Let’s face it: The future of selling was always virtual; the COVID-19 pandemic only hastened it. According to a report by Gartner, by 2025, 80 percent of B2B sales interactions will occur digitally. Though travel experts think it might take four to eight years to return to pre-COVID levels, 67 percent of event experts expect physical events to return by summer 2021. Sales organizations must once again adapt their processes and resources to the changing needs of buyers in a hybrid sales environment. Although the pandemic taught no one can predict the future, it also showed forward-thinking organizations will be best prepared to meet the challenges ahead. Here are a few things sales organizations should expect for the future of virtual selling.
Maintaining an Advantage
Now that many sales teams have transitioned to virtual selling, organizations can maintain an advantage by incorporating a hybrid sales process that combines virtual and face-to-face as appropriate. For example, while an initial face-to-face meeting can help establish initial connections, much of the sales process can be handled virtually. Then, presentations involving multiple decision makers can be handled face-to-face and supplementary team members, such as IT, VPs, etc., can consult virtually. Tailor an approach that maximizes the impact of key activities throughout the sales process.
Adapting to Buyers
As salespeople must adapt their processes, buyers will face their own challenges as well. Salespeople should prepare for changes in a client’s workforce. Post COVID, contacts could shift. They may be harder to reach as they too transition into a hybrid work environment. Also, remember that all clients may not be as open to in-person engagement yet, so reassure those who have concerns that you maintain all your virtual capabilities and are happy to accommodate their needs.
Another change as business and travel open will be the increased need for a consultative selling approach to provide value for clients. Transactional sales will likely become even more automated in the years to come while complex purchases will continue to require more personal attention in which clients will rely on the expertise of a trusted advisor.
Diversity of Tools
With the rise of virtual selling, many organizations had to upgrade their technology to keep remote reps connected. In a virtual/in-person hybrid model of selling, organizations will need to be equipped with better and faster tools that can meet the expanding needs of remote reps who can present in-person and still collaborate with team members in the office or at home. These mobile reps will face increased reliance on cloud-based technology for easy access to sales collateral and other materials needed to facilitate interest and keep prospects engaged and informed, and we should expect tech savvy reps to have an edge on the competition.
Just as an organization’s sales enablement process had to adapt to virtual selling, it will once again need to adjust to changes in how sales professionals sell in a hybrid model. For example, sales reps will need to engage with clients synchronously—as on a Zoom or Teams call—and asynchronously—as in social media—and work through the challenges of incorporating the technology to an expanding group of stakeholders while also leveraging in-person meetings for maximum impact. This will once again require changes to an organization’s sales process and strategy.
Perhaps, rather than hoping for a return to normal, organizations should prepare for the next normal. As everything old becomes new again, in-person meetings will soon return as an option. Be prepared to take a close look at the new landscape and develop a hybrid sales process that maximizes sales effectiveness within our new normal.