For the people struggling with virtual selling, this blog was made for you. Keep reading to know how you can nail virtual selling.
It was the 23rd of March, 2020 when all of India came to a sudden halt. Covid, which up till then was at a distance from our country suddenly overwhelmed it, pushing every person, every employee and every organisation into lockdown.
Not just India, but the entire world turned upside down. In the blink of an eye, everything hit a flip. Some organisations had to shut shops. Production and sales saw a massive drop.
How was the economy going to cope in the midst of a pandemic? People just about everywhere needed to adapt. They needed a new way to work. And that is how we all started spending more time in the virtual world than the physical world
According to McKinsey, since the pandemic began, almost 90 per cent of sales has moved to a remote model. Almost every B2B company’s products and services started being sold virtually. And salespeople and other employees found this shift from normal just a little bit overwhelming. Okay, maybe a lot overwhelming. But we dealt with it. We made virtual sales our new normal and are continuously progressing with it.
WHAT IS VIRTUAL SELLING?
Virtual selling means working and closing a deal when you can’t be there in person. It’s an experience enabled by technology in which sellers communicate, collaborate, and connect with prospective customers through virtual mediums.
A seasoned virtual seller is one who understands a prospect’s mindset even when he is not meeting with them in person. While the universal principles of selling are the same, some principles need to be implemented using new tools and techniques to really succeed in virtual sales.
Virtual selling is challenging. There is no doubt about it. Especially when we are so used to meeting our clients in person, the transition to virtual meetings can be a little rough. One of the biggest differences between physical and virtual meetings is that you don’t get sufficient time and space to build relationships. And salespeople thrive on relationship building.
This Virtual world has made salespeople handicapped when it comes to using their relationship-building skills. Virtual meetings are very much to the point. There is little room to get to know your clients and get them to warm up to you. Add to this, your clients’ reluctance to switch on their video cameras and the process of understanding what they are feeling and thinking through their body language becomes all the more difficult.
However, this isn’t reason enough to completely shun virtual selling. Virtual selling is a tough bet. But when used right, it’s an excellent tool, especially for salespeople. It even has its share of benefits.
Think about it, research states that Indians on average spend 7% of their day, i.e more than 2 hours commuting. Virtual sales crosses this travelling off from your to-do list. By staying home and having online meetings you are saving at least two hours of your day. And as salespeople, time is of the essence for us.
It offers you all the flexibility and comfort you could hope for. Tell me, didn’t we all at one point think how great it would be if you could earn money sitting at home? Virtual sales has made this possible for us.
Moreover, to conclude it all, I would say, that above all benefits of virtual selling is SAFETY. Covid keeps fluctuating. Just when we thought it was all back to normal, Omicron happened. Virtual sales is the best deal you could vouch for. Stay at home, stay safe and keep hustling while you are at it.
Now, that we have discussed the benefits and the possible challenges of Virtual sales, let me tell you how you can be the next virtual selling ninja.
1. Make your virtual buying experience exceptional for your clients.
Mastering virtual selling starts with mastering the art of selling. You will not succeed in virtual selling if you are not good at selling—period! The basic fundamentals never change; you need to have a command of what good selling is before you can successfully make the transition.
The reason customers need a salesperson, especially in today’s time, when there is so much information available online, is because they are looking for solutions for complex problems, something that they can’t find online.
For example, If you have to buy a mobile phone online, you log in to Amazon or any other e-commerce site, compare different smartphone models and buy what suits you the best.
However, complex business solutions are not easy to purchase and as per Gartner’s latest research, on average there are 10 stakeholders involved in every large B2B purchase.
This is where a salesperson comes into the picture.
A salesperson’s primary job is to help customers make buying decisions and give a buying experience that delights their prospective customers.
Be it physical or virtual selling, customers make buying decisions with a seller who gives them the best buying experience throughout the sales journey. This buying experience decides if your customer wishes to continue doing business with you. In fact, study states that 80% of buying decision is based on the customer’s buying experience and only 20 % of it is ruled by the price of the product/service.
Buyers buy more often from salespeople they feel connected to and with whom they have trusted relationships. Sellers, therefore, need to build a strong rapport with their customers. This process of rapport building was easier in face-to-face settings than in virtual meets.
However, there are some strategies you can use to make rapport building easier in virtual sales.
Be the first one to join the virtual meetings
If you have hosted a virtual meeting before, you might be knowing that during a meeting people keep joining for the first five to ten minutes. If you, among the others, are the first one to join, this gives you the opportunity to talk to your attendees while waiting for the others to join. And the conversation need not be strictly business. You can simply ask them how they are doing and if they are keeping well. Especially in times like these, such small questions mean you genuinely are concerned about them as a person.
