Until the promising COVID-19 vaccines are produced, distributed and widely received by the public, virtual selling will continue to be the norm for B2B sales. Many believe it will be embraced long after the pandemic is behind us. Navigating the world of virtual selling may seem simple, but being a great virtual salesperson takes more than simply shifting every meeting to a video conference.
Successful virtual selling is dependent upon using modern technology to nurture prospects, share information, conduct demos and host meetings. This technology must be combined with research, engagement and technical aptitude in order to be effective and produce results.
As many companies currently slow their buying cycles or freeze them completely, intelligent virtual selling is one of the only ways to overcome these uncertainties. To adapt to the world of virtual selling, sales leaders must ensure their reps are prepared for the not-so-new normal.
Prepare like you’re meeting face-to-face
Not everything from a pre-pandemic, face-to-face meeting can be simply carried over to a video call. However, preparation is one element of the new sales meetings that should not change.
In the pre-pandemic world, an in-person meeting was an event: It involved travel, hotel stays and client dinners. To prepare for such meetings, sellers completed intense research before sitting down with prospects. The stakes felt higher since organizing a face-to-face meeting could be challenging and you would only be seeing those key decision-makers once or twice a year. You had to get it right.
Now that they’re forced to work and meet remotely, sellers seem less prepared than they would be if they were meeting in-person. Reps are failing to do their research to find out if they’re connected to any mutual contacts, digging into their DISC style or personality, looking for hints in their LinkedIn profile or reading something the prospect wrote.
We should have the same attitude to video calls that we have for in-person meetings, because they are as important. Prior to virtual meetings, sellers should have been scrolling through their prospects’ social media pages to educate themselves on their professional backgrounds and to search for mutual connections. They should be just as prepared as if they’d taken a flight to get there.
Expect the unexpected
Whether a virtual meeting is one-on-one or with a group, sellers need to expect the unexpected. It’s much easier to invite somebody to a virtual conference call than it is to get them to attend a face-to-face meeting. And since many prospects are mostly still working from home, they have more time to jump on virtual meetings. As a result, meeting sizes are bigger; salespeople may find themselves on a call in which they were expecting to meet with two people and see five or more on screen instead.
Sellers must be diligent in checking meeting invites to see if others have been added. This is a simple tactic that can help uncover surprise group meetings and allow the seller to do research on everyone who’s scheduled to attend. Make sure sellers understand these new attendees’ roles and how the puzzle pieces fit together so they’re prepared for questions from unexpected guests.
Another challenge posed by virtual selling is engaging multi-tasking prospects. When you’re face-to-face with people in a room or in a small video conference with one or two other people, they tend to be more attentive. When a group is larger than three people, you’re going to lose some of them. They’re checking emails; they’re texting; they’re working on another project. Sellers have to be more aware of how to overcome distractions. It’s a classic challenge magnified by the shift to virtual selling.
Using people’s names, asking more questions and keeping things brief are a few tactics salespeople can use to keep prospects engaged. It also works well to ask someone to describe what they just heard in their own words. If you do that once in a meeting, everyone will become more alert. Others will be inclined to engage because they’re thinking, “I’m going to be called on next.”
Map the journey
Salespeople must be more organized post-call in the virtual world. Sharing and tracking relevant content has always been a challenge, but it’s amplified when sellers are no longer interacting with their enablement and marketing teams in person. This makes it tougher to nurture prospects effectively. Creating a repository for prospect-related content and including an audit trail of interactions with each individual
or account has multiple benefits for sellers and prospects.
Recording online meetings for your own note-taking purposes and being able to share that recording with customers is one of the advantages of the shift to virtual. Customers are beginning to ask for a copy of meeting recordings so they can reflect on portions of the discussion, revisit product demonstrations and share it with others who couldn’t attend.
In the virtual world, don’t forget to document the entire buying journey for each account and share it with the prospect. Meeting notes and call recordings can also be added to the repository, as well as copies of any slideshow presentations the prospect has seen, and a detailed record of email exchanges
and questions following the presentations.
Moving out of one’s comfort zone and mastering virtual selling is more crucial now than ever before, and it will continue to be important long after the pandemic has run its course.
Jake Miller is senior product marketing manager at Allego, a leading learning and enablement platform for sales and other business-critical teams. More insights on virtual selling are shared in Miller’s webinar presentation, “How to Overcome the 8 Challenges of Virtual Selling.”