The art of selling has come a long way.
If you look back in time and picture a salesperson, you likely imagine a door-to-door salesman. A well-dressed man would knock on your front door and convince you that you needed the latest vacuum model, set of encyclopedias, or hot new vacation package.
As years passed, we saw sales move to onsite client meetings, wining-and-dining clients, presentations in board rooms, and long conference calls. Sellers would set up meetings over the phone, fly to visit their client, and pitch their product or service in hopes of flying home to a bonus waiting for them on the other side.
With the rise of technology, sales moved further away from door-to-door selling and territory sales to more of an outbound sales approach. First, reps would spend hours cold-calling, adding in the concept of the cold email, hoping that someone would say yes to learning more.
Then, we added inbound sales into the mix. Rather than sales reps calling everyone, prospects would come to the solution. Prospects would identify a need, quickly search for a solution, and then call, email, or submit a form on a website to learn more.
Today, sales remains a combination of inbound and outbound efforts. As a result, marketing and sales rely on a handful of sources to drive revenue, including website traffic, social media, nurture campaigns, outreach campaigns, in-person events, and conferences.
In recent years, in-person events and conferences have come to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the loss of events has negatively impacted lead generation for many revenue teams. As we continue to navigate the new way of working, many businesses remain remote, some will even remain remote forever, and live events are moving to virtual conferences. With in-person meetings becoming a thing of the past for many industries, sales teams need to pivot their strategies to ensure they’re generating leads, nurturing opportunities, and successfully closing more deals.
So, how does remote work impact the sales process? How exactly do strategies need to pivot?
The answer: Sales teams need to lean into virtual selling. The teams that have built out strong virtual selling strategies are thriving in today’s remote world.
In this article, we’ll walk through virtual selling basics, how to create a successful strategy, and how to level up your virtual buying experience.
What is virtual selling?
Virtual selling is conducting sales—from prospecting to closing the deal—entirely online. In order to effectively conduct virtual sales, you need to use a combination of phone, email, and video communications.
The secret to a successful sale is not only the product you’re offering but the experience you build for a prospect. Prospects are more likely to buy something from someone they trust, so as a sales rep, you need to communicate effectively and build a strong rapport with your prospective client.
While this doesn’t sound like a new concept, relying solely on virtual selling is a concept that’s on the rise due to our new normal.
How COVID-19 fast-tracked virtual selling
Flashback to early March 2020—everyone was told there was a new virus making its way around the world, and for our safety, we should remain home for two weeks. This impacted work, school, and so much more. As it turned out, two weeks turned into one month, which turned into months. Now, nearly two years later, the world is attempting to conduct business as usual, in our new remote life.
Some industries and roles quickly adapted to working in a remote environment, but many teams, like sales teams, had a learning curve. With the loss of in-person meetings, trade shows, conferences, and other networking events, sales teams were at a disadvantage. They lost a major stream of lead generation because they could no longer make connections in person, and they lost the ability to have in-person meetings with potential clients.
Now, sales organizations need to go the extra mile to connect with and build relationships with prospects. But, it’s not as daunting as it may sound. A natural event may have forced us to invest in virtual selling, but this is a strategy you’ll be implementing for many years to come.
How sales leaders can implement a successful virtual selling strategy
This shift in sales came upon us suddenly, but virtual selling is here to stay. Your sales team can't adjust to this new normal on their own. They need a strong sales manager to help them adapt to this new way of selling. In addition, conducting all of their sales activities virtually rather than face-to-face will be a challenge. Your sales organization will need additional help prospecting, building relationships with prospects, and closing deals. As a sales leader, it’s your job to help implement these new virtual selling skills for success.
By nature, sellers are energetic, outgoing, and love to build connections with clients—all of which they can still do; they just need to take a slightly different approach. To build a successful virtual sales process, you’ll need to find new ways to prospect, set new KPIs, build virtual selling skills, and tailor your outreach campaigns.
Invest in sales enablement
As with any new initiative or strategy, you can’t just begin. You need to provide your team with the appropriate enablement to succeed. To make virtual selling work for you and your team, focus on these key areas.
- New approaches to prospecting
- Best practices for email outreach
- Building and leveraging mail templates
- Building impactful and repeatable outreach
- How to build relationships virtually
- Market trends
By offering your team a wide variety of training, you can set your team up for success, from prospecting to closing the deal.
