Remote Selling Best Practices to Rebound from the Effects of COVID
Article Contributed by Jeremy Mendoza, Founder & CEO of AnnexQ
Sales, even on normal days, are challenging, and with the buyers confined to one place due to the pandemic spread, it has become more complicated. With the world experiencing dramatic change, remote selling is becoming the new normal.
However, it is difficult for a salesperson to close the deal with the prospects due to reduced face time. The communication between sales representatives and the prospects have been limited to calls, emails, and chats, leading to miscommunication.
With Covid-19 contingencies, buyers are avoiding face-to-face interaction with salespeople. Hence, the sellers are forced to sell remotely not by choice but to keep themselves in business. If you are a sales leader, you should be asking yourself: What steps and measures should I take to keep the field sales team productive and safe? What is the future of selling?
The answer to these questions may vary according to your industry. While some industries like hospitality, transportation, and real estate have been hit severely, some other industries like online training, teleconferencing, and Virtual Private Networks are gaining upturn in their businesses. At the same time, most companies have been experiencing a slump in demand.
To tackle the situation, sales leaders need to refocus, retool, and retrench (if necessary) to prepare for the rebound.
Understand and Adapt to Uncertainties
There is deep uncertainty in the minds of your prospects. To start refocusing, sales leaders need to acknowledge this state of uncertainty and acclimatize with flexibility. Once the team has moved beyond personal safety concerns, the business’s continuity will become the major focus.
By understanding the buyer’s psychology, you can engage with your potential customers effectively and sensitively. This will help your business stand apart from the competition.
Understand what customers want
Businesses need to reconsider what customers value most and what their role can be in delivering that value to the customers. In the industries that aren’t diminished, or are still in demand, the buyers will be seeking assistance from salespeople. Whereas, in immobilized industries, buyers will look for help from salespeople in revising the past orders, delivery schedules, and guidelines, and in developing contingency plans.
Even when the customers are willing to buy, sellers may not be capable of delivering the past promises. Dealing with repeat customers who are familiar with the company and the values it offers is easier.
If the customers are tech-savvy and prefer digital interaction over meeting in person, the outreach will be easier, requiring less assistance.
Change Your Messaging
Don’t use a regular sales pitch or ‘hard’ sales pitch. Change your messaging and pitch to match the situation. Express your regards and concerns to your prospects to show them that you care for them. This will help you build a strong relationship. Even if the prospects aren’t ready to make a sale with you immediately, they will remember the friendly mail and conversation with you and probably consider you later when they are ready to buy.
Don’t try cold calling; try to educate your prospects and see how you can help them. Find out how they are doing. Use this moment to build relationships with them for the future. If your prospects aren’t engaging with you, try to be empathetic. They might be going through a crisis. Give them the time and space they might need to recover. It also wouldn’t hurt to send a handwritten note in the mail.
Adjust the target audience
Adjust the target audience to industries that are currently working well. It may be worth avoiding industries like hospitality, restaurants, travel, etc. Consider instead targeting industries that cater to the current situation like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, tech organizations, etc.
If you can’t change your core industry, you can change the geographical locations to target areas or countries that are less impacted by Covid-19.
Use creative ways to communicate with your potential customers
With your potential customers confined to their homes, it isn’t easy to get their attention or have them reply to emails. You need to use the right techniques to enhance their experience:
~ Use Videos in emails: Building a strong relationship with your prospects is always an important part of the sales process. A regular email isn’t enough to establish the connection as in an in-person meeting. To bring the element of trust in your emails, your potential customers need to know who they are communicating with. You can add the human connection to your sales email by adding a video showing who you are and what you do. With fewer opportunities to meet your prospects in-person, videos can be a great way to connect.
~ Use videos in social selling: Create and share videos on social media platforms while engaging with your prospects. This will help them consume content easily while putting a character to a salesperson.
Grow your network
If your target audience isn’t in a position to get on call right now, focus on prospecting instead of selling. Connect and engage with your audience on social media by following them, commenting on their posts, and sharing useful content.
Now, it is time to help and not to sell. If you want to reach out to your prospects, share informational content, invite them to webinars, or email them to gain trust, without delivering a sales pitch.
Rethink Prospecting strategy
In normal situations, field sales reps would thrive outside the office. They would organize in-person meetings with the prospects, while the inside sales team focuses on meeting their target from the desk.
