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How CSO’s Can Set Up Sellers For Virtual Selling Success

This week, the Wall St. Journal proclaimed “Business Travel Won’t Be Taking Off Soon Amid Coronavirus.” In the article, numerous CEO’s remarked they intend to maintain a smaller travel budget, field fewer face-to-face sales calls and in general, continue leveraging the efficiencies of virtual selling for the foreseeable future, if not forever. This shouldn’t come as a surprise for readers of the Converse Digital blog, since we recently shared B2B research showing that 79% of companies surveyed felt exactly the same way. 

And that’s why it’s time for CEO’s and CSO’s to repurpose some of their T&E savings to provide their sellers with virtual sales training programs designed to make them virtual selling superstars. 

Skills Salespeople Need For Successful Virtual Selling

In a recent Modern Selling Podcast podcast, Mary Shea, a Forrester Principal Analyst, had much to say on the subject. Probably the most notable comment,  “I think sellers absolutely have to have competency, really strong skills and understand how do we engage effectively and with the right etiquette in all modalities…[ they] need the skills as a seller to engage across all of the different channels that are available: whether it’s chat, direct message, personal message, social, email, phone, screen share, whatever it may be.”

I couldn’t agree more. Credibility is still key.  Sellers should look the part and be able to fluidly navigate the new web conferencing tools and technologies. This means training to help them understand how to host better Zoom sales calls and meetings.

Whether that’s something simple like where to put the camera or how to light yourself, or something more complex like how to change the pace and style of your sales presentations and sales decks. The simple fact is, what has worked in a face-to-face world doesn’t necessarily translate into a virtual world. 

Again, quoting Mary,

“So, having really strong competencies in any channel where you’re gonna interact with a buyer is crucial. Now, at the end of the day, are you going to use each of those channels equally? You know what, probably not. And it could depend on what, kinda, stuff you sell, the deal cycle is, is it a higher velocity, is more enterprise, the type of territory you work in. And so, what channels you use really want to be defined by the buyer because it’s all about meeting and connecting where your buyers are

And now, as far as I know, all of your buyers are either digital or remote, right? And none of us are meeting up for coffee right now. So, those skills are so crucial. And I will say, I don’t think that they’re crucial just for a particular moment in time until we get better so to speak. I think that as we go through the social impact of this pandemic and economic downturn, that we will not be going back to anything that looks like the past, but will be carving out a new future for how we do business, how we interact, how we engage. 

And I think that digital remote is gonna be such a critical piece of that, that organizations really need to make sure their sellers have the right skills …the skills that you have to deliver an in-person meeting are a little bit different in a screen share or video. The different things you need to do to make the conversation memorable, to be engaging, to draw folks into the conversation, they are different skills. And so, those skills need to be honed and, sort of, brought to the forefront in a very different, kind of, engagement environment.”

Amen Mary. 

Salespeople Need To Help Self-Educating Buyers Complete Their Education

During her interview, I wanted to high-five (or whatever is Corona-appropriate sign of agreement is) Mary when she said,

“I think they [sellers] also need to understand how to be effective on a screen sharing platform. Some of those techniques and skills are really different. How to be an advisor and a guide rather than, sort of, pushing the sale. 

And so, the role of the seller is, sort of, less of sitting on one side of the table, but more so someone who’s gonna digitally run the halls with their buyer and gain alignment amongst a wide range of stakeholders… So, you’ve got to start to look at a firm that can help sellers acquire those types of skills.

Couldn’t agree more Mary.

In our sales training, we’ve always taught that the role of the salesperson is to help a self-educating buyer “complete their education” and to act more like a professor than a salesperson. And we think this brave new virtual selling world amplifies this truth since it’s so easy for a buyer to just leave the call and claim technical difficulty or dropped internet connection 😉 

I talked a lot about self-educating buyers in my book, The Invisible Sale, but again, don’t just take my word for it… here’s what my favorite Forrester Analyst had to say on the subject. 

“…because increasingly, you’re seeing buyers do more and more research on their own, they’re comfortable with self-direction, they’re going on to peer review sites like TrustRadius, or G2 Crowd, they access their personal networks. Now, millennials are a third of the U.S. workforce. 2025 they’ll be about 45% of the global workforce. These digital natives are very comfortable learning on their own…” 

She went on to say, “… because the buyer has changed so much, organizations need to go back and revisit their sales training strategies, … to really dig down and get a sense of whether or not that provider is providing the sellers, your sellers if you’re a [sales] leader, with the skills that they need to be successful in a digital first world…”

Do Your Sellers Have The Right Materials?

