Virtual selling: the new norm for B2B markets?
The time has come for a full adoption of virtual selling. With advancements in video technology, social responsibility initiatives reducing carbon footprint, and lately COVID-19 social distancing practices, B2B sales has changed to embrace virtual selling. Converting physical client meetings into virtual meetings that achieve the same or better effect requires more than just using tools such as Skype or Zoom. Sales executives and account managers need to fundamentally rethink their interactions, and Marketing needs to be ready to support the new way of engaging with clients. The virtual sales experience is the new battlefield. What separates the winners from the rest is their ability to embed value in every interaction with customers and truly engage with them in the digital field. A recent McKinsey & Company pulse survey of B2B decision makers resulted that the importance of digital sales has doubled over that of traditional sales interactions since the onset of COVID-19 and 79% of respondents are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to maintain their “new sales model”, which relies far more heavily on digital outreach versus the face-to-face and trade fair interactions of more traditional sales prospecting models. The same group of B2B decision makers also believe the new sales model is as effective or more than prior to COVID-19. But does every sales executive and account manager have the knowledge and tools to fully conduct and close sales cycles virtually? Here are a few helpful tips and considerations. Technology must work, guidelines need to be followed Ensure a stable broadband connection. Nothing is more embarrassing as your video line or voice constantly fading out. With the increasing variety of online interaction tools on the market, from video conferencing (e.g. Zoom, Webex, MS Teams, Skype, Google Hangout, etc.) to collaboration (e.g. Slack, Trello, Mural, etc.), document sharing (e.g. Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc.) and webinar solutions (GoToWebinar, ClickMeeting, etc.), it is important you make a thoughtful selection. For more complex products and service sales, online advisory tools (like Flexperto or Bridge Systems) offer company branded screens and combine several essential features, - including video conferencing, chat, white boarding, document sharing, secure document signing, integrated meeting schedules, etc. - within a single and easy to use application. Equally they offer an optional API integration with your sales or CRM system. Create company guidelines that standardize video appearances, such as meeting backgrounds, professional attire, camera heights and recommended equipment and ensure your sales executives and account managers are comfortable in handling the tool(s) in front of their counterparts. Smart prospecting Drafting an insightful LinkedIn message or making an impactful one-minute pitch over the phone are already key requirements for any effective sales executive. Look for ways to fill your pipeline beyond traditional networking events. Organizations are getting smarter by segmenting and prioritizing their prospects and then aligning their best sales people with the accounts that represent the highest revenue potential. Leverage digital prospecting tools to find the best leads and reach key decision makers right away. Focus on the context of your conversation When you meet in person, you get to see how the person physically reacts, how they talk and sit, their company culture and office environment. Communication is largely nonverbal, which is much more difficult to observe, if you communicate online. Are they saying “maybe” but their body is tense? You might be able to get some of this from a video call, but it’s not the same as sitting in the same physical location and reading someone’s whole body language. Aim to convince your counterpart to switch on their cameras, which will already increase their focus and level of attention. Know what you sell Today’s clients want transparency. They want a partner who is going to truly and fully understand their business and their challenges. This means your success is becoming increasingly reliant on your ability to provide a tailored solution. Ensure your sales executives get properly trained on the solution they are selling and are able to field 2nd and 3rd level questions during demos. Rehearse the virtual pitch internally several times, tweaks might be necessary to make it as effective as in a face-to-face environment. Storytelling and conveying trust Virtual selling also requires a shift on competencies for sales executives. Skills, like relationship building in the virtual world take on a whole new level of importance. With virtual interactions you usually have less access to the decision-makers you are trying to reach and your teams are in constant competition for mind share. Therefore, relationship selling needs to be supplemented and enhanced with deep subject matter expertise and compelling insights on LinkedIn or other social media channels. In today’s world, it’s no longer enough to simply tell clients and prospects what your value proposition is - instead your skills, your solutions and your services - they all need to be part of your story! The follow-up progresses the opportunity After the video conference, send an email within 24 hours that summarizes the key take aways, unique insights discussed and, most importantly, the next steps with timing attached. Needless to say, that this timing needs to be adhered to in all circumstances.
If you need more advice on best practices for lead generation, prospecting, sales development and closing through virtual channels, get in touch with our team.