Selling was never an easy job. But after Covid-19 entered the picture, and social distancing became a new normal, there was a rise in sales through a virtual medium. The virtual selling percentage rose from 27% to 71%.
And as Digital Sales has taken the driver’s seat and face-to-face sales has moved to the backseat, companies have started redrawing their selling strategies, and a new question has come into the picture – “How does one sell successfully over the web when it is hard to even build baseline trust virtually?”
A lot of people mistakenly believe that good technology is what good selling needs.
But sadly, that is not the case.
Salespeople in the virtual world are facing a lot many challenges other than technological difficulties. And the only way to overcome these challenges is to address them first!
The Challenges Faced By Salespeople While Selling Virtually
The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research conducted a global study (2020) of 528 prospects and sellers across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC; and some of the virtual selling challenges that came into the light were –
1. Gaining A Prospect’s Attention And Keeping Them Engaged Virtually (91%). During virtual interaction, people are more likely to get distracted and tune out. In Social psychology, this phenomenon is called – The Ringelmann Effect. When people are not in physical proximity they might feel less needed in terms of contribution and therefore get more distracted. Additionally, it is a lot harder to keep the prospect’s attention above the engagement threshold when they are constantly interrupted with – notifications, texts, calls, and are experiencing virtual meeting fatigue.
2. Changing The Prospect’s Point Of View On What Is Possible (89%). Before reaching the point where a salesperson changes the prospect’s mind, it is important to be at a point where the prospect is at least open to your solutions. Oftentimes salespeople are rushing the sales process and are so focused on reaching the end results that they skip to establish the baseline, which is – developing trust and establishing credibility. This in turn aids in the difficulty in convincing the prospects that one’s product or service is much better than the competitors.
3.Building Rapport With The Prospects (87%). Earlier, people got to know each other on a human level (instead of a business level) during the breaks between sessions, coffee meetups, etc. when there was a space for informal talks. But now, with time and distance boundations of virtual functioning, it has become extremely hard to establish a personal connection with prospects. There is a lack of opportunities to interact outside the meetings and the only time people are interacting is during the pre-structured Zoom meetings.
4.One-Sided Communication (82%). Engaging the prospects during sales through interactive communications keeps them interested in your product. But in the virtual setting, the meetings many times become one-sided presentations. This is because the people who were used to pitching in-person, are now suddenly exposed to new technology, forced to do sales and achieve targets irrespective of no or insufficient training provided. Many still feel uncomfortable being exposed to digital selling, making the sales pitch more monotonous & less engaging. This lack of shared experience makes the prospect feel more like a spectator rather than a part of the process.
5. Dealing With Technology When Leading A Virtual Sales Meeting (64%). Technological breakdowns like lagging of sound, video disruption, bad internet, etc. during virtual meetings can disrupt the flow of the conversations. And at times, prospects might view the sellers as unprofessional when they repeatedly experience these issues. This was not the case before when people met in-person but now, it can affect the entire sales process by even reaching a point when the salespeople have to reschedule the entire meeting – and the prospect may or may not come back with the same mindset as they had before which can influence the decisions they take later.
Tips To Improve Your Digital Sales Performance
While there is no simple formula when it comes to excelling in sales, here are some tips you should use to improve your sales performance virtually and take your selling to the next level:
Tip #1: Hold Your Prospects’ Attention. It is important to have salespeople who are good with holding the prospect’s attention online. Setting up a virtual face-to-face meeting instead of tele-calling turns out to be more fruitful. Turning on your webcam as well as encouraging the prospects to do the same, will help you build trust faster. It helps both to understand each other’s body language and expressions. Add short pre-recorded videos and appealing presentations to grab your prospects attention during meetings. Re-engage the prospects with questions if there are visible signs of disengagement.
Tip #2: Use Eye-Catchy Content. Use content during virtual meetings that are bite-sized, but engaging to the prospects. Prospects count poor or no visuals during online meetings as one of the mistakes that the sellers make. It certainly influences their decision on the purchase. Add audio-visual materials for delivering in-depth information to give a lasting experience to your prospects.
Tip #3: Educate The Prospect. It is important to build a context in front of your prospect before you ask them about their decision about your product. Provide relevant information to the prospects (such as: Why Do They Need This? How Will It Help Them?) during the sales meeting. Start by focusing on the prospect’s pain point. Follow it up with thought-provoking questions. And later on, add solutions to it. It shows that you have the needed expertise to solve their issues. And they will be more likely to accept your recommendations with an open mind.
Tip #4: Step Into The Prospect’s Shoes. Nowadays along with customer service executives, the Covid crisis has posed demands for salespeople to be equally empathetic to gain their prospects’ insights and understand their needs. Stay emotionally present when your prospects are sharing critical concerns. Ask questions during the virtual meetings, show your prospects that you are curious about them. Demonstrate that you are listening through follow-up questions and validate their concerns.
Tip #5 Connect Outside The Formal Meetings. Instead of sending documents and pdfs, salespeople can send personalized video messages to introduce via mails. Do your research about the prospects before meetings and discuss their interest areas. Stay connected with your prospects through different channels. Engage with them on social media platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to strengthen your sales relationship with them.
Tip #6: Plan Ahead. Send installation and online connection guidelines (like which software you are using to connect) before the meeting also aids in good digital planning and you don’t lose the important initial minutes. Discuss the virtual meeting agenda beforehand. Orchestrating the virtual meetings gives it a direction and the prospect’s interest is retained throughout it.
Tip #7: Test Your Technology Before Meetings. Conduct the meeting on a platform or software that is reliable. Always have a backup plan in case the technology breaks down in between. For instance, share a contact number to connect if the computer audio stops working mid-meeting. Get proper training for the platforms and go through a trial run to check the functioning of the system before the actual meeting.
#Bonus Tips (For The Companies).
1. It can be difficult to train a virtual sales team when businesses are functioning remotely. Hence, it has become crucial for companies to hire salespeople who possess certain competencies and abilities. It can be done using digital assessments. This will help them combat the online selling challenges as well as facilitate the virtual sales process organically. Some of these emerging competencies that facilitate virtual sales success include – positivity, motivation, social skills, perspective-taking, work values, conversation intelligence, etc. And abilities include – email etiquette, social media knowledge, technological literacy, digital literacy, digital skills, etc.
2. Evaluate which areas are the struggle areas and are difficult to manage virtually, such as keeping records or maintaining threads. Adopt Sales Enablement tools such as CRM Tools (to keep the status of deals and manage sales prospects), Conferencing Tools (for carrying out important discussions and meetings), Chat Tools (to ensure that the details of the communication remain intact), etc. to overcome these struggles.
Virtual Selling is here to stay – even after the pandemic goes away. And it is a lot more than just the addition of technology to the regular sales process. It has brought some major changes in the sales business.
To become a successful virtual representative, one has to adapt to these changes as well as meet the new sales demands. Salespeople need to increase their awareness regarding new challenges and restructure their selling approach. They must equip themselves with new strategies that would help them close their deals and conquer the business.
Alongside, to grow one’s prospect base, businesses need to adapt to the new digital sales world and stay relevant in this VUCA world. They need to hit the ground running by replacing the traditional way of hiring with the new demanding sales virtues!
Team PMaps – Psychologist