However, with remote selling, there is only one option; both these teams are forced to work from their desks. It is better to rethink the prospecting strategy. Implement the following into your sales strategy:
1. Focus on retaining current customers
2. Increase the duration of sales cadence
3. Understand the decision making process and challenges of your prospects
4. Understand and use the right channels and messaging working in this situation
Due to the social distancing mandate, even the field sales reps are forced to work remotely. They now depend greatly on emails, social selling, and online videos. To work efficiently, sales organizations need to use the right remote working tools to boost their productivity. Time properly spent can do more if you have the right tools in your quiver.
It is in your interest to learn and implement these tools effectively to utilize their right value. Here are some tools that can help businesses overcome the challenges in remote selling:
Often, the importance of CRM software is overlooked and is considered as a data dumping software. However, Customer Relationship Management software is beneficial, especially in remote selling. It can help you manage different ongoing deals from different prospects.
The software can provide context on every prospect, customer, and deal to help everyone on the team stay on the same page. Every sales rep can update and get updated on every prospect and deal.
While working remotely, a video call can be the best available option to discuss and create plans, get clarity on topics, and sort out heated discussions. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom are easy to use. These tools are widely used to handle meetings, even when you have a large number of participants.
Communication tools like Slack can ensure efficiency in communication while ensuring no nuances are lost during transit. With one-click calling to anyone on the team, the sales team can stay in touch with everyone. It also eliminates the chances of miscommunication. The channels feature of the tool ensures that no important information or team decision goes unnoticed. Use the tool to stay informed and connected while working remotely.
Paperwork and collaboration
When working remotely, you can’t walk over to your colleagues’ desk to get an important document. You will have to call them or chat with them, hoping that they have the required document handy. Heading over to others for an important document consumes a lot of time, reducing productivity.
To resolve this, you need to have a central hub containing important documents and templates. Confluence and Google Drive are two commonly used collaboration tools. By integrating these tools with your CRM software, you can make these documents easily accessible to your whole team.
Industries badly impacted by the pandemic, like travel and hospitality, have already laid off salespeople. It is speculated that many of these jobs might not even return in the future. Sales organizations that choose to downsize their sales team may need to redeploy field sales efforts to key sales activities while increasing the use of digital and inside sales channels. The rapidly falling sales revenue will constrain organizations’ ability to pay incentives to the sales reps.
However, retrenching is not the solution to the problem, rather it should be a last resort option. Laying off salespeople will likely lead to a further reduction in sales, and the organization may get in a vicious trap. Some companies are taking the courageous path to retain or pause the layoff process temporarily.
It is difficult to look beyond the critical steps required to answer the current freeze in the economy. However, the situation will eventually improve, and companies will get the opportunity to rebound. As companies bounce back from the situation, a few trends that were already affecting sales before the pandemic are likely to accelerate. Moreover, many changes that were implemented temporarily to improve remote selling will likely become permanent. Here are some changes that likely will become permanent even after the situation settles down:
More Digital Selling
Even before the Coved-19 crisis, most sales reps were already using digital channels to contact business customers. With the forced digital-only communication period, even the sales reps and buyers who were less familiar with technology have started to adapt to technology for communication. The virality of using digital channels is boosting the digital learning curve for sales reps and customers. These trends will most likely stay longer and help boost communication and sales.
Fewer Field Sales reps
In the recent few years, the rise in the number of jobs for both Customer Success Managers (CSMs) and inside salespeople has outpaced the number of jobs for field sales reps. This trend will continue to accelerate after the pandemic as the rebounding businesses will try to match sales efforts with the way customers prefer to buy. With more inside sales jobs, the cost of sales will be reduced, and the inside sales reps will align well with the informed tech-savvy customers. CSMs in the sales organization encourage retention and loyalty by assisting customers in realizing the value of their business. The number of jobs for CSMs increases as more and more companies expands their focus on growing sales from existing customers. Moreover, this will benefit well in the current complex environmental situation.
New Success profiles for field sales reps
With the shift moving towards digital selling and buying, customers are more informed, and they expect sales reps to add value beyond what their business website already offers. With the growing use of digital tools and analytics, field sales reps need more than interpersonal skills to convert sales. The success profiles of sales reps will transform into a tech-savvy team player who can collaborate with others.
More digital-savvy Sales Organization
With remote selling in the picture, every sales aspect will accelerate the digital path of innovation and value. Sales managers will be more comfortable in managing the team remotely. The companies’ sales teams will leverage technology in making sales recruiting, training, reporting, and other aspects more efficient.
Remember, making real and strong connections with your prospects and existing customers is more important than ever. It is only through leveraging these connections and utilizing the right tools, that one can begin to think of a successful rebound during this time of uncertainty.