Virtual selling – the new kid on the block? A few years ago, the term “virtual” was still foreign territory to many businesses. It was mainly associated with virtual reality! Of course, there have been virtual processes in business activities, such as conference calls and video chats. But it’s only now – after a serious period of uncertainty in the marketplace – that most firms have been forced to move many, if not most, of their activities and processes online. Including selling.
Virtual selling refers to the system whereby sales processes and sales conversations take place entirely online rather than in person.
Most sales people have always focused their efforts on selling in person. But virtual selling has become a new normal. Sales reps have no choice now but to incorporate virtual selling into their sales process if their company is to stay profitable.
What’s the Benefit of Virtual Selling?
Global lockdowns and a work-from-home ethos have made businesses see the possibilities and benefits of virtual selling.
However, if you’re not yet convinced, let’s look at some benefits.
It’s always been hard to align prospects’ schedules with that of a sales rep. In-person meetings require a lot of planning and can be exhausting to the customer, who is usually also busy.
On the other hand, virtual selling is time-effective, allowing for more flexibility, and making it convenient for both parties to work with their changing availability and deadlines. This can also lead to a more agile process.
The traditional selling process takes a lot of resources such as time, labor, and expenses. Virtual selling increases a business’s efficiency by significantly reducing the resources used along the way to closing a sale.
In addition, it uses tools that help sales people work more efficiently. Online meetings have reduced the bureaucracy associated with in-person meetings and quickened the decision-making process of key business leaders.
The virtual sales process makes for
- easier “meet-ups” with prospects,
- improved customer experience, and
- increased productivity.
The first two of these are reassuring to the customer. The last improves the effectiveness of the selling process, and therefore a better business performance.
This is the key to the sales experience.
Today’s customers are influenced by the personalized experience of a brand’s marketing. That’s why it’s important for brands to leverage technology and offer innovative experiences for their prospective customers.
Virtual selling allows businesses to take a more creative approach to communicating information than they would have shared in person. This might include
- posting to social media with videos and gifs,
- perhaps communicating in a Twitter channel, or
- having a professionally written and designed conversational chatbot that can close a deal.
Access to a Global Market
Globalization has connected the world to its possible clients more closely than ever. Businesses are also more involved with important world matters. Their sales professionals can therefore take this opportunity to enter new markets without geographical barriers. They’re able to engage their audience globally through virtual engagement and even offer localized variations on their products.
The Virtual Selling Process
The first step to incorporating virtual selling is to bring in virtual selling systems to your sales process.
This will require a full re-imagining of the selling process, involving
- the way you communicate with prospects
- how you follow up as they move down the funnel
- how you sell effectively without ever meeting the buyer in person
Making a success of this re-imagining requires planning. Your virtual sales playbook should include more than call scripts – it must include finding ways to use and show video and digital elements throughout different sales activities.
Your Virtual Selling Process Might Look Like this:
The virtual world is different from the normal business world. To succeed, it requires proper planning to revamp your sales process to adopt the virtual selling scene.
The first step is to take time to sharpen your sales toolbox. Increasingly, buyers have shifted to online shopping and so there is serious competition for a buyer’s attention – which is already short lived!
Planning to keep the buyer’s attention means thinking ahead of everything that may cause confusion and deciding how you can address this in your sales pitch. The reason for this is that virtual buying may still be fairly new to some of your current customers or clients, so explain anything that might disrupt the relationship as soon as you can.
Prospecting is one of the most powerful initial stages of selling. From your database of prospects, you can use sales prospecting methods such as emails, phone/video calls, social sales, referrals, etc. to nurture and turn your prospects into customers.
This is the step where you adjust your messaging to fit the needs of your prospects with a good email strategy. Remember, every business is competing for your prospect’s attention in their inbox. To stand out, you need a stellar email strategy in order to follow up consistently and ultimately close the deal.
To encourage this outcome, get creative with your email campaigns by including additional elements such as videos, polls, Gifs and animations.
3 Virtual demos
Delivering a presentation of your products or services will change too. Because it’s no longer a given that sales reps can deliver it in face-to-face meetings, they will need to be creative in order to deliver the same experience virtually.
With virtual demos and no traveling, though, sales reps are able to reach more prospects in the shortest time. This makes it an ideal way to close deals in the virtual selling process. There are many channels for conducting a virtual demo. We recommend creating innovative demo videos and live chats to stimulate your customers and prospects to imagine and visualize your product or service quickly.
A good example of this is how Apple uses a streaming channel at events to introduce new products to the customers and prospects. It creates a more human connection with a wide range of their customers globally.
4 Sales follow-ups
In the same way you have regular meeting follow-ups, it’s important to follow up with your prospects after a virtual demo presentation with something well targeted: Sales conversations always aim at propelling a subject towards make a decision. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re following up with the right person. CFO? Business manager? CEO?
