It’s the understatement of the century to say that the sales landscape looks a lot different now than it did a year ago. After an initial period of controlled chaos, B2B sales organizations have made the major shift from in-person to virtual interactions — and if multiple McKinsey studies are any indication, that shift isn’t a blip. It’s trending.
As virtual selling continues to transition from “this will never work” to “all in a day’s work,” it’s important for sales leaders to modify their approach to support and coach their team members. Here are three strategies that can help you to lead your team to virtual sales success.
Provide clear direction and coaching
Even though setting clear, measurable goals is Selling 101, effective sales leaders need to consider modifying their approach with remote teams. When you work from home, the world is your office, and it’s important to bring your team in for regular meetings wherever you (and they) are. Ensure every rep knows what you’re measuring and what success looks like — sales activity by rep, deals closed, pipeline conversion rate, average conversion time, or other KPIs. Give extra coaching and support to veteran field salespeople who may feel especially challenged by working in the virtual world.
Virtual team meetings and one-on-one sessions are also great ways to model the behavior you want your sales reps to exhibit with customers, so treat these virtual gatherings the same way you’d treat a client call. That means video on, professional setting, and attire you would be comfortable wearing to an informal client meeting.
Build and maintain relationships
“Out of sight, out of mind” is not a strategy built for remote sales success. To build connective tissue within your team, incorporate a balance of scheduled and impromptu meetings using instant messaging and videoconferencing tools. Status meetings, team knowledge-sharing events, and microlearning sessions all serve the dual purpose of keeping your salesforce up to date on current needs and trends while keeping them in touch with one another. You can also create internal communities of practice around skill sets that need continual attention or specific projects or tasks. The network these communities of practice create can extend far beyond the initial intent of the group and build strong connections among your team.
You can also create an online community that focuses on your customers by hosting virtual focus groups, super-user roundtables, quick-hit online training, or “doctor is in” sessions. This allows you to gather information, stay top of mind with your customers, and provide new skills or strategies around using your product or service. As the world opens up, you can continue to host virtual events — they’re a flexible, feasible way to build and maintain loyalty and visibility. The following strategies from Forbes can help make your virtual event a success.
- Keep your audience engaged: Make sure the content you offer will both attract the audience and keep them in the session.
- Choose the right platform or partner: Have a clear plan of what you need your presentation platform to do, and use that plan to make your selection.
- Go for a mix of live and pre-recorded: Live presentations can be both engaging and risky. Consider incorporating a few pre-recorded segments with professional production value for messages or ideas that need to be presented flawlessly.
- Extend your impact: Virtual events don’t have to end at signoff. By recording the session and providing a post-production edited version of key topics, your audience can continue to benefit from the event long after it wraps.
Invest in effective videoconferencing tools and skills training
While many selling skills can transfer seamlessly from live to virtual interactions, your salesforce will need to adjust their techniques to fit the online environment. When the available meeting real estate shrinks from a nicely appointed conference room with a large projection surface to a laptop, tablet, or cell phone screen, sales professionals need a new approach. Forbes has another helpful article that focuses on strategies for making virtual presentations pop.
- Create personalization where you can: Establish and maintain a connection by enabling your camera (even if your customer doesn’t), being empathic to their situation, and showing that you are listening (and not just waiting until it’s your turn to talk).
- Build a narrative: Bring features and benefits to life by creating a story that will resonate with the customer.
- Make slides eye-catching and keep copy brief: Text-heavy slides are the quickest way to kill momentum. If your presentation is too complex and hard to digest, the customer may zone out and all you’ll have to show for your effort is a missed opportunity.
- Include impressive statistics: Use the power of proof to design memorable slides. Charts, graphs, or tables that show favorable, data-driven comparisons can really make an impact.
- Make it interactive: Incorporate open-ended questions, polls, and whiteboard sessions to keep the customer engaged.
- Don’t rush: It’s natural to want to cram as much content as possible into your time with the customer, but it’s important to resist that urge. Be brutal when it comes to pruning content; rely on the maxim “When in doubt, leave it out — nice to know? Gotta go.”
Salesforce education also extends to the tools sales managers need to do their job. Sales organizations have many options for virtual engagements (PC Magazine has a nice roundup here), and regardless of what platform you choose, you and your team will need to become experts at how to use it. Decide on the features your team will use the most — screen sharing, file transfer, onscreen collaboration, breakout rooms — and schedule training sessions to learn the technical aspects and practice sessions to hone skills in a safe environment before interacting with customers.
It’s also a good idea to develop a quick reference resource for best practices and troubleshooting tips. An effective approach would be to maintain the resource as a living (as opposed to static) reference you and your team can continue to develop over time, incorporating actual virtual interaction experiences (both successes and mistakes). And as with any training initiative, there needs to be follow-up training for new features and orientation and practice sessions for new hires.
Virtual interactions have become a permanent part of the sales landscape. We’d like to hear how you modify your leadership approach to ensure your team succeeds in the virtual world.