For many sales professionals, the change to virtual selling was born of necessity. It was a response to a crisis, and they didn’t have much choice. Of course, change brings challenge, and the pandemic transformed how and where we work, but the fundamentals of selling have, to some degree, remained the same. While some see virtual selling as a scary paradigm shift, a threat to every tradition salespeople have revered since the earliest days of intercave commerce, modern sales professionals should see it as a step in the sales evolution. In many ways, while it may never fully replace face-to-face interaction, virtual still offers its own advantages. As such, let’s examine and debunk several common myths about virtual selling:
- It’s A Passing Fad of the Pandemic
Like it or not, virtual has always been a large part of the sales process. Pre-COVID, many organizations found virtual selling convenient, quick, and less expensive than in-person meetings. According to a survey of 300 B2B buyers and sellers in the US, UK, and Canada by Bain & Company, before the pandemic, half of all sales transactions were already taking place virtually. As more businesses open to travel and incorporate some face-to-face engagement, many organizations will continue to utilize virtual selling along with hybrid models of interaction.
- Buyers Are Not Ready
Despite uncertainty in the market, buyers are still buying. For sellers, virtual provides opportunity to offer additional value. Research by McKinsey shows not only have most B2B seller interactions moved to remote or digital but, in the age of COVID-19, 70 to 80 percent of B2B decision makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service. In addition to safety, they list ease of scheduling and savings on travel expenses. Simply put: virtual selling makes seller-buyer interactions quicker and more nimble, so consultative sellers can meet with clients more frequently and at a moment’s notice. More importantly, a majority of B2B decision makers aren’t afraid to purchase remotely, even for larger investments over $50,000. Obviously, buyers are ready and willing to buy, and going virtual enables them to do it.
- Virtual is Complicated
A persistent myth about virtual selling is that it requires complicated applications. Nothing can be further from the truth. Basically, all you need for technology is a computer with good audio/video capability. Conferencing software, such as Zoom, Webex, Teams, etc., is easily downloaded and allows users to set meetings. Pricing can vary depending on the size and license requirements of your organization, but the process is intuitive and user friendly. As your millennial colleagues grew up around computers, one might think virtual selling is best kept to younger team members, but If you can use a computer, most can use this technology to sell. Of course, there may be a learning curve with tools, such as screensharing and whiteboarding, but sales pros can work up to that. Getting started, virtual selling does not require unique technical skills, just some familiarity, training, and practice with the tools.
- Difficult to Build a Rapport
It’s been said good salespeople know how to work a room. Whether chatting up strangers at a conference, having dinner with clients, or presenting in a prospect’s conference room, the physical space never mattered. The people skills one developed, such as smiling, maintaining eye contact, maximizing nonverbal communication and active listening, always carried the day, no matter where you were. Virtual is no different. Granted, there are some tricks to getting the most out of virtual meetings, such as camera placement, good lighting, or knowing where to look (pro tip: glace between the camera for eye contact and the screen to read body language), but to build a rapport in virtual selling, just be the charming, intelligent, engaging sales pro you’ve always been.
- Can’t Develop Trusted Relationships
Trust is built through honest communication. So long as salespeople remain dedicated to helping their clients find solutions, they can develop the same mutually beneficial relationships virtually as they did face-to-face. In fact, considering how virtual invites others into your home, revealing aspects of one’s personal life not previously seen professionally, such as artwork, books, even pets and children, salespeople and clients can achieve a greater intimacy and connect in more meaningful ways than they did face-to-face.
- Teamwork and Culture Suffers
Another fallacy of virtual interaction is that teamwork and culture will suffer. Just as sales professionals adjusted their skills to virtual selling, and sales managers adapted their coaching to suit their remote teams, the changes involved in virtual—everything from small talk before Zoom meetings to funny stories of tech fails and sales calls—have led to better relationships and greater collaboration between team members and managers. Whereas companies once resorted to periodic outings to build culture, sharing virtual success and failure has fostered a sense of camaraderie between teammates that could not have developed in the physical world.
Much like sales professionals of bygone years had to adapt to computers and then a CRM, the shift into virtual selling was a journey into the unknown. Because it was uncharted territory, many sales teams didn’t know what to expect and so feared the worst. However, over time, many came to see virtual selling not as some cataclysmic change but more like an inevitable technical achievement—one giant leap for saleskind—that helps sales professionals and clients engage, collaborate, and work together in ways they never before imagined.