In the past few years, buyer surveys have shown that buyer-seller engagements have decidedly pivoted to digital, where a vast majority of buyers don’t want to see their salesperson on-site. Buyers may either be working limited days at the office, or they now recognize the efficiency of sales calls taking place virtually and don’t want to give that up.
For sellers, this has been the real wake-up call in dealing with the commercial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you best build relationships, gain insight, create trust, and finally win the deal in this new sales environment where companies work remotely, or push a hybrid sales process with some visits in-person, but most remote?
Welcome to what I call the “Blended Selling World.”
Impact of COVID-19 on Sales Survey
A few weeks ago, I conducted a survey on LinkedIn to gain the insight of other Sales Leaders regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their sales process.
My survey question to salespeople was, “If you can only visit the customer in person once during a 4-stage sales process, which stage would you choose?” About 40% of salespeople said they would want their first visit to be in person, and the other 60% said one of the later meetings would be best to be in-person.
Challenges of Virtual Selling
The three greatest challenges in virtual selling are:
- Connecting to gain the buyer’s attention
- Developing the buyer’s trust
- Making convincing presentations
Virtual selling presents problems for both the buyer and the seller. The effects are different, but highly impactful to both sides.
For the buyer, the ease of scheduling more appointments each day, and the control they have with virtual rather than in person visits, is very beneficial. But buyers are struggling, uncertain if the seller is listening understanding their needs and wants via a virtual medium.
For sellers, this new world has kept them from overnight trips by planes and car, increasing their sales activity and efficiency. However, they complain about how it is much more difficult to develop relationships, overcome objections, and most importantly, maintain the buyer’s attention.
The Blended Selling World
To be effective in Blended Selling, sellers must learn and implement new processes to regain control of the sales process from the buyer. Because most of virtual selling is on the neutral playing field of video, processes, and control that sellers maintained before are gone.
Sellers need to re-learn how to build relationships, differentiate yourself, create trust, and win sales when relationships are often not as strong.
So how do you do it? While buyers love their new efficiencies, they still want trusted advisors. A strong consultative sales process creates the connection the buyer wants. However, gaining enough insight to learn the buyers’ wants, while creating belief that you can help them, is much more difficult over video than on-premises.
Most buyers want to engage in collaborative conversation, but few sellers are prepared and capable to create that environment virtually.
To return to the question posted on LinkedIn, “If sellers only get one bite of the apple, which sales stage is most valuable to be held on-premises?”
Introduce Yourself On-site
To create the mutually desired collaboration, sellers should use the Introductory Meeting for their single on-premises meeting. The Introductory Meeting isn’t about selling; its value is to learn, understand the buyer’s needs, and determine if you can help them achieve what they can’t do alone.
During this on-premises meeting, you talk less and listen more. It provides the seller the best opportunity during Blended Selling to understand your prospect and ensure that the buyer learns and understands your offering, and if you can help them.
This process brings the confidence necessary for both sides to move forward to a collaboration stage which results in trust and success.
COVID-19 only accelerated the move towards virtual selling; the wheels had already been in motion. There is no going back, and sellers must fully adjust to find the opportunities that lie ahead. Understanding these new adaptations to the sales process will enable sellers to deliver stronger sales performance than ever before!