When you are the first one to join, you are creating time to get to know your customers. You are waiting on them rather than vice versa. These actions are often much appreciated by clients.
Do not be camera shy
Some people are either uncomfortable with video or haven’t grown used to it yet, but if you switch on your video, chances are that the others too will follow. But if you yourself choose to stay off-camera, you don’t create a space for this possibility. People see you and like you! People respond to faces, not voices alone. Your job is to build rapport. Use it to take the lead and engage your buyers.
Authenticity grows when people see that you are a real human being. This is an important victory in virtual selling where everything, by definition, is more impersonal. It’s up to you to take the lead and do something to make it more personal.
Moreover, the only thing that can be kept almost the same in physical and virtual meetings is the ability to see one another. Switch off your cameras, and you are creating a scenario where one black block is talking to another black block. Rapport is built between human beings, not black blocks.
Creating a memorable buying experience for your customers is majorly dependent on the rapport you share with them. And there is no separate time to build rapport. It happens simultaneously in zoom meetings when you proactively create opportunity, time, and space for rapport-building.
2. Importance of collaterals in virtual selling.
A study from the revenue enablement institute suggests that Customers’ desire for more relevant and personalised content is the number one impediment to improving remote selling productivity.
An in-person meeting always builds more comfort and intimacy with the client than a virtual one. How much ever Technology advances, even with newer Technologies like metaverse, virtual meetings can never replace the trust and credibility that face to face meeting builds.
Then the question is, how can we at least try to imitate that comfort in virtual sales. How do we make our clients comfortable? How do we prove our credibility and make them trust us?
One tool which works for salespeople is sales & marketing collaterals.
Collaterals are something that we present during, before, or after meeting with a client. It could be anything. It could be an email that you sent, it could be a Demo you perform, it could be a video you run during presentations, it could be an ROI sheet, it could be a comparison sheet, etc.
How well can we personalize these collaterals, How do we make sure that whatever we present completely fits the purpose of our clients will help us build trust and intimacy with them.
Today virtual selling requires more dynamic and engaging content because you don’t get to meet your clients a lot.
Creating personalised and engaging content takes time and focus.
It needs continuous collaboration & feedback between marketing, sales, and product management teams to create content that delivers value and builds trust with clients.
3. Social selling
If you have a corporate job, chances are you spend more time looking at a screen than looking at the regular 3D world. In 2020, 3.96 billion people used social media, which accounts for roughly half (51%) of the global population.
On average, global internet users spend 144 minutes on social media sites every day.
B2B clients are hugely influenced by social media. And in 2020, due to lockdown, this number has dramatically increased. In fact, studies state that 54% of social media users use social media to research the product they are looking for.
If we want to sell, we need to be at places where most of our customers spend time. Before COVID, conferences, networking events, etc were places where most prospective customers used to visit in search of finding good vendors. But, now they have become a thing of the past.
One thing which has picked up pace is your social media presence and the value you offer to your network through the social media content you post.
Linkedin is one such social media platform, if you are in B2B sales you can’t ignore. Not only does it make it possible to connect with your target customers but it also has made it possible to demonstrate to your network that you are a subject matter expert in the products or services you sell.
This is by far the best tool to keep you updated about what your prospective customers are up to on the internet. It helps you be in touch with them on a personal front which also serves your business purposes.
It is also the best tool to sell tacitly when you are not in front of the customer by posting content related to your product or service that can add value to them.
However, one disclaimer: it should not be used as a digital cold calling tool; use it to build relationships, build credibility, and build a personal brand.
” Social is not a place for the hard sell, it’s a place to build trust and credibility ”
4. Getting comfortable with technology is essential when it comes to virtual selling.
For most people, virtual selling is working from home. Homes are designed for living and offices are designed for working. That’s one of the biggest challenges Virtual selling has brought to us.
How do we use Technology tools to offer a seamless experience to customers? How can we follow the same discipline and focus of working from an office while working from home?
There are 6 external elements that you need to be in control of for having a good virtual meeting experience:
1. Camera –
Your customers want to talk to you and not a blank screen. Try to ensure that your clients can see you properly.
My advice is to invest in a high-resolution Digicam like Logitech which provides clearer videos and makes you look presentable.
2. Lighting –
Good lighting adds to your personality and makes you look presentable and approachable.
So how do you ensure you get a full bang for your buck when it comes to lighting?
Ensure the light is falling on your face so your face is illuminated and visible to the audience. If you have a seating position facing a wall think of buying portable external light which helps to illuminate your face during meetings.
3. Background noise
While working from home, the biggest challenge is to control background noise, especially if you have kids or pets in your family. If possible set up your desk or work area in a relatively noise-free place. Use noise cancellation headphones that will comparatively cancel out the background noise.
