Virtual selling is not new

Sales conversations have long been taking place without buyers and sellers in the same physical location. Even in the world of product-demo-driven sales, the rise of live meeting software like Zoom has led to more aspects of the sales conversation being able to occur virtually.

In the Third Edition of the Salesforce Report on the State of Sales, Salesforce took a look at the rising importance of virtual selling. In this report, Salesforce notes that nearly 44% of their selling time was in person with customers, and roughly 32% was meeting with customers virtually. The rest of the time was spent prospecting.

“The first telesales firm, Dial America, is believed to have started in the 1950's, with two calling stations. The inbound station allowed customers to contact the company. The outbound station was what we consider traditional telesales.”

The History of Telesales

Remote selling defined

Remote selling, otherwise called virtual selling, is a complex buying cycle where the majority of sales conversations occur with buyers and sellers in different physical locations.

It is worth briefly pulling apart this definition to highlight the key components.

  • There is no expectation as to the technologies to be used.
  • It is not process or methodology dependent.
  • Remote selling does not require no in-person interaction, it simply identifies the fact that the majority of interactions are remote.
  • Many selling conversations are a mix of in-person and remote attendees, this requires the use of virtual selling techniques.

Why remote selling is important

Before the pandemic came upon us in 2019, CNBC noted that 43% of Americans work remotely occasionally. The slow shift has been upon us for more than a decade.

Because the pandemic has accelerated this shift and forced thousands of workers to work from home, is it more important than ever for organizations to be able to train and coach the sellers remotely.

At the same time, Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist, The Bridge Group, notes:

“Among the many factors driving the increase in virtual selling, buyer preference stands out. Buyers are digital-first and don’t feel the need for face-to-face communication.”

The ongoing consumerization of B2B buyers is a factor in the growing importance of remote sales. This desire, fed or supported by faster 4G and 5G networks and more powerful mobile devices, makes this shift feasible, practical, and necessary.

Remote work is what our buyers want, but it can also provide a win for the business itself. Reduced travel costs, fewer hours spent on transit systems or in the car, reductions in the amount, and price, of office space; all are positive outcomes for the business.

The elements of remote selling

The elements of remote selling are no different than they are for selling in-person. The necessary steps for success in sales remain:

  • Understand the business problems you can solve.
  • Identify a customer with that problem.
  • Help the customer better understand their business challenges.
  • Assist each stakeholder in the business to understand how your solution meets their needs in solving the stated business problems.
  • Work through the procurement process.

While there are many other details and a great deal of subtlety to the above, these are the critical pieces of a standard sale.

The tools used to sell remotely are the primary difference to consider. The level of practice and the understanding of best practices is where the majority of sellers must work.

Remote selling meeting preparedness checklist

A successful sales meeting requires sellers to prepare ahead of the meeting. This preparation does not change when shifting to virtual, but new preparation requirements are also necessary, primarily to ensure the technology supports and enhances the meeting and its outcomes.

Before the meeting

  • Can your customer use the meeting technology you are planning to use?
  • Are your speakers and microphones working?
  • Where am I sitting, and is my environment acceptable?
  • Are the applications and content required for this meeting running and available?

During the meeting

  • Turn off alerts, set devices to Do Not Disturb (DnD).
  • Am I muted?
  • Is my video turned on?
  • Am I centered on the screen?
  • Ask for permission to record and, if permitted, record the meeting.
  • Be yourself. Remain authentic and professional.
  • Look into the camera.

After the meeting

  • Exit the meeting.
  • Save the meeting recording and call notes in your CRM, Sales Enablement system, or someplace where you can review it.

Remote selling best practices

Technology Preparedness

Regardless of how amazing you listen, how eloquently you speak, and how put-together you are, if your network lags, you are in trouble.

To ensure your devices and network are ready, consider taking these steps.

  • Check your wireless router to see what devices are connected. If you are like many people, you probably have at least ten devices connected to your weak wi-fi at any given moment.
    • Switch phones to cellular if possible.
    • Shut down all other connected devices which are not essential to your meeting.
  • Reboot all devices you need to use for the meeting (phones, tablets, and laptops).
    • On each, after reboot, exit out of any application running in the background that you do not need.

Body Language, Eye Contact, and other Visual Cues

  • Turn on your webcam.
  • If possible, drag the photos of the participants (which you can do in Zoom) to just below the webcam position on your computer. This technique allows you to appear to be looking directly at your audience.
  • Dress appropriately. You may have a pair of pajamas on the bottom half, but stay business-worthy on top.

How to manage a sales team remotely

When Tiger Woods was in his prime, he spent 30-60 minutes daily working on putting, playing 9-18 holes a day, a couple of hours driving, 3-4 hours on-course work for the short game, and more.

How much practice do you put into your selling? How much time do you spend making sure you are successful when communicating and collaborating with buyers remotely?

This is where virtual sales training and remote sales coaching come into play.

Remote sales coaching (otherwise referred to as online sales coaching or virtual sales coaching) is a process that provides individualized feedback and support that enables all sellers to achieve their selling goals.

Related to remote sales coaching, remote sales training (otherwise referred to as virtual sales training or online sales training) provides education to sellers on products, skills, methodologies to help sellers succeed under challenging sales situations. It typically occurs in a team-based manner, so that everyone is on the same page.

For a moment, let’s stick with our golf analogy to break these topics down a bit further.

When you are new to golfing, learning the rules, understanding what clubs to use when, how to keep score, and more broad topics, you can spend time in a classroom with a group of other new golfers. You all need the same information, which is nothing specific to you, so a single instructor can efficiently train you. You could also do this on a live meeting technology, such as Zoom, and this person would not be a remote trainer. This remote sales trainer would be providing remote sales training if these were sales tactics, processes, and related high-level topics.

Now, as you begin golfing, you find that you struggle with your three wood, or maybe you can never get into the hole with fewer than a dozen putts. This is when you need a coach, someone who can provide you personalized training and tips to make you, with your specific challenges, successful. If this coaching is done remotely, and for sales improvement, you would be working with a virtual sales coach.

The best golf coaches will record your swing motion and work with you on your mechanics. This video-based approach, referred to as video sales coaching when applied to sales, is precious. With the majority of sales coaching software on the market, sellers receive video coaching assignments where they record themselves practicing various aspects of their jobs (e.g. a sales pitch, handling objections, etc.).  Their managers, or virtual sales coaches, then review the video submissions and provide feedback.

Much like golf, sales require a great deal of investment in building your skills, and these are the sorts of approaches that can be the difference between winning and losing.