In the virtual selling world, to follow up well, use tools like those flexibly arranged conference calls and video meetings we mentioned to allow you to “meet” with the actual decision-makers. These are the people who have the clout to decide to buy your products or services.
5 Setting up an e-commerce platform
Most businesses have an online presence. However, it’s important to have an e-commerce platform integrated into your website.
Make sure your e-platform or online shop gives your customers an easy and satisfying customer experience (CX). It must be carefully optimized for online purchase to prompt interested prospects to buy.
This is because your website has now become essentially your “virtual storefront.” The more your prospects are able to easily interact with it and purchase, the more virtual store traffic you will get.
Check out, too, that your e-commerce platform includes
- good SEO
- digital marketing and security (authentication) features
- some way of marking your potential buyer’s journey (usually by placing a small piece of code known as a “tracking pixel” in their browser).
Preparing the Team for Virtual Selling
Now that you’ve mastered your selling process, it’s time to prepare your team with proper training and a plan to close a virtual sale. Not only the sales leader but also each team member needs to have the virtual selling process written down and should refer to it frequently.
Ideally the first step to prepare the team would be to make sure all the sales leaders are comfortable with, and see the value in, virtual selling. Once they do, they should take the leading role in incorporating virtual practices in all their communications with the remote team. They might, for instance, use short Loom recordings to explain points.
Set up Proper Infrastructure
The first step to virtual selling is to make sure your team has proper infrastructure to support their work environment and efficient work practices. Does everyone have the necessary equipment to work comfortably from home? If not, you can provide them with the basic equipment they need.
Set Realistic Goals
For your sales team, virtual selling requires time to transition. So, setting realistic and achievable goals helps ease the sales team into the new virtual environment. As a sales leader, you need to follow up on a regular basis to check your team’s handling of virtual practices.
Re-align Your Team
Whether you’re hiring a new team or working with the existing sales team, it’s important to make sure each sales rep is in the right role now for these changes. Change may have sparked re-evaluation of your company resources and priorities.
With the shift to the virtual world, change management comes into play. Team members are bound to experience differences and difficulties in the way they operate. Allowing them to explore what works best for them will bring added efficiency to the work they do. In addition, make sure each team member is aligned with the company’s culture regarding how you interact with virtual customers.
If you have solely virtual teams, carefully plan and communicate what’s expected of them. Together with a sales leader, a company should ensure these things:
- Establish clear communication protocols from the top to the remotely based sales team members. Team leaders should be responsible for communicating in a timely fashion, whether it’s about virtual events, training sessions, or general company announcements.
- Set up an information and knowledge sharing culture where teams can bounce ideas off each other. Coworkers, working remotely, can easily lose a sense of community and sharing. Sales leaders should find opportunities to create virtual experiences that will improve team communication and sharing.
Create and deliver short training modules that can be completed with real-life application assignments. Training should focus on
- educating your team on complex topics and how to incorporate them into their existing skills, and
- learning new skills for virtual selling and virtual selling models.
It’s possible, of course, that your team is accustomed to virtual practices from their non-work life, but that none of this has been officially incorporated as a means to close sales. So guide your team with a well-written virtual selling playbook that has all the best practices and methods for virtual selling success. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to processes they should follow when selling in this way.
Virtual Selling Tools and Techniques
Once you’ve established a process and trained your team about the transition into virtual selling, you need to have proper tools and techniques that will make the shift a success!
For the most part when it comes to virtual experience, video is the virtual seller’s top technique that will bring you closer to the personal connection experience clients and customers are used to. With video selling, the most important tools you will need are sales presentation tools and collaboration tools:
Sales presentation tools – since you’re not meeting in person with buyers anymore, you need tools that will help present your ideas in a simple but effective way. And you need to be confident in using them. Tools you may find helpful here include applications like
- Google Slides
Sales collaboration tools – to keep in touch with your sales team who may be settled remotely, you need to promote communication and collaboration with tools like
- Microsoft Teams
- Google workspace
Virtual selling is no longer a trend that will pass. Most companies recognize the need to adjust to it, but many have not yet formulated a clear, holistic, and proactive strategy for addressing it. It’s here to stay so we encourage you to embrace it.
And just as every opportunity has its challenges, so does virtual selling. But it’s far better to position yourself for a sustainable future in the virtual world by preparing well than by papering over the cracks on an ad-hoc basis.
Follow our guide above and start now to establish your virtual marketing position.
At Waterways, we’ve done it successfully and we want to help you do it, too. We can discuss with you all aspects of virtual selling and how to incorporate it into your business. Contact us today for a consultation with one of our experts.