Sales teams are currently facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to selling and building relationships during the current COVID-19 situation. But despite sales reps thriving in a face-to-face environment, they’re now pivoting to virtual sales to overcome today’s hurdles. And while an abrupt transition can be met with deep learning curves, the biggest gains can be made by sales reps in the long term when they are confident in building relationships online and off. 

As virtual selling becomes the new normal, customers will also become more comfortable making online connections.

But virtual selling isn’t a new concept — the latest State of Sales report identified that sales reps have increased their time connecting virtually with customers at a rate 3x greater than connecting in person.  

 

Technology for the sales environment


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 reps are facing a different world.

For sales reps to be confident sellers today, they need to be confident in the technology they’re using. If virtual selling wasn’t part of your team’s sales process prior to COVID-19, putting the right technology in place will make it easier for your sales reps to transition to virtual and remote selling. 

Tools such as Google Hangouts or other video conferencing options are a good place to start.

During this time, technology will be used in a whole new way. And with people adjusting to new working and living arrangements, customers will be demanding to be engaged in more efficient ways. They will also be more inclined to do their own research on products and brands 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 selling environment, a sales rep needs to be quick to respond, relevant and as informed as the buyer.

 

Communicating your value


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. 

And to do this well, sales reps need to add value in a timely manner. 

With every salesperson now turned virtual seller, sales reps need to be strategic in the way they connect with customers online. Here are some strategies for sales reps to take on board and lead with:

  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 

 

Preparing for the now and beyond


These are unprecedented times, and understanding and exceeding your customer’s expectations is going to require the insights of more than one team. 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. Sales reps can boost their productivity by streamlining repetitive or data-driven tasks, including lead prioritisation and data entry.

Virtual selling, backed by AI, enables reps to access customer insights quickly to be relevant and empathic to customers in the moments that count. Technology enables sales reps to show customers they’re there to help them to continue to succeed. 

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 virtual selling and make the most of it will be well placed for business success now and in the future. 

For more sales tips and business advice for navigating through unprecedented change, read our Leading through change series.