The updated guide to virtual selling: 8 tips from industry leaders

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While some organizations transitioned to virtual sales out of sheer necessity, other companies have been harnessing the power of virtual selling for years. These early adopters have long understood the advantages of virtual selling, from a better customer experience to increased productivity and lower overhead costs.

Virtual selling makes it possible to overcome geographical boundaries and time constraints to engage with more clients in fewer hours. While virtual selling was considered an option pre-pandemic, now, there’s no denying the fact that virtual sales plays an integral, irreplaceable role in how business is conducted.

 

What is virtual sales?

Virtual sales is the integration of online technology into the sales process. Virtual selling allows sales reps to engage with customers via video conferencing software (rather than meeting with them in person). A virtual selling approach supports faster communication between both parties – in other words, sellers can interact with more prospects in less time.

 

The modern virtual selling landscape: what to expect in 2022

It’s been two years since remote work became standard practice among all kinds of industries. But even though parts of society have returned to normal, it has been continually demonstrated that remote work is here to stay. 

And with that revelation has come a much broader acceptance of virtual selling. While the perks of virtual selling are vast and wide-reaching, some of its appeal undoubtedly lies in its ability to extend sales coverage beyond the limitations of territories and time zones.

A comprehensive, global survey from Bain & Company found that “92% of B2B buyers prefer virtual sales interactions”, while 79% of sellers now realize the effectiveness of a virtual selling framework.

From another angle, roughly 70–80% of B2B decision-makers “prefer remote interactions or digital-self service” over in-person engagement. And if you still need convincing that virtual selling has really taken root, consider this report from Salesforce, which revealed 47% of salespeople believe “most selling will be done virtually moving forward”.

These predictions feel pretty accurate (if not a bit modest), as it’s become increasingly clear that virtual selling will continue to evolve and expand throughout 2022 and well into the future. The trick, then, will be figuring out how to balance virtual and in-person sales enablement so they can exist in harmony with one another.

 

Enabling reps to succeed in this hybrid world will require leaders to remain agile and flexible in the face of change.

Practically speaking, this means supporting a more integrated approach to onboarding, training and coaching, and building a sales playbook that can be adapted to both types of selling environments. If reps are equipped to grow right along with the buyer experience, then they have a much better chance of meeting customers exactly where they are.

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Virtual selling tips to help you succeed from 8 leading companies

Even if you recognize the many benefits of virtual selling, you might still feel overwhelmed about how to make this permanent shift in your own sales team or how you might succeed in your current virtual selling efforts. The following virtual selling tips will set your reps up for success and provide your customers with a memorable (and meaningful) experience.

 

1. Build up your toolkit with the right virtual sales tools

According to a recent study from McKinsey, outperforming B2Bs are those who “interact and sell digitally, in line with developing customer expectations”.

In fact, “42% of outperformers generate more than half their revenue through digital channels”, emphasizing the importance of digital, omnichannel touch-points versus in-person interactions. Put simply, the most influential companies go where their customers are – and today’s customers are predominantly online.

But to reach these prospects and ensure a positive virtual selling experience, your sales team needs access to a robust toolkit. These tools include things like video, audio and presentation accessories (i.e., cameras, microphones and lighting), as well as fundamental software components like webforms and chatbots to deliver round-the-clock customer support.

 

2. Curate content packages that allow reps to individualize the sales journey for each prospect

The customer journey is often as diverse and complex as your customers themselves, and yet, you need to engage with each prospect on an individual level.

As McKinsey has discovered, modern consumers are looking for a distinct buying experience with “products, offers, and communications that are uniquely relevant to them”. Moreover, when personalization is well-executed, it “allows retailers to do more than merely survive: it enables them to thrive”.

That’s why curating individualized content is so fundamental to virtual selling. One of the best ways your team can customize their sales content is with the help of content automation software. Automation platforms can not only aggregate content from multiple sources, but they can also tailor messaging to the specific audiences or customer segments you want to reach.

 

3. Streamline your sales process with a sales enablement tool

One of the primary advantages of sales enablement tools is their ability to expand reps’ bandwidth via automated planning, content selection and CRM reporting.

Also, as described by LinkedIn’s Tequia Burt, Editor in Chief, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions in her blog, “sales enablement tools are laser-focused on providing sellers with relevant content to share, instantly. They combine elements like business intelligence, content analytics, sales CRM, and sales analytics that help sales teams win by delivering information that hits home”.

Organizations that utilize sales enablement tools “can free up 10–30% of sales time for engaging customers”, simply because automations eliminate engagement obstacles and labor-intensive tasks. These tools streamline your virtual sales process by making sure reps stay on message throughout the content pipeline, and by tracking how buyers are interacting with said content.

