How sales happen has changed significantly in just the last several months, and these changes are here to stay.
Selling virtually has proven to be a challenge for even the most seasoned sellers. It requires sellers to be more strategic, more deliberate, and more proactive than ever before. It requires a refocused approach because the rules have changed.
Our client work around the world, and our research in the area of virtual selling, has revealed a set of four keys that are most critical for virtual sales success:
We call these the 4 Virtual Selling ImperativesSM.
They're the aspects of selling virtually that are most different from a blended or exclusively face-to-face approach. And they revolve around the mantra we use to capture the essence of what sellers need to do to succeed right now: Take the Lead.
4 Virtual Selling ImperativesSM
Let’s dive a bit deeper into each one and identify the net effect of focusing on these areas.
The first imperative, Connect, covers what might be some of the most straightforward, foundational components of selling. Sellers must connect to get buyers to focus on them, take them seriously, and engage them in a series of conversations that will ultimately lead to a sale.
The three things to focus on connecting virtually are:
- Project Professionalism: Like it or not, buyers judge sellers. They ask themselves, “Is this someone I want to pay attention to, take advice from, and perhaps buy from?” Sellers must project professionalism in meetings, and in general, through their digital presence and brand, so that buyers answer these questions positively.
- Orchestrate Conversations: Over coffee, at a networking event, or in a face-to-face meeting, conversations can be more organic. Pauses are fine. Time passes a little more slowly. In a virtual meeting, everything needs to be faster, tighter, and more organized for the meeting to go well and progress to a next step. Sellers must take the lead and orchestrate these conversations in a more deliberate way.
- Develop Rapport: It’s more difficult to make the personal connection in a virtual versus an in-person meeting. Eighty-eight percent of sellers report that developing relationships with buyers virtually is challenging right now. But it’s just as important, perhaps more important, than ever.
View our slide deck, How to Tackle the Top 8 Virtual Selling Challenges, for tips on how to overcome this and other seller challenges.
The net effect: When sellers connect well virtually, they open the doors needed to drive sales and relationship success. When they don’t, doors remain shut.
The virtual world is full of distractions—many more than during a face-to-face meeting. Sellers have a much higher bar for capturing and keeping buyers' attention (what we call the Engagement Threshold).
The three key things to do are:
- Capture Attention: It’s critical for sellers to open strong in meetings, and to be incisive in communications, to make sure they get buyers to focus on them and only them.
- Maximize Engagement: Once you’ve captured attention, it’s easy to lose it in a virtual world. Sellers need to take the lead in consistently engaging buyers using various strategies to keep them focused on the initiative at hand.
- Inspire Visually: Virtual selling is inherently a more visual exercise than in-person selling. Yes, presentations and visuals have always been a part of selling, but their importance is amplified in a virtual setting, and often, the way graphics and visuals should be used in a virtual meeting are different.
The net effect: When sellers engage well virtually, they draw buyers into the promise and reward of the selling experience. They open buyers’ eyes to what’s possible because the buyer's eyes (and ears) are focused on their shared agenda.
Yes, it’s more difficult to collaborate virtually. But as RAIN Group Center for Sales Research data has shown, collaboration is critical to sales success, offline and online.
The three key areas to focus on are:
- Facilitate Interaction: It’s much easier to interact and collaborate while face-to-face, but virtual collaboration is achievable. And, if done well, it can be even more powerful than in-person collaboration. It’s up to the seller, however, to take the lead and make sure it happens effectively.
- Master Technology: Sellers need to be comfortable using a variety of technologies to ensure interactions, and the whole sales process, are successful. This doesn't mean every seller must be a technical expert. Instead, they must be able to plan well and use technology well enough to get the best outcomes for buyers and from the sales process overall.
Collaboration technologies include virtual whiteboards, annotation, screensharing, chat, etc. When you collaborate with buyers, you also keep them more engaged (see imperative #2).
- Enable Breakthroughs: Breakthroughs often happen with time. They can happen during moments of silence when people are live and interacting in the same room. Breakthroughs can happen virtually, too, but the seller must create the conditions so they do.
The net effect: When sellers collaborate well virtually, they create value for buyers that buyers perhaps didn’t even know was possible. They capture buyers' imaginations and create shared accountabilities for driving the initiative forward.
At its core, selling is a process to influence or drive change. And sellers, themselves, are change leaders. Driving change virtually is more challenging than it is in person, but, like virtual collaboration, when done well, sellers can be highly influential in driving action and results for their buyers.
The three key things to do are:
- Persuade Virtually: Sellers must be able to make a series of cases to drive change. That they need to make cases is the same in face-to-face selling. What’s different is how they make cases virtually.
- Strengthen Relationships: When buyers and sellers are together in person, the bonds of relationships deepen. The same serendipity can happen virtually, but it’s up to the seller to take the lead and make it happen.
- Amplify Reputation: How you show up online is critical for building and maintaining a reputation that positions you as a true person of interest to senior-level buyers. This takes deliberate, focused effort over time.
The net effect: When sellers influence buyers virtually, they become change leaders with the reputation, access, and skills they need to operate at the highest levels of success.
Closing the Gap Between Virtual and In-Person Experiences
Selling in a virtual environment can have its challenges, but the 4 Virtual Selling Imperatives help sellers close the gap between virtual and in-person experiences. Focusing on these four areas will result in a positive net effect that'll lead to stronger relationships and, ultimately, more sales.
It’s up to sellers to take the lead and make it happen.