As a classic advertising slogan once reminded customers, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s true now more than ever.
When we could interact face-to-face at events or in meetings, it was easier to attract the attention of a potential buyer and begin making connections naturally. But as a virtual seller, you don’t have the luxury of allowing relationships to unfold organically.
2020 has been marked by a lot of changes, distractions, and new challenges. If it were up to us, we’d title it, “The Year Sellers Plugged In.” Not only literally, with the wholesale shift from live to virtual selling, but also figuratively in the sense sellers had to become even more keenly aware of buyer wants and needs to be successful in a virtual environment.
Each year, we release a “best of” collection of content that has resonated deeply with sellers over the previous 12 months.
2020’s list reflects sellers’ hunger for knowledge and skill development in all areas of virtual selling, from leading effective virtual meetings and asking strong questions to tackling challenges and developing strong virtual relationships.
We hope you'll find this list to be a valuable resource as you prepare for 2021.
Stop. Collaborate. Listen.
Sellers of a certain age know that rapper Vanilla Ice was actually onto something when he uttered those words at the start of his song, "Ice Ice Baby." Years later, the concept of collaboration and a seller's ability to work with buyers, instead of speaking at or simply selling to them, to close a deal has become more important than ever.
As we near the end of the year, we’re left wondering what the world will look like in the next stages of pandemic recovery.
One thing that’s for certain? Virtual selling is here to stay.
In fact, 89% of B2B decision makers say they’re likely to sustain the new sales model beyond the next year, according to McKinsey & Company.
If you want to succeed in 2021, you must master this new medium of sales.
But virtual selling isn't just selling via phone. Seventy-seven percent of decision makers prefer to use video over phone when meeting with sellers.
In this infographic, we share the 4 Virtual Selling ImperativesSM—the critical areas where sellers must Take the Lead if they want to develop stronger relationships, create comprehensive solutions, increase buyer satisfaction, and secure more business virtually.
The in-person buying and selling experience usually goes something like this:
You show up to your buyer's office, where they greet you and offer you coffee. You accept, and walk together to the kitchen, discussing your trip in and how the day's going. You chat around the coffee pot for a few minutes about the local restaurant you visited last night. You walk to the conference room together, chatting about the scores from the big game last week.
During your meeting, you're able to gauge the buyer's interest and match their energy and intent. After your meeting, you head to lunch, where you chat about your plans for the upcoming weekend. By the time you're on your way home, you know your prospect's favorite sports teams, number of kids, food preferences, and you've built a solid foundation for your relationship and future conversations.
Experts—including us!—keep touting the need to transition to virtual selling.
But virtual selling isn’t a switch you flip on and off, nor is it your in-person sales process delivered via Zoom. It’s an integrated approach to meeting buyers where they are and when they are in world that looks vastly different than it did just a year ago.
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:
Imagine this: You're in a live sales meeting in a conference room with three decision-makers, and one of them, while you're talking, pulls out their phone and starts responding to text and email messages. They continue to check the news and start fiddling on social media. You even hear a light snicker.
Prospecting is a challenge for even the most experienced sellers, and with the shift to working, buying, and selling virtually, organic opportunities to make new connections and create conversations have disappeared.
There aren't any in-person networking events, tradeshows, travel, or opportunities to grab dinner, a cup of coffee, or attend a sporting event together.
Salespeople everywhere are struggling as they navigate changed budgets, new targets, and selling virtually. Some are even trying to force their in-person processes to work in a virtual world (spoiler: they don't).
When the team at the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research surveyed 528 sellers and buyers on their virtual buying and selling experiences earlier this year, we uncovered significant gaps between what influences buyer purchase decisions and seller effectiveness.
The sad truth? Only two or three in 10 sellers do well in the four areas that most influence purchase decisions.
The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research has kept its finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of sales as we transition to virtual selling.
Since beginning our research in Q2 2020, we’ve surveyed 528 sellers and buyers on their virtual buying and selling experiences.
Our analysis has uncovered the top challenges of virtual selling, many of which buyers themselves have said are a deciding factor for purchase decisions.
In the presentation below, we share the top challenges sellers face as they transition to virtual selling and how to tackle them.
In a meeting with a top sales officer at a large company just before Coronavirus, we were discussing virtual training. He said, “I’m just not into virtual training.”
I asked, “Why’s that?”
