One day you’re jet setting to that in-person client meeting, getting to know your prospects face-to-face, the next day your stuck in a home office, selling via a 13” monitor. That’s the way it was for me too, without a single in-person meeting for over a year now. For almost all B2B sellers, virtual selling is the new normal, and for the foreseeable future, the way we engage.
And even though many of us did at least a portion of our selling remotely pre-crisis, there are challenges for us all in this new virtual selling environment. Gartner recently surveyed 510 sales leaders on their frontline seller skills, asking “Which of the following are challenging you when selling virtually”.
There were four challenges identified (along with the percentage of respondents indicating):
- Gaining access to stakeholders virtually – 59%
- Bringing buyer groups together virtually – 39%
- Navigating consensus of a purchase decision with a buying group virtually – 33%
- Lack of customer confidence when making purchase decisions in a virtual environment – 29%
Way at the top of the list, gaining access to decision makers has become much more difficult now that we are virtual. In the past, sellers had in-person trade shows and events for capturing new prospect interest or wandering the halls of existing strategic customers for expansion opportunities. Now, it’s everyone vying for precious LinkedIn connections and inundating prospects with direct messages. Standing out above the noise is difficult, and it’s all too easy to come off “pitchy”.
What do we recommend to help overcome the virtual connection challenge:
- You should leverage and mention mutual connections or references to secure the connection in the first place.
- You can dialogue with the connection, but you have to earn the right to ask for that meeting or to pitch you and your solutions.
- You earn the right by adding value – sharing articles, insights, research, podcast, video or tools to help them recognize they have a challenge worth addressing, diagnosing their issues, or making sense of available options.
- Sales enablement and content marketing should setup messages that according to Gartner should “resonate with buyer’s current realities” and deliver these in a form that can be leveraged in value added, differentiated outreach campaigns.
- Leveraging interactive content that a buyer can use to explore and create their own journey of learning and exploration, or interactive tools like solution guides and diagnostic / value assessments that can help your buyers.
- Create a personal brand for yourself, taking a point of view and promoting it into social channels. This means commenting on each piece of content you share with that point of view, or perhaps blogging, vlogging (video) or podcasting to add your point of view to each piece of shared research, insights, tools and content.
It’s all about standing out like a zebra in a crowd of horses, but in a value-added way.
Gaining Consensus and Helping Good Decision Making
The second set of challenges aren’t about getting connected, but about properly gathering and engaging the right decision makers gaining consensus across the buying group (larger than ever), and making buyers feel confidence and good about their purchase decision.
This means finding new and better ways to:
Get the right stakeholders to meetings – your prospects and customers are “zoomed out” too. The last thing they want is to sit through another boring presentation or demo session. Instead, transcend your virtual selling from a pitching to value-add, reshaping your virtual selling into a collaborative workshop.
You can do this by:
- Orienting the session with the client from a standard virtual meeting to an interactive workshop for discovery / solution co-creation.
- Leverage dynamic, interactive presentations to help diagnose customer issues and pivot to the right vignettes (mini-stories) about the buyer challenges, potential solutions and success stories.
- Leverage interactive tools to help illuminate challenges, gain consensus on priorities amongst different stakeholders, and introduce potential solutions.
Gain consensus on the buying decision – decisions can be difficult to make when you have multiple stakeholders, all with different challenges, priorities and “points of value”. Gartner indicates there can be from 13 to almost two dozen people directly and indirectly involved in an enterprise purchase decision.
It is hard to engage all these buyers in virtual meetings, so you have to think beyond the meeting. In order to reach all of those directly and indirectly involved in the decision, you can provide a 24-7 customized decision hub – a customized collaborative workspace to share with the client, containing curated value-added content in an easy to use and navigate portal, to help convince the team as to the merits of addressing the challenge, understanding the prescribed solutions, and justifying the merits and value of the collective decision.
- Help buyers make the best decision possible – At the end of the day it’s all about helping buyers make the best decision for their needs. Build satisfaction in the decision breeds loyalty, so important not just for the initial sale, but for expand selling opportunities and reference selling.
To help make buyers feel best about the decision, you can help make sense of the decision – loading just the right content to help streamline and facilitate the decision process. Financial justification business cases, security documentation and more can be provided into the decision hub, anticipating the steps involved and stakeholders who are typically involved, proactively addressing the process and decision maker needs to avoid delays and gain support.
Post sale, you can help buyers feel good about their decision, conducting regular reviews of the roll-out, adoption and goals, and documenting realized value and ROI, proving the tangible value of their decision.
The Bottom Line
With virtual selling here to stay, it is imperative that sellers, sales leaders, marketers and sales enablement address the challenges in today’s digital selling environment presents, helping to implement the mindset, skillset and toolsets needed to achieve effectiveness.
We recommend the following five improvements as a start, to help address the most pressing challenges of better connections and decision faciliation:
- Migrate from pitching products to selling with value-add and being a decision “helper”
- Create and evolve the right messaging, insights and value-add for each industry and stakeholder
- Advance from boring, traditional PowerPoint and collateral to Interactive presentations and content, providing more dynamic and engaging presentations and the ability to pivot and navigate to just what the buyer wants to talk about and needs to leverage to support better decision making
- Develop and deploy Interactive tools to help diagnose challenges, prescribe the best solutions, and provide financial justification to justify and optimize investments
- Deliver collaborative decision hubs to each unique buying team, providing a portal to facilitate 24-7 post meeting buyer engagement and proactively help better purchase decisions.
Source: Gartner Sellers Skills Assessment, Gartner CSO Journal Q1 2021