Sales may be the tip of the spear but if they’re not armed with compelling content presented professionally, putting that proverbial best foot forward, it’s gonna be a pretty dull spear. 

Tom Martin, President of Converse Digital

I think Mary tends to agree with me here. When asked about how buyers have changed, she said, “ …the business buyer is evolving so rapidly, so quickly because of their experiences in interacting with their favorite personal brands, the consumerization of that experience, as we all know. We’ve been talking about that for ages at Forrester and I’m sure everyone’s up to speed on that.”

I was especially moved by her comment on “consumeraziation of the experience” and the effect that is and will have on the B2B selling experience and buyer expectations.  Already recent research has shown that B2B buyers are beginning to favor self-directed buying vs dealing with salespeople. 

In her interview Mary spoke about “who’s gonna deliver in modern formats that my employee base is gonna care about…” which was in reference to sales training materials and programs. BUT, wouldn’t the same logic hold true in sales presentations themselves? 

Well designed sales materials, especially sales presentation decks, make your least experiences salespeople more effective. 

For instance, we recently completed a complete sales deck revamp for our client Sexton Biotechnologies as part of a complete brand launch program (new name, logo, brand story, standards, sales collateral, sales deck and website). 

One of the key changes we made was to how scientific information was presented. We systematically rebuilt over 100 scientific charts and graphs to apply strategic design principles that make it easier for the buyer to comprehend what’s being presented to them. 

Previously, a particular Sexton product might appear in multiple colors on charts and graphs depending on when a chart/graph was produced, which analytical program generated it, etc. But, in the new approach we built for them, that product is always the same color regardless of which of the over 100 charts or graphs it might appear within. 

But even better, and here is how you help less experienced salespeople ‘level up their game’ – when there is a particular piece of information on ANY chart of graph that the CEO or CSO wants highlighted, that item is ALWAYS in the same Sexton Orange. And nothing else in any of those 100+ charts and graphs is colored Sexton Orange. 

This way, when a younger, less experienced salesperson comes to any slide and sees that color, they know immediately, just talk about what’s in Sexton Orange. The rest of the information on the slide is just window dressing. 

This keeps presentations focused and efficient. 

In a virtual environment, where the seller can’t as easily judge the room and where the seller is routinely competing against 2nd screens, phones, iPads and a ton of other non-visible distractions (think virtual sales call), it’s imperative to ensure they are working with the very best, most compelling and visually interesting materials available. 

Do your sales teams have these kinds of strategically designed materials or are they just making their own Power Points for each sales call?

If you want to learn more about how we can help you solve that issue cost effectively, just click here to schedule a call with me.

Are Your Salespeople Getting The Right Training Today?

For that answer, let’s return to Mary’s research. According got her,

“many sales training firms, programs, methodologies haven’t changed a lot in the last 20 years.” Based on my research, I have to say I agree. So often companies are just re-skinning previous approaches.  But what are they really doing differently? More often than not, it’s just a different set of toolset, different set of tools, or vocabulary designed to solve the sales issue de jour.” 

In her own research Mary found, “… I’ve heard is some real disappointing feedback around staff that is training who are, you know, essentially, blue blazer, you know… And a lot of the interviews that I conducted were really disappointed that language didn’t relate to their employee set, that visuals were really dated and awkward, and that even in some cases, service providers were delivering bound notebooks at the end of the session. Like nobody wants that and it’s not good for the trees. So, you know, things of that nature are things that you need to think about.”

Bound notebooks??? Hello, 1987 called and it wants its sales training program back. 

So the question is, who is offering training utilizing visuals and audio and formats that relate to your sales teams?

Who is delivering virtual selling training that teaches salespeople how to leverage digital and virtual toolsets to prospect, nurture and close? But also, and maybe more importantly, who is showing salespeople how to adapt traditional face-to-face techniques like building rapport, questioning, managing objections, structuring a sales pitch, call management and understanding the customer need to today’s new virtual selling environment? 

The short answer – we, Converse Digital, are doing just that. 

Whether it’s a keynote, webinar, workshop or customized online course with or without supplemental sales coaching, we can design the perfect bespoke virtual selling training solution for your organization. 

Just Click Here to set up a time to chat with me. 

And if you feel like you know someone that would benefit from this post, please feel free to share it with them or with your social media followers. Nothing says “thanks for writing a great post” like a social or email share 😉 

The Invisible Sale

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 25+ year veteran of the sales & marketing industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and showing companies how to Sell Greatly, and turn conversations into customers. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital sales & marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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