Without travel and face-to-face meetings, how can sales organizations maintain—and grow—their sales revenue?
To protect both customer relationships and economic health, sellers need to look at social distancing not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to do things differently and build more successful partnerships with buyers. Sales organizations must take a critical first step in crisis management and help sellers figure out how to shrink the gap between themselves and buyers.
Connecting to Customers when “The Field” Closes
Nearly two-thirds of sales positions are field-based. For sellers who excel in the field, in-person meetings often produce the strongest outcomes, especially when it comes to complex sales. The intangibles of in-person meetings form lasting relationships that yield results: building trust through eye contact, scoring an extra meeting with a buying influence because they’re in the office at the right time and building rapport with decision-makers. None of these are possible when you’re not physically with your buyers.
With the rise of the coronavirus, field sellers must learn to sell in a different way. Their inability to sell in person creates another layer of complexity on top of the existing emotional gap between buyers and sellers. Buyers haven’t seen sellers as relevant for some time: 77% of buyers say they’re less connected to sellers than the used to be. They call them less, have briefer interactions and engage them later and later in the sales process. In part, that’s because most buyers—68%—don’t see a lot of difference between sellers.
The good news for sellers is that buyers are more willing to engage earlier when the situation is risky or highly complex—that’s the world we live in now. So, sellers have a choice to make: will they allow the gap between themselves and their buyers to get bigger, or will they use this as an opportunity to close the gap by changing their approach?
Adapting Sellers’ Approach to Sales
In this environment, the challenge for sellers is not just to help customers—it’s to help them thrive. While the fundamentals of selling don’t change in a crisis, sellers must adapt, learn and continue to serve customers despite volatile circumstances. The COVID-19 crisis puts sales organizations on the same footing with the same challenges: organizations that adapt most quickly, with strategies like the three that follow, are the ones that will emerge unscathed.
1. Maintain Selling Activity—with Perspective
With social distancing, only the type of activity must change—not the amount. Sellers must find ways to connect with their buyers differently, whether it’s by email, phone, web conference or social media. It’s a time to hunker down personally but be more proactive professionally.
But all selling activity isn’t good activity. Good sales activity encompasses two approaches. First, it offers perspective: the insights and unique expertise that educate buyers and informs their viewpoint. Make sure every interaction offers a benefit to your customers, whether that’s helping them solve their problem or achieve their goals. Second, it needs to efficiently spur a high level of activity, despite the distraction in the market. For example, if you spend all day on a piece of thought leadership, will you get the same return on investment as you would on other activities you could accomplish in less time?
2. Rethink the Sales Process
Today, sellers spend less time selling—only 32% of their time each week—than in the past. But they also allocated 10% of their time to travel. That’s time they can now invest in value-added virtual selling activities that improve results rather than administrative tasks, like forecasting and reporting.
To guide sellers, sales leaders and managers should start by reimagining their sales process and offering sellers clear guidance. Sales leaders need to provide frameworks and tools as part of a formal sales process designed to help sellers rethink their approach to account, opportunity and call management.
3. Maximize Your Tech Stack
The average sales organization employs 10 sales tech tools—but underutilize most of them. This is the perfect time to consider how these tools can amplify your selling efforts, whether it’s a customer success platform, social selling tool, engagement platform or some other technology with untapped potential.
Train sellers in how to use these tools and their advanced features to make sure they create experiences that engage buyers. Ensure that they understand the advanced features of these tools and use them to create interactive and engaging buyer experiences. For example, when sellers record their video sales calls, some platforms send them a transcript to use for reference—a transcript that sales managers can also use for coaching.
Help Sellers Find New Ways to Build Intimacy Across the Distance
We’re all in this together. It’s incumbent upon us to incorporate learning agility in our practices so we can help our clients through this adversity—and help them prepare for their recovery.
To learn more ways for sellers to support clients in this time of social distancing, watch our on-demand webinar, download our whitepaper or visit our website packed with additional advice to help sales organizations like yours thrive in challenging circumstances.