A decent background adds to your professionalism. It gives your clients the idea that they are indeed talking to a professional, who has taken the necessary measures to imitate an office setting.
White curtains/walls go a long way to create a good, professional backdrop. In case you don’t have a spot like that, you can always use greenscreen apps that allow you to choose from a set of different backdrops.
5. Wifi connection
A reliable and fast wifi connection is like oxygen for our virtual presence. Ensure that you have a good broadband connection at your place and plan for backups like a wifi dongle or mobile internet in case your wifi stops working during an important meeting.
6. Proper orchestration of your meeting materials.
Before an important client meeting, run through your meeting materials like ppts, videos, images, and other documents through your team members before sharing them with your clients. Make sure that your materials are easy to load and properly aligned with your screen.
Getting handy with technology is the first step to ensuring smooth virtual selling.
Technology can be unpredictable. However, technology is one of the most important tools which decides the quality of your meeting
So, it makes sense to take out some time to test things beforehand.
Imagine if you were a customer, attending a virtual meet, and your host keeps getting disconnected, or there is a lot of background noise from their side, perhaps their lighting is so bad that you can see just a half of their face, or their presentations has gone wrong and their slides are not visible, will you prefer to do business with a salesperson who provides such kind of experience?
Probably not. Not because he is a bad salesperson but because he has not adopted the key aspects of virtual selling.
In this virtual era, discussions have become very specific and time-bound. The customers discuss with a fixed agenda already set in their minds. In such a case, the margin for error is very less compared to the physical setting.
All the above factors are basic but they do contribute to the overall buying experience and can’t be taken for granted.
A hallmark of a good virtual seller is how he can facilitate all the above mentioned different aspects of virtual meetings and create a memorable buying experience for customers.
5. Prime your environment for focus.
1. Dress the part –
There is a psychological term called ‘Enclothed Cognition.’ Enclothed cognition refers to the effect our clothes have on our ‘psyche’ or our thought processes. How we dress up directly affects how we think.
Therefore, when you put on your formals and get business-ready, this sends a signal to your brain that now it is time to get into your ‘work mode’.
Moreover, when you wear casuals even if you are working from home, you are involuntarily setting up a casual ambience at home. You are sending a signal to some part of your brain that it’s okay to be casual about working.
I learnt this from my 5-year-old daughter. Her school mandates that students should wear uniforms for attending school and I saw a big difference in her attention when she wears a uniform and attends school visa vis her other online classes where there is no compulsion on attire.
This principle works for me. So I prefer wearing formal clothes daily when I sit for work. However, it may not work for some people. Some people can focus in a casual set-up as well
2. Make your work desk clutter-free.
A clutter-free desk makes you feel more organized and in control. It is also symbolic of a stress-free work zone. When a desk is piled with clutter, even a glance at it is enough to shoot our anxiety up a notch.
Moreover, a clutter-free desk also allows for fewer distractions, in turn increasing your productivity.
3. Plan your day
Planning your actions and then doing it, results in a higher chance of you getting the desired outcomes. As a salesperson, most of the time, planning and strategizing is assigned to the sales leader. Salespeople are expected to execute these strategies laid out for them. But, the plan of executing these strategies completely rests upon the salesperson. This is why planning your activities is far more essential to get the desired results in sales.
Planning helps you bring predictability to your sales activities and it helps you assign appropriate time for each activity.
Getting into the habit of planning my day has helped me de-stress myself. Due to planning ahead of time, I don’t always need to think about what I have to do next during the day. My mind is relaxed and completely focused on executing the task at hand.
2020 pushed us all out of our comfort zones. It forced us to change, to adapt to this new world with a pandemic. Only then did we realize our potential and the human ability to be flexible. We can change. We can Adapt. It is just that at times, we get so scared of the uncertain future that we don’t even attempt to change. In fact, we hate it, fear it. But the only constant thing in the world is change. The world keeps evolving, and if we refuse to change with it, we will just be one of those who were left behind.
There is a famous quote from American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow…
At any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.
Today, we know one thing for sure, virtual sales is here to stay. Multi-million dollar deals get discussed and closed without you even meeting your clients. We never thought we would see a change like this, but it is here now, the world of B2B sales is changing, perhaps evolving, and we will soon enter a hybrid world of virtual and physical meetings combined.
According to multiple studies by firms like Bain and Mckinsey, virtual selling will continue to be the new normal even when face to face selling becomes available,
There is no running away from virtual selling
Adapt to it. Learn these techniques of virtual selling and keep hustling.
If you liked this article, share it with your friends. Comment down below if you have any questions. I am always happy to help.
Every day when I log in to LinkedIn, I come across at least 1 post or on some days 3 to 4 posts where some or the other salesperson announces a change of Job. It seems like the job market for B2B...