Data and technological advancements, such as AI, are providing sales reps with insights to boost productivity and ROI. With this business acceleration, sales reps need to adopt new and creative ways of selling to a customer, such as virtual sales.
Despite having extensive tasks to work on, sales reps are continually making efforts to spend more time with prospects and current customers. And living in an era of constant connectivity, some of the biggest gains that they have recently experienced involve time spent connecting with them virtually, leading to more sales deals.
As virtual selling reaches a tipping point, customers are relying less on in-person meetings.
A recent State of Sales report identified that in Australia and New Zealand, over the past three years, 57% of reps have increased their time spent engaging with customers or prospects virtually (a 6% net change), while 52% have increased the time spent meeting in person (a 4% net change).
Relationship building – that’s what the old world of selling involved. Face-to-face selling was a requirement for success, especially in a B2B context. But now, sales faces a different world.
Relationships that drive sales are not just based on the amount of time spent face-to-face; they’re also based on understanding and supporting the strategic directions of businesses. From a virtual perspective, this involves the use of more technology, such as Google Hangouts, Skype, or other video conferencing or telepresence tools.
Sales reps, today, are often pressed for time to engage with as many customers and potential customers as possible. As customers too, demand to be engaged with in more efficient ways, technology is used in a whole new way.
Customers (and prospective customers) are also much more informed today than before. They have access to information, and have completed their due diligence and reference checking before they connect with potential suppliers.
As a result, buyers are engaging when their buying cycle suits, rather than being led by traditional sales cycles. In this new environment, a sales rep needs to be quick to respond, relevant and as informed as the buyer.
Technology, including connecting to their business virtually, plays an important role in a sales rep’s ability to be these three things.
The key thing is to add value in a timely manner. Sales reps can reach more customers with virtual selling or even reach customers in various geographical locations. Technology can decrease the sales cycle and enable reps to be ‘present’ for the customer whenever needed.
Here are some strategies for businesses to take on board and lead:
Winning the war for attention – Understand that individuals within your customer base will have differing preferences for how they want to be communicated to and sold to at varying points of the sales and buying process. Communicate with them using the virtual tools that they want, and in a way that cuts through to them.
Data driven insight, enabled by technology – The availability of rich data and ability to derive insights from it is creating more effective methods of lead prioritisation and forecasting, which drives success.
Building valuable relationships – With data-driven insights being handled by artificial intelligence (AI), reps can easily identify the individuals and accounts with the greatest propensity to buy, freeing up their time to do things that can’t be automated, such as focusing on building valuable relationships with the right prospects at the right time.
As selling goes virtual, hiring practices are reflecting this trend. The State of Sales report found that, on average, staffing of inside sales roles has increased by 7% since 2015, and sales development reps have increased by 6%.
High performing sales organisations are 2.3 times more likely than underperformers to have hired more inside reps, and 2.7 times more likely to have hired more sales development reps.
While sales leaders cite a variety of reasons for shifting to an inside sales staffing model, including better opportunity for rep specialisation and lowering costs, improved technology ranks as the top motivator.
The inside sales role itself has evolved from appointment setting for field-based sales roles to be centered on the customer – it involves sales engagement methodology without having to be physically present.
As customers continue to expect seamless, personalised and fast experiences at every step of their journeys, businesses need to break down silos and embrace a free internal flow of customer data. Collaboration across business units will become more critical.
In addition, AI is quickly becoming a necessary element of effective and efficient selling. This new level of intelligence and automation is expected to dramatically boost productivity, by streamlining repetitive or data-driven tasks, including lead prioritisation and data entry.
Virtual selling, backed by AI, is enabling reps to access customer insights quickly to be relevant to customers. It’s not a customer’s job to understand a rep’s relevance as a sales person. It’s the job of a rep to be relevant, and technology enables that.
Salespeople also have to rest assured that although technology and the introduction of AI will augment the role of sales teams, they will not replace the role of a sales professional. Sales teams that embrace it and make the most of it are well placed for business success.
Download the third annual State of Sales report to learn more about connecting virtually with customers, as well as other trends that are changing the world of sales.