meeting for future reference. They probably won’t watch it. But it’s nice to have and it makes for a thoughtful touch point.
Similarly, you can expand on content that you used (or alluded to) during the conversation.
These contact points make it easy to nurture your lead and keep the conversation going.
Better Work-Life Balance
The pressure never stops when you are responsible for revenue generation. Because there’s NOTHING more mission critical than transforming sales leads into new clients.
So there’s always something that needs to do. And because of this, some sales reps struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
But remote selling means more opportunities to reduce stress, improve health, and create a better work-life balance.
Imagine how ripped you’d be if you spent all your commuting time at the gym instead!
More flexibility means that home tasks can be knocked off at convenient times. Not just when you’re home from the office.
Which gives you more time to enjoy the weekends. And spend time on things that really matter to you.
Finding Focus & Flow
The best thing about virtual sales is the increased opportunity to work without distraction.
Office settings lend themselves to impromptu conversations that strangle focus and take it out to the woods to be buried.
It’s hard to avoid Jenny when she wants to chat about sports. Or Gary who needs to tell you about his political affiliations.
And all this small talk kills productivity.
Not to mention the noisy, distracting environment itself!
A pre-pandemic study showed that working from home created a 13% increase in productivity. That’s HUGE.
So use your distraction free environment to do deep work. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done without constant distractions.
The Challenges of Virtual Selling
It’s not all rainbows, unicorns and giant commission bonuses. Being a remote sales rep comes with some meaningful challenges.
Here are a couple that can make or break your remote sales team.
The Art of Active Listening
The best sales reps are almost always the best listeners. Put another way, sales is the art of listening.
In a face-to-face environment you would try to talk less, and listen more. You’d ask questions and employ active listening. And you’d respond to what your prospect is saying. And also what’s left unspoken.
The structure of virtual sales meetings makes active listening harder.
Zoom is perfect for online presentations. But it’s not great for picking up on body language. Or nuanced facial expressions, either.
Try to get away from ‘presentation mode’ and focus on having natural sales conversations.
Do your best to build rapport, much the same way you would offline. Which will make your virtual sales approach feel organic and authentic.
Ultimately, it’s your job to provide solutions, not information. So avoid using Zoom to inform. And focus on having helpful conversations.
When your office is also where you live then technically you are ALWAYS at work. This is an easy trap to fall into. And it can cost you.
When the pandemic started, some companies were worried whether their employees would be effective while working from home. It turned out they should have been worried about the opposite problem.
Some studies show that workers put in as much as 3 hours a day of extra work when they’re at home. That’s insane!
At the outset of your virtual selling experiment, establish well defined boundaries.
Decide when your day begins and when it ends.
More importantly, know who can contact you, and when. If you are always contactable, then you are always working.
Feel like taking calls at 11:30pm on a Friday night? If not, then you need a rule that says you’re not available at that time.
While seldom used, most devices have an ‘OFF’ button.
Get in the habit of turning off your work computer and work phone. And don’t turn them on again during your ‘off’ hours.
When you start using the ‘OFF’ button you’ll be amazed at how chained we are to the never ending flow of work that trickles in all day, every day.
Do your best to control your online technologies, and don’t let them control you.
Advocates of office work cite the intangibles that happen in a collaborative work environment.
Lots of us don’t like to hear that, but they’re right.
The thing is, just as working from home gives us more opportunities to do deep work, it also comes with potential downsides. For example, you may have fewer opportunities for organic conversation.
Do your best to identify the best elements of working at the office, and replicate them at home.
Some people need the structure that an office environment provides to stay focused. Without it, they get sucked into the temptations that home has to offer.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
A big problem with virtual selling is distance from your sales manager.
In an office environment your sales manager sees you all day, every day. And you have spontaneous conversations that provide opportunities to grow in your sales role.
All that exists when selling remote, but to a lesser extent.
But here’s the thing. When it’s time for the sales manager to pass out promotions, who gets it? The person they work alongside every day? Who they know can do the work?
Or the equally qualified person who’s lesser known.
Probably the promotion will go to the better known person.
So be proactive about your relationship with your sales manager, and other bosses. Make sure they know about your contributions. And ways you expect to contribute in the future.
You’ve heard the expression, ‘manage up.’ Well, remote selling makes it more important than ever.