A few years ago, almost every sales team became an inside sales team. We all know the story…we all figured out how to make our webcam work and most of us eventually found the unmute button. But what does the future actually hold for virtual selling? We’ve seen a wide range of attitudes toward virtual selling as we’ve slowly landed on the new normal.
A subset of sales organizations welcomed the ability to hit the road and get back to selling in person as soon as they were able to. Others saw compelling reasons to transition to primarily selling virtually.
Then, of course, there were the folks in the middle who liked some of Column A and some of Column B. These sales teams recognized the value in leveraging virtual selling methods for pieces of the sales process but also wanted to be able to take advantage of the strengths of their traditional in-person customer interactions.
No matter which of the above best describes your team, there is good reason to consider the role technology plays in a more efficient sales cycle and offering a better buying experience to your customers.
In this article, we’ll explore some go-forward best practices in using technology to support selling virtually, whether it is your entire sales approach or just a piece of it.
Virtual Selling Has Notable Advantages
While some advantages of virtual selling are now obvious to most sales leaders, others may not be. The more your team leverages virtual technology in selling, the more you’ll be able to reap these benefits.
Companies who operated in part through inside sales teams have long known the productivity advantages virtual selling offers. A seller in the field can typically meet with only four to six clients or prospects a day, or even less if there is extensive travel involved. However, sellers who are selling virtually can often fit eight or more meetings in per day.
Depending on when you’re reading this, gasoline is either expensive or really expensive. Flights and hotels aren’t cheap either. Outside sales teams inherently elevate the costs to serve your customers. Teams that are selling virtually, whether in an office or remote, can be a lot less expensive to operate, in addition to the efficiency improvements above.
Preferred by Buyers
In most industries, customers actually prefer virtual interactions to in-person ones. In fact, a late 2021 study by McKinsey found that buyers across the marketplace opt for remote, virtual or completely self-serve buying practices two-thirds of the time. Being buyer-centric matters because selling the way your buyers prefer to buy can significantly impact your success.
Ability to Specialize
Companies with traditional geographic-based territories often end up having a team of generalists serving customers, rather than experts, particularly when a given company sells a wide range of solutions that each have their own technical nuances. Incorporating virtual elements into your sales process allows your sales team to put an expert in front of a customer in the most critical moments, rather than providing a generalist who just happens to work that geographic territory.
Include Leaders and Subject Matter Experts
Similar to the previous point, virtual technology helps companies put more “brass” into key customer and prospect conversations. Traditionally, it would have involved flights, meals, and hotels to put senior leaders or technical experts in the room with the customer for key conversations. Through virtual selling, this is no longer the case, and the right cohort of individuals can be on key calls with minimal hassle required.
Virtual Selling is Not Simply Selling Done Virtually
No matter how you are weaving virtual interactions into your sales cycle, it’s important to recognize that excellent virtual selling is not just selling done through virtual methods. If you are just showing up and doing the same things but using a camera and microphone instead of sitting in the same room, you’re missing opportunities to optimize your customer interactions.
As we discuss in our Virtual Selling web series, a key concept to virtual selling is the idea of orchestration. Orchestration in selling is the planning or coordination of all elements that are part of the buying process, which includes real-time conversations (we call these frontstage activities) as well as the research and evaluation work that buyers are doing behind the scenes (backstage). These concepts were introduced in the book Mastering Virtual Selling authored by Allego co-founders Yuchun Lee and Mark Magnacca. Mark collaborated with SPARXiQ in the web series to dig into these strategies over the course of five episodes.
Proper orchestration delivers a better buying experience to your buyers and allows you as a seller to better support the buying process, even when you’re not in a live conversation. Again, if your virtual selling efforts only happen while you’re on a Zoom or Teams call, you’re not effectively supporting much of the buying process that happens behind the scenes.
Maximizing Your Synchronous (Frontstage) Customer Interactions
It’s critical to get the most out of every minute you spend with customers on virtual calls. While there are natural advantages to being live and in person with customers, much of that gap can be closed by putting effort into your virtual meeting presence and the way you organize and facilitate them.
First, it goes without saying that you must have your technology set up for success. This means that your camera quality, lighting, and sound need to be at a professional level. A lot of great tips in this area are available throughout this web series. I won’t go into too much depth here other than to say how you show up from a technical standpoint on virtual meetings can impact your success significantly.
Next, be sure that you’re facilitating a great conversation. It’s common for several members of the buying committee to appear at virtual meetings, so you need to know who they are, what their role is in the purchase decision, and find ways to include them in the conversation. Participants that aren’t engaged are less likely to buy in to what you’re proposing. Ask questions and for feedback from each participant by name when it is appropriate, given their role.
Finally, use your buyers’ time wisely. Hour-long meetings are sometimes necessary but have been known to drag when that amount of time is too much for what is needed. A well-planned agenda and orchestrated conversation will keep things on track and ensure that the necessary outcomes of the meeting are met in an efficient manner. Buyers love it when you can give back a few minutes at the end, so aim to do so as often as you can.
In some cases, time can be used wisely by offloading certain topics or parts of the conversation into backstage communication: emails, documentation, or even digital solution rooms (DSRs). Frontstage time is best fit for collaborative conversation and tailored communication. On the other hand, standard information about your solution can often be delivered as content to review before or after the synchronous (frontstage) meeting.
Support the Buying Process with Asynchronous (Backstage) Interactions
Asynchronous, or backstage, sales activities are equally important to real-time interactions. Plugging your buyers into the right resources and content to support their exploration and eventual buying decision helps you truly own the buyers’ journey and create “presence in your absence.”
Your buyers undoubtedly do their own research and look to third-party resources to help inform their purchase decisions. Why not provide them with the resources they need?
A digital solution room (DSR, or digital sales room) offers sellers the ability to create resource centers to add helpful content specific to a buyer along the buyer’s journey. These are micro-sites that can be customized by sales teams to provide a private, custom experience for a specific buyer.
Whether you’re providing content through DSR or just as a pile of email attachments, think critically about what industry intelligence, relevant research, testimonials, case studies, white papers, product roadmaps, or demo videos you can provide to help your buyers answer their most critical questions at each stage of the buying process. Don’t overdo it; focus the buyer’s experience on what’s most important to them each step of the way, slowly opening up a larger library of helpful resources as the opportunity progresses.
In today’s world, attention is the currency that really matters, and personalization helps you get and hold the buyer’s attention to stand out amongst your competition. Strong backstage orchestration helps you do just that.
Deliver a Better Virtual Buying Experience
Virtual selling offers sellers much more than simply being a substitute medium for an in-person interaction. With the right technology, strategy, and mindsets, you and your team can be more efficient and effective in your selling activities. Most importantly, you can more successfully enable your buyers and reduce friction in your sales process.
If you’d like to explore strategies for better virtual selling and find out where it fits into your go-to-market strategy, be sure to check out the SPARXiQ Virtual Selling web series. The five-part video series provides insights and best practices that can be easily incorporated into day-to-day virtual customer interactions.
An Educational Web Series
A New Approach to Support Evolving Buyers
Learn how the virtual shift in communication impacts sales and master the essential technologies and tools to better serve today’s buyers.