Find new ways to prospect
Trade shows, networking events, and industry conferences were previously major lead generation sources for revenue teams. Your team needs to find new ways to prospect and keep the outbound pipeline strong to fill the gap. Here are four ways you can keep leads flowing into your sales funnel.
Attend virtual events: Virtual events are a new lead source for sellers. Not only will your team stay up to date on market trends, learn hot topics, and connect with industry leaders, but many of these events function in similar ways to in-person events. You can sponsor, have virtual booths, or simply attend. Your entire team can give product overviews, offer digital copies of collateral, and have 1:1 meetings with prospects to answer their specific questions.
Join online industry groups: Have you seen those Facebook commercials, the ones that emphasize that there is a group for everyone, even people with very niche interests? Well, there really is a group for every industry out there. Whether it’s on Facebook, LinkedIn, or even a Slack community, there are a handful of opportunities for you to join in on industry conversations.
As a sales rep, you have a unique advantage in which you have a deep understanding of your target buyer as well as the value your product or solution has to offer. When you join industry groups, you should keep an eye out for conversations that align with your service and use that as an opportunity to connect with potential prospects.
Monitor social media: Everyone is online these days, in both personal and professional capacities. Twitter and LinkedIn are both great mediums to join in on conversations with prospects. If you can jump into a conversation, even as a thought leader, offer valuable insight, and build a rapport with someone, you’re opening up the door for business. You can also follow target accounts or target people at your key accounts to watch out for any clues they might be in the market for a solution like yours.
Reinvent your cold outreach: Did you know that a good benchmark for sales touchpoints to a prospect is eight? Eight! Now, you can’t just email a prospect every other day and expect them to get back to you. Everyone is communicating by email, so everyone’s inbox is getting flooded, and emails are getting lost. For cold outreach, you should reframe your strategy by incorporating multiple mediums of outreach. A healthy mix of phone calls, emails, and voicemails is the key to staying top of mind for prospects.
Build repeatable outreach campaigns
Not only do you want to find new ways to connect with prospects, but you also want to make sure your process is repeatable. From outreach cadences to templates, everything you create should be repeatable. In an ideal world, every email, phone call, and voicemail would be unique to the prospect. But since we only have ~40 hours in a workweek, building a repeatable process is more realistic, and will help you build a strategy that will scale.
Set new KPIs
When you change your strategy, you need to change your KPIs, too. We can no longer expect sales reps to dial cold calls all day long—we need to invest in multiple forms of outreach. When setting KPIs, be sure that you’re setting goals around calls, emails, response rates, demo rates, video calls, revenue, and more. The more interaction with a prospect, the more likely you are to close a deal. Remember—you’ll likely average eight touches before you even get a reply from a prospect!
Best practices and tactics for virtual selling
Now that you know how virtual sales impacts your workflow and which elements of your strategy you need to pivot, let’s dive into best practices and tactics.
Now, some of these virtual selling tips might be a little obvious, but you still might need a refresher.
For example, don’t forget to keep your devices charged. You’re going to be making many phone calls, sending hundreds of emails, and sitting on Zoom calls throughout the day. The last thing you want is for your device or headset to die mid-pitch!
Now, for more tactical tips.
Leverage prospecting templates
Let’s reiterate the importance of building sales outreach campaigns that scale. Remember, a good benchmark for the number of touches to a prospect is eight. So, depending on your sales outreach goals, you’ll need to send a lot of emails and dial a lot of numbers.
The secret is building and utilizing templates for phone calls, emails, and even voicemails. If your team can rely on a variety of templates across these mediums, they’ll be able to complete more activities throughout the day. So, it’s beneficial to create email templates, phone call scripts, and voicemail scripts that your entire sales organization can access.
Templates make it much easier to create repeatable processes so that your team can spend more time selling and less time prospecting. Templates also can also help prevent human error. Without templates, you can make thoughtless typos, forget to change a prospect or company name, or accidentally say something incorrect on a voicemail. By templatizing all of these communications, your team can have a strong foundation to build off of as they execute outreach campaigns.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
As mentioned earlier, sales training and enablement are incredibly important for virtual selling. Ensure that your team has a deep understanding of your product or service, best practices for outreach, has a pulse on competitive and market intelligence, and is ready to answer any question that comes their way. Training before outreach begins is critical, but don’t forget to provide assets that help throughout a phone call or demo conversation.
