Recent world events have only accelerated a trend that we have seen over the last two decades – the collapse of face to face selling. Think about it, even without a global pandemic keeping us all inside, we live in a world where you can go online, buy a car in seconds, and have it delivered to your door the next day. It was only a matter of time before your B2B buyers started to exhibit the same behaviors. The B2C world has been rubbing off on B2B for quite some time, and face to face selling is just one of those examples. Take a look at a recent blog from my colleague to see how B2B organizations are borrowing leading customer experience concepts from the B2C world.
As you are reading this, you are probably thinking to yourself, “I have a lot of salespeople in the field, how do I align my organization with the changing times?” The short answer is, you can’t make this sort of transformation overnight.
Before we break this down into a few categories, review the COVID-19 Action Plan for Sales Leaders. In there, you can see how what we cover in this blog fits with the overall framework we have put together to help address the uncertainty of this ongoing situation. As a quick preview, the first couple of steps are all about connecting with your team and customers to ensure their physical & psychological safety in these trying times.
Ok, so now that you have seen how this fits with the bigger picture, let’s talk about selling in a virtual world through the lens of 5 major categories:
We will start with an easy one. This part of face to face selling has already largely gone virtual. You can no longer be an effective rep if you don’t know how to craft an insightful LinkedIn message or nail the first 2 minutes of a phone call. For the record, cold calls are still very much effective. However, it is no longer the ‘smile and dial’ approach from a long list of phone numbers. Organizations are getting smarter by segmenting and prioritizing their prospects (and customers) by potential and then aligning their best reps with the accounts that represent the highest potential revenue. To prospect in a virtual environment, you must have a prioritized list for your reps to work from, otherwise attrition and productivity will drop tremendously.
We are tech agnostic at SBI. We have seen our clients effectively utilize all types of CRM software, Sales Engagement tools, and Gamification platforms. A common theme we have seen across clients of all sizes is that a piece of technology loses all of its value if the organization’s structure and processes are broken. If your sales process isn’t well defined or customer-driven and you integrate it into your brand new CRM, do you really think that will make your team more effective? In reality, you are probably better off having a clearly defined, customer-driven sales process, and not having any sort of CRM at all.
3. Rep Competencies / Talent
This new world of virtual selling requires a shift in how you think about the competencies you look at when making a sales hiring decision. The core skill set of what makes a great sales rep will remain the same, but certain skills will now have elevated levels of importance. For example, the skill of relationship building is a time tested requirement for being a great salesperson. In today’s virtual world, this takes on a whole new level of importance. In the virtual environment, you have less opportunity to interact with and less access to the decision-makers you are trying to reach. Your teams are in constant and ongoing competition for mind share. If your team can’t build relationships through sharing compelling insights on LinkedIn or other virtual means, they will never be successful in this new world. Now is the time to take a step back and assess the strengths and weaknesses of your sales team. This should be a quarterly exercise.
4. Demoing a Solution
As discussed at the beginning of this blog, buyers have been conditioned by their B2C interactions to expect to be able to get a complete understanding of what they are about to buy before they buy it. Additionally, we have found that B2B decision-makers are increasingly leveraging their personal network when making purchasing decisions. What does this mean? This means that your success is becoming increasingly reliant on your ability to demo your product or solution through virtual means. The product and technology considerations of this are extensive, and something that is best suited for a blog of its own. However, you can have the best product and the virtual way to show it off, and that can all be for nothing if your sales teams are not able to run the demo on their own without the assistance of a solutions engineer. It may sound obvious, but your sales teams need to be experts in the products/solutions they are selling. This means being able to take prospects through a demo of your solution and being able to field 2nd and 3rd level questions. Nothing turns a potential buyer off more than a sales rep that has to keep repeating, “I’ll have to get back to you on that question.” Ensure your reps are continuously trained on the product and give them the enablement they need to be successful.
5. Digital Transactions
You may have noticed a common theme by now. B2B decision-makers are increasingly expecting B2C levels of service. This means every single sales leader should be thinking about how they can offer a self-service selling motion geared towards their smallest accounts and prospects. It may sound simple, but implementing a self-service portal requires a tremendous amount of coordination between sales, marketing, IT, finance, and legal. It also requires a sophisticated lead routing process and a sales coverage model that is built on revenue potential, clearly defined, and free of role corruption. You need to ensure that only the smallest segment of your market is driven to the self-service portal. Otherwise, you could severely impact future revenue. For example, say a small division of a major conglomerate comes to your website and fills out a form and selects ‘less than 50 employees’ because they are only thinking about their small ‘company.’ If you only have a simple lead routing process and coverage model based on that one web form entry, they would be routed to the self-service portal. In this example, the customer buys your product, and you get a little bit of revenue, but you have greatly hurt your chances to expand within the large conglomerate.
If you didn’t review the COVID-19 Action Plan for Sales Leaders by now, I recommend you go there now or bookmark it to review later to ensure you are considering all potential current and future ramifications of this ongoing situation. The five components of virtual selling that we covered above are just a glimpse of things to consider. Defining your revenue plans and your three-year GTM strategy is hard enough even in more certain times. Employee safety and support will remain the number one priority for all companies into the foreseeable future. Still, it is never too soon to start to consider how you will need to evolve your sales organization to be effective in this new environment.