Virtual selling is more than just a workaround for social distancing. It’s become clear that virtual selling offers long-term benefits in a post-pandemic world.
Many sales leaders are already preparing for a future where effective virtual selling is a normal, ongoing business practice.
In this article, we’ll look at the three key benefits of continuing to sell virtually over the long term.
- It provides a business continuity plan.
- It enables access to more stakeholders.
- It encourages decision-making momentum from customers.
Virtual Selling Is a Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan is a process of creating a system or plan for your company to survive crises and recover.
A sales team equipped with virtual sales skills strengthens your business continuity plan in three ways.
First, basing your business continuity plan around a skill (e.g., virtual selling) means you can respond to a crisis fast. There’s no need for extra infrastructure or special emergency supply chains.
Second, virtual selling allows you to expand and contract with the marketplace easily. Your reps are not limited by their approach to the customer and travel expenses.
Lastly, virtual solutions are less demanding of the customer. There is almost no need for logistical planning or complex scheduling.
Let’s look at these points in more depth.
Virtual selling is a practice that can be implemented fast. However, this requires buy-in from the sales professionals. Yossi Sheffi — MIT professor and author of The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage — says in his work:
“After a disruption, the factor that clearly distinguishes those companies that recover quickly, and even profitably, from those that falter is corporate culture,”
Sheffi goes on to explain that:
“The important thing is to take the bricklayer and make him understand that he’s building a home, not just laying bricks.”
This sentiment was first shared by Southwest’s CEO, Herb Kelleher. Sales teams need to understand the why behind their virtual selling training. They need to understand that these remote sales skills are part of a long-term plan to protect the business and their careers.
The ability to increase sales efforts without increasing travel is no small benefit. Annual, global, business travel spending is roughly $1.5 trillion, according to the Global Business Travel Association. That represents 55% of airline revenues.
That’s $1.5 trillion that companies could have spent on new salespeople, new training, and new tools.
Virtual selling is not only less demanding of your resources, it’s also less demanding of the customer’s resources.
During an economic slowdown, in-person meetings can be difficult for stakeholders who are forced to do business with fewer resources. With a virtual approach, the salesperson can work with the customer’s constantly changing availability and deadlines.
You want to remove as many barriers to the buy as possible during a crisis. Allowing prospects to choose how and when they get contacted is a great way to begin doing that.
Virtual Selling Enables Access to More Stakeholders
Increasingly, buying decisions are made by committee, rather than individuals. Therefore, sales professionals need to bring all the decision makers together around the product or service they’re selling.
Getting every decision maker into a single sales meeting can be difficult, especially when you have to contend with the different schedules and physical locations of stakeholders.
Virtual selling gives sales reps the key to overcoming these challenges. They can easily bring stakeholders together, regardless of where they are, through virtual conferencing tools.
A virtual approach also helps reps deal with the tight schedules of decision makers. It makes quick meetings and fast start times possible, since key stakeholders become available.
When dealing with multiple stakeholders, it’s easy for miscommunications to slow down or even threaten your sale. Mission-critical executives can often back out of in-person meetings as unexpected and unrelated challenges emerge. With the buying committee split up, poor decision making can emerge.
Virtual selling requires you to get everyone in the same virtual room anyway. By default, this facilitates communication between stakeholders. This helps each decision maker more quickly understand the position of every other decision maker.
Virtual Selling Encourages the Customer’s Decision-Making Momentum
The status quo is the biggest threat to a sale. Even when stakeholders are dissatisfied with their current situation, they can be reluctant to adopt a new solution.
Despite this, there’s often at least one agent of change among the stakeholders. It’s important to find them and build a relationship with them.
Having an ally among the stakeholders can be powerful. But as they bring other executives to your side, it’s critical that you keep the sales process moving. Because one dissenting voice can just as easily derail the sale.
Often, this voice of disagreement emerges after fear of reputational loss, analytic exhaustion, or internal competition has taken root. To prevent this, you need to keep a sense of urgency. Encourage the buyer, and your internal champion, to keep the decision-making process moving forward.
Information overload is an increasingly common problem that can slow momentum. As more information and choices become available, customers often fall prey to the paradox of choice, a phenomenon psychologist Barry Schwartz discusses in his book of the same name. He says,
“Unfortunately, the proliferation of choice in our lives robs us of the opportunity to decide for ourselves just how important any given decision is.”
Research from LexisNexis makes this clear. They found that 62% of respondents feel the quality of their work suffers because there is too much information to sort.
With virtual selling, sales professionals can leverage speed to overcome this problem. Sales reps can organize meetings and deliver video messages when they’re needed most, at a frequency that keeps momentum high and inactivity low.
Virtual Selling: Part of a Long-term Strategy
Previously, pursuing a sale entirely from a virtual setting was reserved for small deals and extreme circumstances. Today, sales leaders need to adapt to a new environment.
Though this change was likely always on the horizon, the recent pandemic has sped it up dramatically.
67% of the buying journey already occurs digitally, according to research from Deloitte.
Even when economic factors return to pre-crisis levels, many customers will be used to this new reality of virtual sales.
Therefore, success means moving at this intensified pace of change while acknowledging that this isn’t a passing phase.
Virtual selling is here to stay, and it’s time to adapt.