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Will Milano
  December 8, 2020

Adapting to the Realities of Remote Sales

As customers get more comfortable with buying virtually, their expectations are going to continue to go up. And that means, when it comes to remote sales, your team needs to keep raising its game.

Remote sales is the reality for most companies now, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. In fact, in some areas, virtual is here to stay. According to a recent Bain & Company survey, 80% of buyers and sellers believe there will be a sustained increase in virtual interactions going forward.

But unlike most sales process changes, this transition to virtual selling didn’t happen in a gradual way, with deliberate planning and carefully rolled-out coaching, training and support. It wasn’t really a transition at all; it was more like the flip of a light switch. Yesterday, you were visiting clients in person; today, you’re mastering the finer points of Zoom.

Some sales teams adapted fairly quickly to this new world of virtual selling. Others have struggled. One thing everyone can agree on, though, is that while there are similarities, virtual selling and face-to-face selling have some distinct and often consequential differences. With several months of virtual sales under their belts now, even the most experienced of salespeople may have been caught off guard at some point by one or more of the common traps of virtual selling.

From mindset and preparation to strategies and techniques, there are some specific things your team needs to focus on to be able to adapt and execute effectively in this virtual selling environment. Let’s take a look at just a few of the areas that require particular attention from a coaching and development standpoint.

How do you succeed in remote sales?

Watch your mindset: First things first: The fundamentals still apply. In fact, in virtual selling, they may even be more important. One of the key differentiators of successful people, not just successful sellers, is mindset, which reveals itself in the kind of conversations they have with themselves. Performance tends to be consistent with the level of our inner beliefs, so if your salespeople don’t believe, deep down, that they have what it takes to be successful in a virtual setting, then they’re going to be fighting some powerful headwinds. These virtual selling mindset traps can set in before, during and after a call.

  • The takeaway: To help your salespeople adapt to remote sales, coaching and other development needs to focus on their mindset, not just their skillset. If your virtual sales training doesn’t address the person’s mindset and beliefs, it’s missing one of the most important factors contributing to remote sales success.

Make it a meaningful conversation: Let’s face it — no matter how good the technology is, a virtual call just isn’t the same as being there in person. If relationships and rapport-building are important to your team (and they should be), they may find it challenging to build that kind of trust in a virtual world, especially since you can’t always read body language, calls are often more scheduled out and time is limited. The trap here is that some salespeople will shift in the wrong direction. They might go into presenter/lecturer mode or get off track with questions that don’t really add value. In the end, they miss those critical opportunities to have a meaningful two-way conversation and uncover needs.

  • The takeaway: Integrity, values and ethics are what build rapport, especially in a virtual world where it can be difficult to do so but is often even more important. A critical piece is knowing something about the client or prospect’s Behavior Style, which reveals what really matters most to them. The more the more the salesperson knows about them, the more they can then rely on their sales process to quickly gain rapport, ask questions, present their value proposition, work through concerns and gain commitments to appropriate next steps. Virtual sales training should address both the mechanics and the methodology of an effective virtual sales meeting, all within the context of creating value for the customer.

Prepare like crazy: This brings us to another issue that’s unique to remote sales: keeping your customers engaged in a virtual setting. We all know how tempting it is to succumb to distractions on a virtual call. As a recent HBR article put it, “Attendees often interpret virtual meetings as a license to multi-task.” The good news is, salespeople can take some specific steps to help their customers resist the pull of the iPhone or the inbox. But this work happens before the call, during the preparation stage, which needs even more attention in virtual selling situations. The last thing a salesperson should be doing on a virtual call is winging it.

  • The takeaway: There are some simple and repeatable action items that salespeople can do before a virtual meeting to make sure it’s effective. Have a plan of action. Have a back-up plan. Know what questions you want to ask and what you want to accomplish. Anticipate what objections you might encounter. Success comes from process. One way to help your sales team be more successful in these calls is to provide a clear checklist of things that, if completed, will build confidence in both the seller and the buyer.

How does your remote sales team stack up?

Even if your salespeople have been doing pretty well up until now, the stakes keep getting higher. As customers get more comfortable with virtual selling, their expectations are going to continue to go up. And that means your team needs to keep raising its game.

How does your team stack up? Is it Virtually Struggling, Virtually There or Virtual Champions? Our virtual selling assessment examines nine specific areas of remote sales that will make the biggest difference in their performance and the results they achieve. Take the self-assessment here to gauge your team’s effectiveness and learn more about the areas outlined above and other key factors for virtual sales success.