He responded, “It can be really challenging, from a seller’s perspective, to make it relevant in their world. Having them sit in front of a computer screen with content fed at them isn't a dynamic learning experience. I don’t see our sellers doing that or getting anything out of it.”
2020 has flipped sales on its head and driven unprecedented levels of virtual interaction. Sellers are faced with more challenges than ever.
You can’t sell the same way you did before. You need to adapt, pivot, and change almost everything you did previously. If you want to thrive in sales today, it'll require you to transition to the new world of selling virtually, and take the "new norm" by storm.
Whether you’ve been in sales for years or you’re just starting out, learning how to sell remotely can feel intimidating.
Developing relationships, collaborating online, leading virtual sales conversations, gaining and keeping attention, leveraging technology, making the ROI case, delivering value—these are challenging regardless of the selling and economic environment.
But are they more difficult in a down economy while many sellers are transitioning to virtual sales? Are some sales skills more difficult to apply than others in a virtual environment? Where are sellers succeeding and failing according to buyers today?
88% of sellers find developing relationships virtually challenging. It’s one of the biggest challenges sellers face today.
Many sellers lament that it’s just not the same as meeting someone face-to-face. They struggle to connect and build trust.
Fortunately, it’s possible to develop strong relationships even when you can't connect with buyers in person.
One of the easiest ways?
Engagement Threshold (noun): The point at which attention is captured and maintained, and below which is lost.
We teach the concept of the engagement threshold to sellers that need to hold buyers’ attention in virtual sales meetings.
When we teach it to sellers, we need to gain and keep their attention.
It’s never been easy, but in a virtual environment, it’s significantly more difficult.
What are the top challenges sellers face as they transition to virtual selling?
How effective are sellers in the virtual space?
What factors have the greatest influence on buyers' purchase decisions when buying virtually?
Since the global pandemic of 2020 began, virtual training has become imperative. But designing and delivering effective virtual training is the exception more than the norm.
We’re asked all the time about which platform for use for virtual instructor-led training (VILT). With all of the choices out there—Zoom, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, GoToWebinar, On24, etc.—which one is best?
Like any good consultant, my answer to this question is, “It depends.”
There isn't a straightforward answer because different platforms excel at different things. At RAIN Group, we’re platform agnostic and don't promote one platform over another. We partner with our clients to determine which platform is right for them and what they're looking to do.
There are, however, three key considerations for platform selection.
This article originally appeared in Entrepreneur and has been updated given the current sales environment.
The first half of 2020 proved to significantly alter the way every single industry operates. Businesses have been forced to become more nimble and sellers have had to learn to sell virtually and remain productive while working from home.
While this new environment has presented new challenges, many companies and individuals are adapting and succeeding even in tough times.
There are many mistakes to avoid when it comes to virtual selling.
Although we all make—and learn from—our mistakes, they're often magnified in a virtual environment, which makes awareness and preparation paramount to success.
Avoid these 17 common mistakes to impress your buyers and stand out from the competition:
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to selling virtually. Projecting a professional image in your virtual meetings is an important (and often overlooked) factor to consider.
Here we provide guidelines and tips specifically focused on projecting a professional image in your virtual sales meetings grouped in the following five categories:
With a little forethought and preparation, you can make a great first impression with your buyers.
Ask the question, “What needs to happen at your company for successful virtual training now that sellers are working remote?” and you’re likely to get answers like this:
It's a nice list, but not unique to virtual instructor-led training (vILT).
Selling virtually is a challenge for even the best sellers.
The Virtual Selling Checklist below will help you make the transition to virtual selling as you wrap your head around three key components to success:
Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, virtual training has become an imperative. But designing and delivering effective virtual training is more the exception than the norm.
Virtual training failure is all too common.
That’s because virtual training that works is still in its infancy, and most organizations struggle to convert what works for in-person training to a virtual environment.
Selling virtually is a challenge for even the best sellers.
You have to change the way you sell and use different technologies to maximize your success. While many of the principles of consultative selling remain the same (i.e., you have to build rapport, uncover needs, inspire with new ideas, build an impact case, etc.), how you go about doing these in a virtual environment is drastically different.
COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated changes in how business is done around the world. With employees working from home, travel bans, and new developments daily, virtual training has become an imperative.
But many organizations have never done virtual training, and many L&D and sales enablement professionals are looking for new ideas and approaches. It’s easy for virtual training to fail, so how do you make it truly successful with so much riding on it?