Why virtual sales will continue to dominate in a post-COVID world
The pandemic-prompted shift to Zoom-based sales came with too many benefits for it to be abandoned post-COVID. Marcus Sheridan thinks that smart teams will divert budget from travel to training to make sure they’re up to date on virtual selling best practices.
We are certainly all eager to get back out and see movies, meet friends for dinner, and travel — all without the threat of contracting coronavirus ourselves or spreading it to loved ones.
But will our day-to-day lives really look like they did before?
For many, those questions are not just about our personal lives. Nearly every industry was changed by the pandemic, from touchless curbside pickup to entire offices suddenly using Zoom to communicate, collaborate, and get work done.
As the months have gone by, people have become more and more accustomed to the new way of doing things. As changes become normalized, they cease looking like changes.
And to be honest, not all of the effects COVID had on the professional world were negative. Yes, we get to wear sweatpants (as long as we’re only seen from the waist up), but we’ve also seen gains in efficiency and had more happy workers who were able to avoid their commutes. At the same time, many have struggled with work-life balance.
So, how can the prudent business leader best prepare for the post-pandemic economy?
Why virtual selling is here to stay
Among the most significant shifts in the professional landscape was the move towards virtual selling — that is, sales conducted over Zoom or another video conference software platform. With travel restricted and events and tradeshows canceled, sales teams across the world were forced to make the jump to virtual sales.
Marcus Sheridan, author of They Ask, You Answer andThe Visual Sale, sums it up this way: “A lot of companies recognized that virtual sales calls were much more effective than what they anticipated. They saw that their closing rates didn't necessarily go down.”
He’s right. According to research from HubSpot, 63% of sales leaders believe virtual sales meetings are equally effective or more effective than traditional, face-to-face meetings.
What's more, customers are ready to buy virtually. No longer are prospects put off by virtual sales calls. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. McKinsey reports that “only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales.”
For these reasons and more, organizations eyeing their upcoming post-pandemic budgets are likely to think twice about travel expenses.
Marcus believes business travel will never fully rebound to what it was pre-pandemic. “I think that travel budgets have always been a little bit bloated,” he says. “And with the success of virtual selling, you just can’t justify those types of expenses in the future.”
To Marcus, this new reality represents an exciting opportunity for innovative businesses. If you’re able to drive the same sales numbers with your sales rep sitting in her home office, why would you pay for flights and lodging to Seattle or Phoenix? You suddenly have a whole lot more breathing room in your budget.
So, where should savvy businesses invest the funds that might once have gone to flights and hotels?
If virtual selling is here to stay, businesses need to be sure they’re doing it right.
If all sales meetings are conducted over video, that means that all sales meetings can be recorded and used for feedback. “Every sales manager should be looking at a video sales call recording from the previous month for their one-on-ones with their sales team,” Marcus advises. He believes that the vast majority are not.
Too often, sales leaders assume that because a salesperson is adept in in-person meetings, they’ll naturally be good in Zoom meetings as well. According to Marcus, “you might have very strong presence and charisma in person, but there have been many cases that I've seen where that didn't translate to a video call until there was some training.”
It’s the job of the sales team leader to use video call recordings to help each sales rep get better.
Seeing opportunities, not limits
In addition to the feedback possibility, Marcus advises that virtual sales success comes from taking advantage of the opportunities the medium presents.
In face-to-face sales, you’re more likely to have a three-hour meeting around a conference table with all decision-makers and stakeholders in attendance. With virtual sales, that’s less likely.
However, virtual sales does allow more touchpoints and quicker outreach. While you might not get everyone on the call, you can get that first call on the calendar much more quickly.
“You always want to be the first salesperson in the door,” says Marcus. “Traveling for an in-person meeting might mean you’re the third or fourth salesperson in the door because you’ve waited to go through an actual, physical door. I think that’s the wrong approach.”
Instead, Marcus advises embracing the virtual sales model and getting on a call with decision-makers as soon as you can. In this way, virtual sales trump in-person sales because you can respond to a lead and set up a meeting that much quicker.
However, he advises that the more touchpoints a sales process involves, the more important documentation becomes. “More touchpoints allow for a richer relationship to develop more quickly, but it also gives you more opportunities to drop the ball. For this reason, the CRM becomes more important than ever.”
Virtual sales training in 2021 and beyond
Success with virtual sales comes down to one thing, in Marcus’ mind: “The key is to see opportunities, not limitations. Remember, nearly everything can be sold virtually. If you acknowledge that what you sell can be sold virtually, you can start learning how to do it: to provide your team with the training they need to succeed in a virtual-first world.”
As the world begins to grapple with its post-pandemic future, realize that in some ways life will never be the same. For those of us in sales, this means that in-person meetings are unlikely to return to the levels we saw them before the pandemic.
To truly prepare yourself and your team for the road ahead, make sure they’re ready for those on-camera calls. They’re not going anywhere!