Coronavirus: How long will it last, and will we ever get back to face-to-face sales meetings? Questions that for sales leaders, and sales teams, are unavoidable at present.
No one truly knows the answer. In some ways, the answer is blowing in the wind. It depends on the development of a vaccine, and whether we can get back to a sufficiently new normal to achieve some economic stability and growth in the interim.
In the meantime, sales teams and leaders need to get awesome at virtual selling. Selling successfully in this new, more volatile economy, means getting as good at virtual sales as we were in person. This does mean taking new approaches. It also means getting used to new realities.
How virtual selling is different from in-person sales?
In this new reality, getting used to virtual selling doesn’t just mean using new technology, it means adapting to the mental effort it takes to build and maintain relationships using apps and digital solutions.
In-person, certainly for account managers and field sales agents, this has been a significant learning curve and period of adaptation. However, even for inside sales teams, this has been a period of change. Moving to working from home (WFH) is something millions of salespeople have suddenly got familiar with.
Knowing ‘we’re all in this together’ doesn’t always make this easier for individual team members and teams. In some way or another, whether for a short while, or for longer periods, everyone’s mental health has struggled with the impact of lockdown or quarantine. For salespeople, this means continuing to try to sell, under difficult and unusual circumstances, as the world is entering a recession, while getting used to and comfortable with new environments and technology.
Even though these environments are where people live, working from home is a new challenge. Some companies are keen to get people back in the office, whereas with others, many are continuing with a remote set-up.
Virtual selling is different, and therefore more challenging in a few ways:
- Different environment. Whether this means from an office to home, or in the field (client offices, coffee shops, co-working spaces, etc.) to home, the change is something everyone has got used to in recent months. One of the difficulties is no one quite knows how long this is continuing, or whether it’s safe at present to return to older working habits and environments.
- Being physically separate from colleagues. No one expected this, of course. Families are used to seeing each other after work, and on weekends and holidays. Not all of the time. This in itself creates new physiological challenges, with home and work environments mixed. When the usual separations don’t exit, and when people are separate from colleagues it creates a tiring mental dissonance.
- Video call fatigue. When lockdowns and quarantines came into effect, video calls became the main way people managed team members, and interacted with clients, and of course, conducted sales calls. In time, psychologists have found a number of factors are causing people mental stress and strain, such as: split second delays between speaking and responses, constantly seeing an image of yourself, an inability to read body language, a lack of real-time feedback and seeing giant faces on the screen (according to the Wall Street Journal).
Now we need to think about these challenges, in the context of sales, and consider how salespeople can overcome them to get really good at virtual selling.
How to get awesome at virtual selling?
#1: Mentally prepare yourself
Before every sales meeting, demo or call, salespeople usually have some preparation rituals. Now more than ever, these are important and useful. You aren’t simply walking into a coffee shop, or client’s office. And you aren’t even in your own office.
We don’t get those same body language and in-person cues and signals that we’re used to. Video calls are different. There is a slight disconnect, which is something everyone is adapting around. We will get comfortable with it, and our style of speech and ways of using body language will no doubt change to suit the tools we’ve got; but for now, this can be more challenging at times.
So take some time. Mentally prepare yourself before every call. Ask the person you are speaking with to clarify something you aren’t sure of. And don’t be too hard on yourself. None of this is easy. Give yourself time to adapt, and ask for help, such as extra training, as needed.
#2: Create a positive (and quiet) environment
Whenever possible, work in a room where you won’t be disturbed. A spare room if possible. But also consider alternative solutions, such as lofts, converting garages, even sheds. For sales calls and virtual demos, you need a space where you’re comfortable doing those and getting on with work to generate leads.
#3: Limit video calls to sales calls/demos
Try not to overload yourself with video calls.
Too many video calls can cause mental fatigue, and even increase anxiety and stress.
So if these calls are essential for demos and sales pitches, then you need to limit them for that purpose, except when absolutely essential when interacting with colleagues and managers. Sales managers shouldn’t need to check-in with you via video call every day. Once a week should be enough.
This way, keeping your energy for more valuable calls will ensure managers don’t need to micromanage sales teams.
#4: Have presentations ready
And finally, which is something we will cover in another article: have some awesome sales presentations ready.
Since visuals are now even more important when it comes to selling products and services, salespeople with powerful presentations are going to do better. Sell more. Sell quicker, and close more deals. Work with a marketing team, or external provider, to get presentations ready that will help you achieve those goals.
Virtual selling, especially when working from home, is different. It’s more challenging. It involves more mental energy than selling in-person, or even selling virtually when in the same office as your colleagues. We are going to publish more on this topic, as it’s going to be the defining feature of sales in 2020, and into 2021.