For the sales reps, make sure that they’re effectively researching the account they’re selling into, but also the person who will be on the receiving end of their pitch. When conducting outreach, it’s important to connect with the right person and know what you’re talking about when you do so.
Once a meeting has been scheduled with the prospect, ensure that an agenda is set and sent out in the meeting invite. These days, everyone is jumping from meeting to meeting, so if the prospect knows exactly what to expect in the call, you're already set up for success—more on that next.
Build rapport over video conferencing
In our new virtual world, sales reps need to ensure that they're finding ways to build rapport with prospects over video calls. You've already made it past the prospecting stage, and you've got your prospect on a sales conversation. Unfortunately, you often only have about 30-60 minutes to connect with a prospect. So with time in mind, don’t forget your prospect is a person too, and keep your presentations and pitches short but impactful.
Being behind a screen while on a sales call can feel very limiting when building a relationship with a prospect. While building rapport was much easier when face-to-face, you still need to treat your virtual sales meeting as you would traditional sales meetings.
Your prospect can only see your face, your immediate surroundings, your screen, and your body language. Now more than ever, non-verbal communication makes a big difference on a sales call. For example, you can tell immediately if a prospect is not interested, and the prospect can tell if you're not invested in helping them, based solely on non-verbal cues.
You want to show your prospect that you are committed to helping them solve a problem and that you know their time is valuable. Setting an agenda is the first step to success. And, while it’s great to get right to the point when a call starts, don’t forget to be human and open with casual questions to build a relationship with the prospect.
When it comes to giving your pitch, keep your presentation short and sweet. Sales decks aren’t meant to be 20 slides long or text-heavy. Instead, keep your deck short in a way that allows for a conversation between you and the prospect. When applicable, include images or even gifs to keep your content engaging.
By opening your call with casual questions, keeping your presentation straight to the point, and showing respect for your prospect's time, you'll be able to build a strong rapport with your prospect. Which, in the end, can help you accomplish your ultimate goal—close more deals.
Follow up with your prospects
Follow-ups after a demo are an obvious best practice. But don’t forget to follow up if you have a simple phone conversation too. Once you get off the phone, follow up with an email answering any open questions, asking if they have additional questions, and providing content that would be beneficial at that stage of the sales process.
If you’re in an industry that used to rely heavily on onsite meetings, coffee meetings, or dinners with clients, don’t completely leave that behind. While you can’t fly across the country and take a prospect out to dinner, don’t be afraid to book a virtual coffee meeting to go over the information that can be discussed without a slide deck. Adding a more human element to your sales process can go a long way, even if it is over a virtual sales call.
Virtual selling: beyond calls and emails
Today, the bulk of sales activities are conducted with video chats, emails, and phone calls. But you can easily level up the sales experience to make your prospect feel like they’re unique and that you genuinely understand their needs.
Create a mutual action plan
Mutual action plans (MAP) are sales roadmaps that help maintain alignment between the buyer and the seller. By putting one in place early on and giving your buyer visibility, you can set expectations, and as the seller, you can reduce risk. Click here to learn more about MAPs.
Support your buyers journey with collateral
Content is king. You’ve heard that before, right? When you’re pushing a prospect through the sales cycle, you want to ensure that you’re supporting them with collateral at every stage of the journey.
Provide your prospects with various assets such as video, brochures, one-pagers, customer quotes, and ROI calculators. That way, they can consume the information in a way that works for them, and they can continue to educate themselves on your solution even while not in direct contact with you.
Create custom experiences
No two customers are the same, and no two sales cycles are the same. When it comes to virtual selling, you want to create custom experiences for your prospects. Outreach should be personalized, demos should be tailored to their needs, and the collateral provided should be speaking directly to pain points they’ve mentioned throughout your conversations.
Some prospects may need more attention and nurturing through the sales cycle, while others might be ready to buy after several calls. Either way, creating a custom experience for your prospect is a guaranteed way to leave a lasting impression and increase your chances of closing the deal.
How Dock can help
Curious how you can make everything we’ve mentioned a reality? Dock is here to help. Dock is a part of a new class of digital sales tools helping with virtual sales.
With Dock, you can build custom experiences for each of your prospects and create a space for your internal team to collaborate closely with your buyers by providing them with custom content, product collateral, meeting notes, MAPs, and more.
How do I get started with Dock?
We'll start sending out invites to Dock to beta users in the coming days. If you're interested in using Dock, click here to join our waitlist.
Or, if you just want to chat and learn more, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org