What to do – look the other way and ignore the need, or dive in and help salespeople rise to higher levels of performance?
We have been experiencing a new way of conducting sales calls for a year now, which is a reality that is here to stay: Virtual Selling.
Salespeople are driven and most of us like to think that we have adjusted, improved our performance and listened to our customers for what matters most to them. The reality might shock you!
According to surveys conducted by the Rain Group sellers are only 26% effective in leading a thorough discovery of concerns, wants and needs, and able to listen to their customers. To reinforce this survey, we compared it to Korn Ferry’s survey around how effective sales teams are in executing their organization’s virtual selling process. They found out that 70% of sales managers, on average, don’t believe their salespeople are executing virtual selling practices effectively.
Furthermore, only 16% of sellers, according to buyers, are effective in making a ROI case that is clear to their buyers, while only 34% of sellers are effective in showing the buyer what is possible and how they can solve the problem.
Top Purchase Decision Factors and Seller Effectiveness
*Rain Group Center for Sales Research
WOW! Those are some alarming numbers considering virtual selling is here to stay. So what is an organization to do to help improve the odds, gain traction, meet their numbers and move into the future with a successful book of business?
We are putting so much emphasis on all the changes, but we are forgetting that despite all of this, we are still dealing with a human being on the other side of the screen, whose needs are just the same as they were prior to business being conducted virtually.
Buyers want to be:
- Heard – They want to know that they can trust you and your company. They will consider carefully whether they have a need for anything you have to offer them.
- Helped – They want to know if any of your recommendations can really help them. They want to know you are really listening to what they are sharing with you. Asking good questions and adding value to the conversation is important to them.
- Supported – Once they have made the decision to buy, they want make sure they won’t be sorry once they start working with you.
This year, salespeople have become discombobulated and some forgot that the basic principles of No Trust, No Need, No Help and No Satisfaction that a customer goes through are still true. What has changed is how we interact and address those.
We no longer meet and greet, sit across from each other, shake hands and share personal stories. Virtual meetings tend to be more concise, to the point and less personal. It’s imperative that sales people are prepared and understand how to effectively conduct them, being agile around the technology while choosing the best way for presenting information.
Let’s take for example the art of relating with a client. As I mentioned, in the past, we were able to sit across from each other and establish common ground by observing the buyers’ environment. In today’s digital environment, establishing that relationship with a potential buyer relies on the salesperson’s ability to seamlessly navigate digital tools like screen or document sharing in a virtual sales meeting as well as follow basic relating protocols in a more concise way. Fail to demonstrate that, and your next appointment might be cancelled.
Virtually, propriety is communicated by the salesperson’s demonstrated skills, or lack thereof, to flawlessly execute a technology platform and their awareness of what the virtual setting communicates to the customer. It is important to understand how to create an environment that portrays professionalism, even when working from home.
One of my clients had the unfortunate circumstance early in the pandemic of losing an opportunity simply because he wasn’t able to work with a virtual platform. He had a virtual appointment set up through Microsoft Teams, the buyer’s preferred mode. The problem was that his organization worked with Zoom and knowledge of Microsoft Teams was limited. The meeting was scheduled with the CEO of this potential customer. The salesperson had tested out Microsoft Teams and felt he was ready to go into this meeting. The day of the meeting, the salesperson was able to join the meeting, but his Vice President of Sales, who was joining the call, could not. After a 5 minute wait, the customer’s CEO left the call, appalled that he had not mastered the virtual platform. As a result of failing to demonstrate they knew how to conduct a virtual meeting, they lost a $32,000 opportunity.
This example also illustrates the need for salespeople to understand that establishing trust prior to a virtual call is critical. Had the salesperson and his Vice President of Sales had the opportunity to establish some credibility and trust with this CEO prior to a virtual meeting, perhaps he would have been more forgiving of the woes of technology.
Consider that only 26% of salespeople are doing a good job conducting a thorough discovery of buyer’s concerns, wants and needs; understanding how to conduct a proper discovery virtually becomes critical in order to later demonstrate to the buyer how your organization can potentially solve their problem. Just like relating, discovering skills can either enhance the customer’s experience or get in the way. The critical factor when conducting discovery virtually is to engage the customer in the process so it feels like a conversation instead of an interrogation.
Planning your discovery becomes critical in order to avoid an awkward situation:
- It is a good idea to send a list of questions you might have ahead of the meeting. This provides your customer with an opportunity to think about how they would like to answer you, thus avoiding an uncomfortable situation during the call.
- Take notes on the screen and invite your customer to use annotation tools to do the same. Clarify your notes before leaving the meeting.
- Frequently summarize and ask for agreement from your customer on needs and priorities just like you would in an in-person meeting. Remember buyers feel that 74% of sellers are INEFFECTIVE listeners! Let’s improve those numbers!
- Half-way through the meeting, do a time check. Ask if you are meeting their expectations with the conversation. Don’t wait until the meeting is about to end.
- Make sure that your background is well lit, this can be difference between looking professional and looking like you need a nap. But not so well lit that you disappear on the screen.
- Frame yourself in the screen appropriately.
- Use a microphone to ensure your voice comes across clearly.
- Always ask the catch all question: “Is there anything I have not asked you that you feel I should know?” Provide time for your customer to think.
- Finally, test all your equipment the day before your meeting. Do a test run with a colleague or someone in your household.
A discovery conducted well helps continue to increase your credibility with your buyer and is what will link you to the potential solution that will meet their needs and expectations.
In the Virtual Advocating world, it is important to find a way for the customer to “touch” the solution. When selling digital products, that is a very easy to do as you can easily demonstrate your product on the call; but when selling a physical or less tangible product or service, not so much. So what is one to do?
One way of helping the customer “touch” the solution is to continuously refer back to the desired results you learned in the discovery you conducted earlier as each advantage and benefit is presented. Help your customer understand how it feels to achieve the desired outcomes and visually draw a picture for your customer that helps them “see” what it might look like. This will keep them engaged and involved.
It is important to help your customer understand the kind of Return on Investment they will have when working with you. If you conducted a good discovery, you should have numbers that can help you present a ROI. Remember that anyone making an investment in what you have to offer will be held accountable for that investment. When you help them see how your solution will impact their business and what kind of return they will have for their investment, you are adding value while helping your buyer be prepared when someone above them asks the question: “So, what have we achieved as a result of this investment?”.
Only 16% of salespeople are effective at being able to make a clear case for the ROI. This can be a major differentiator in today’s environment. You will be 84% ahead of the curve if you do this.
You’ve made your presentation, won the proposal, now you can go collect your commissions, right? WRONG! Now is the time to SUPPORT your customer and continue to develop your credibility and the trust that they have placed in you and your organization.
Technology always played a role in supporting your customer post-sales; project managers, marketing, customer service have always contacted them via email or phone. Nowadays, the use of Virtual Technology can help you differentiate your team by simply scheduling a call with your customer to formally put a name to a face for them. This helps customers feel comfortable with the team that is supporting them on implementation and they are able to clearly understand roles and responsibilities, putting the customer at ease with the decision they made.
Understanding how to incorporate technology into your sales process may seem cumbersome, but it is actually a matter of learning the ins and outs of how technology can differentiate you and improve your effectiveness. Given the research I shared with you, clearly training your sales organization to integrate the sales process with technology can be the difference between achieving results or scrambling to gain and retain customers.