 

4. Incorporate advanced analytics and sales AI

Guided, algorithmic selling uses artificial intelligence and sales data to enhance customer engagement and automate sales actions within the buying process. Essentially, advanced analytics and sales AI help to maximize seller time and effectiveness by qualifying opportunities according to buyer intent. Additionally, sales AI can also help reps in prioritizing customer accounts and recommending the right content (with the best chance of success).

Leonard Lodish, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business, had this to say about the role of sales AI in virtual selling: “It’s clear AI works in sales. The trick has been to get sales and marketing leaders to try it and see it through to successful long-term value creation.” Lodish also remarked “the shift to virtual selling models will actually accelerate adoption of sales AI”, indicating a symbiotic relationship will likely only grow in significance and impact.

 

5. Leverage channel-ready content to keep customers engaged

Within the context of customer engagement, your sales team are the people steering the ship – meaning it’s their responsibility to hold the customer’s attention and keep them engaged on virtual calls. Unfortunately, there are any number of distractions that can cause people to drift off during a virtual meeting, making it difficult to get the conversation flowing. For that reason, reps are strongly encouraged to use channel-ready content as much as possible.

 

To address the needs of modern buyers, sellers have to leverage digital communication channels like virtual, video and collaborative platforms. 

For example, your team might use personalized video or Augmented Reality (AR) content to provide a premium (and truly immersive) experience. Using these advanced technologies allows companies to deliver insights and information in mere minutes, something that might have taken days or weeks with a traditional selling approach.

 

6. Align virtual coverage with customer expectations

In conventional selling environments, sales reps and product specialists worked together to promote big-ticket items and/or pitch to enterprise clients.

These days, however, most companies reserve in-person rollouts for the occasions a customer requests them. Instead, they have shifted toward virtual sales tactics that make the entire sales process more nimble and cost-effective. A reported 74% of CSOs told Gartner “they have recently or are currently updating their seller skills profile for virtual selling”.

With that said, sales teams need to make sure their virtual coverage is aligned with customers' increasingly high expectations. This means reviewing current buying realities and developing sales enablement strategies that don’t assume what works for in-person meetings will translate to virtual settings. By getting aligned with buyer expectations for informative and collaborative online engagement, your virtual selling approach will likely result in many more closed deals.

 

7. Integrate prescriptive sales plays

Prescriptive sales plays can help sales teams adapt to different circumstances and reach their full selling potential. That’s because sales plays outline how reps should build relationships with their customers. In essence, virtual sales plays orchestrate all sales collateral from content and messaging to defining KPIs and creating a baseline for evaluation. What’s more, sales plays can also expand the potential deals in your pipeline to drive conversions and grow revenue.

Bain & Company’s research suggests that while many brands believe they are running effective sales plays, they’re not reaping as many benefits as they should be. A compelling virtual sales play might look like a cross-sell that could “target customers who have a specific product configuration with a managed-service offering”. The more precise you make the play, the more success you’re bound to see across the board.

 

8. Use digital sales rooms to support virtual selling

The beauty of digital sales rooms is that they support human-to-human sales engagement, but in a totally virtual environment. In this modern approach to a buyer-seller relationship, sales reps act as concierge while buyers are privy to a secure, personalized and centralized experience. More specifically, buyers are welcomed into the sales room with a personal greeting before being ushered into a comprehensive presentation that’s tailored to their exact needs.

Digital sales rooms not only increase efficiency throughout the sales cycle, they also incorporate a human touch – but without the hassle of organizing and executing face-to-face meetings. This type of selling environment has become so influential that Gartner predicts by 2026, “30% of B2B sales cycles will be managed through digital sales rooms, which will then be used to manage the customer life cycle”.

 

Virtual sales FAQs

How do you sell in a virtual environment?

To effectively sell in a virtual environment, you’ll need to invest in the proper video, audio and presentation accessories (i.e., cameras, microphones and lighting) to host an online meeting. You’d also be wise to incorporate personalized content, prescriptive sales plays and a reliable sales enablement tool that supports automated planning and CRM reporting.

 

How do you succeed in virtual sales?

If you want to succeed in virtual sales, be sure to build a virtual selling toolkit, leverage channel-ready content and align your virtual coverage with customer expectations. One of the best ways to guarantee success is by integrating a sales enablement software that combines elements like business intelligence, content analytics and sales CRM to help reps close more deals.

 

Why is virtual selling important?

Virtual selling is important for a number of reasons, namely because it facilitates faster communication between sellers and prospects. This lends itself to increased productivity, lower overhead and a better experience overall. Virtual selling also overcomes geographical boundaries and time constraints so reps can engage with more clients in fewer hours.

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