With face-to-face sales out of the question and business travel all but at a standstill, how were these millions of sellers and hundreds of thousands of businesses to adapt?
Unlike previous financial downturns, the pandemic hit different industries in vastly different ways, causing some businesses to ratchet down while others experienced rapid growth.
Added all together, the pandemic brought a raft of challenges and opportunities for sales teams of all shapes and sizes. As author Marcus Sheridan says, it’s like COVID hit fast forward and we jumped five years into the future. All of a sudden, meetings that were previously happening at trade shows, on golf courses, or in board rooms were all taking place on Zoom.
The pandemic’s long term effects on sales won’t be understood for some time, but it is safe to say that we will never fully go back to how it was pre-COVID.
There are too many benefits to virtual sales to abandon the practice once the virus is under control.
Therefore, the companies that are rapidly adapting to this new reality are the ones poised for success in 2021 and beyond.
And why not? 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.
Why video is here to stay
The world now lives online — even more so than ever before. Kids go to school on video, doctors see patients on video, and people buy cars and houses online, sight unseen.
Let that sink in. These are customers. B2B customers. Even with all of the supposed impediments to a smooth B2B sales process (large deal size, multiple decision makers, etc.), these customers still preferred to interact with salespeople over video calls.
And, as we all know, selling to customers the way they want to be sold to is essential to building good relationships and closing more deals.
When people hear “virtual sales,” they immediately think of Zoom calls. But your video-based relationship with a prospect can begin during email outreach. Including a “1:1” (or “1:many”) video in an email immediately increases engagement and begins to build a relationship with the prospect.
Prospects are ready to buy virtually. No longer are customers put off by virtual sales calls. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to McKinsey, “Only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales.”
To be ready to sell how people want to buy, you need to fully embrace virtual sales, but you need to do it in the right way if you want true adoption (and effective implementation) from your team.
...but you need the right training
In the pandemic-fueled bonanza of 2020, businesses flocked to virtual sales training programs to shore up their teams to succeed. Unfortunately, many training options did little to effect actual change within an organization because they focused primarily on platform instruction.
According to Marcus, “Oftentimes we feel that if somebody's good at selling in the traditional way, they'll naturally be good on video. So what we see is training on how to use the platform, but that is only a fraction of what they need.”
But that's not the case.
Why platform familiarity is not enough
Zoom and other platforms are remarkably intuitive and user-friendly. Even for the non tech-savvy, you can get all you need to know about Zoom from a few YouTube tutorials and a few practice sessions with colleagues. Platform competence is critical, but it is not a guarantee of virtual sales success — and it should not be the focus of virtual sales training.
At most, 10% of training should focus on video platforms tips and tricks.
Rather, virtual sales training needs to focus on the nuanced process of translating in-person sales practices to a virtual platform. The assumption stated above is so hazardous because of the delicate, EQ-heavy nature of sales.
You can’t just shoehorn a sales process into a Zoom call and expect everything to turn out fine.
A modern sales rep is dealing with exceedingly well-informed buyers who are well aware of their other options. These customers are expecting an exceptional, personalized buying experience. The successful sales rep has both an easy command of Zoom and a knowledge of how the video call platform influences the sales process.
There are ways that Zoom makes the sales process easier. There are also ways it makes the sales process more difficult. The best sales reps today are playing to strengths, avoiding challenges, and consciously adapting their sales acumen to the digital medium.
True virtual sales training helps you and your sales team do just that.
Those who waited for normal to return suffered because of it. Indeed, 64% of teams who transitioned to virtual sales (or a hybrid model) met or exceeded their revenue targets for 2020, compared to 50% of those who did not change their sales practices.
If you’re not adapting, you’re falling behind.
According to Marcus, it’s all about focusing on the opportunities afforded by the new medium:
“You can deliver incredible value for your customers in a virtual sales process, the biggest of which are frequency and speed,” he says. “You can get back to a prospect much more quickly and you can have more touchpoints.”
An investment in the right training means you can set your team up for success with virtual sales.
The numbers bear it out. If you’re not yet trained up to succeed in virtual sales, you risk falling behind in a business world that now sees Zoom as home base.