Several key events in history have necessitated changing how we sell. Sarbanes-Oxley legislation brought us Procurement Organizations and the need to navigate structured buying processes. The internet brought us commoditization and a shift from selling product and price, to business value and outcomes.
And now there is the Coronavirus, where countries are on lockdown, people are practicing social distancing, and companies are asking their employees to work remotely and are banning most travel.
Who knows how long this will last, and how much of it will become the new norm.
Is your salesforce prepared to sell in this new, virtual world? To be sure, here are nine steps you can take to prepare them.
- Adapt Your Sales Approach – Selling virtually requires a different approach to creating demand, building and managing relationships, and demonstrating value. You also have to change your approach to differentiating yourself competitively and leading the client through the sales process to close. It takes speed, since most interactions are shorter, and it takes precision, as each interaction is designed to gain agreement for the next interaction and move to the next step in the sales process. The real magic is to orchestrate a virtual process where salespeople can replicate the experience and emotion they create face-to-face.
- Refine Your Thought Leadership – Thought Leadership becomes even more critical in a virtual selling environment, where “proof dispels disbelief.” Besides their own personal Thought Leadership that the sales teams should be prepared to deliver in every interaction, they will need an entire “toolkit” of white papers, articles, videos, references, etc. They will use these to precondition, follow-up, and maintain momentum through the sales process. Much of this hopefully exists already. Start with your own website, as you might be surprised at the gems you will find there! However, the most critical thing is to ensure the team knows what to use and when in the sales process, or for specific sales situations.
- Leverage Repeatable Value Propositions – Unfortunately, the typical product or solution-focused “capabilities presentations” doesn’t lend itself to virtual selling! The sales team will need short (seven slides) vertical and horizontal value proposition decks that can be used to create demand and facilitate discussions at various steps in the sales process.
- Standardize Your Meeting Technology – Most companies have standardized on a single remote meeting platform – if you haven’t, you should. Does everyone know how to use it? Do they know how to create and send calendar invites? To use it to present? To hand control to another person or to the client? If not, train them.
- Virtualize Your Support Teams – Everyone who supports the client or the sales teams through the sales process will have to “deliver” virtually as well. Product or Solutions Specialists, Executives, Legal, Solutioning, etc. will all have to look at their processes and approach, and how and where it fits within the virtual selling process in #1.
- Equip Your Sales Team for the New Environment – Moving to a virtual selling environment will require behavior change, as well as process change, and there will likely be plenty of people in your organization who will be very uncomfortable NOT being in front of the client. Document, train, and practice the new “plays” until your team is comfortable executing it.
- Segment Your Deals – As a Sales Leader, where and how you spend your time will likely shift in a more virtual world as well. Designate the most important deals, renewals, and targeted opportunities that are critical to your success this year and implement a structured approach and regular cadence to both coach and to inspect them. This will ensure you don’t inadvertently take your eye off the ball as things evolve.
- Measure the Change – People perfect what you inspect, so establishing leading metrics and tracking activity at each of the key stages of the sales process, especially at the early stages, is critical. If moving to a virtual selling environment represents a significant enough change for the salesforce, set activity standards for the key sales process stages as well. How many new opportunities do you expect and over what period? How many meetings to get executive sponsorship? How many to collaborate on the business case? You might also launch a contest to create excitement and drive adoption of the virtual sales process.
- Continuously Improve – You probably aren’t going to get it perfect the first time, so establish a strategy to regularly discuss what’s working and not working, share best practices, and celebrate successes. Adjust accordingly and ensure that everyone is aligned with whatever changes you make.
While we all hope the current global health crisis ends soon and selling (and life) go back to the “old” normal, I strongly believe this crisis has exposed some significant vulnerabilities and opportunities that will cause permanent change. Are you ready?
Bring your leadership team together and ask yourselves one question, “If it takes a significant period of time to go back to ‘normal,’ or it never goes back, how equipped are we to drive revenue with our sales approach today?”