As a result, many large organizations, such as Pfizer, Twitter and Cisco, have issued policies requiring all customer-facing employees to work at home, at least until the current crisis has passed. While 70 percent of the global workforce has been working from home at least one day per week for the last several years, according to one worldwide study, the current conditions have now made nearly every sales professional a full-time remote telecommuter.
For many salespeople, working entirely via telephone and web conferencing tools is an entirely new experience. The ability to sell virtually requires different skills and attitudes than those required for traditional face-to-face interactions with buyers. For those not used to engaging with customers in person, suddenly being required to relate to people virtually can be a jarring transition.
There are three principles for selling virtually that salespeople must keep in mind, in order to succeed in today’s challenging environment.
- First, virtual selling requires a higher degree of preparation than traditional, face-to-face buyer engagement: Selling while “on camera” in web collaboration applications requires more forethought than when meeting customers at their place of business. Taking the time to prepare a professional atmosphere and project a high level of competence with communication technology greatly enhances the quality of experience for that customer, and thereby helps to differentiate the value of that salesperson.
- Next, virtual selling requires higher communication skills: To engender trust and confidence in customers when selling virtually, sellers must know how to make a personal connection in an impersonal medium. Online communications provide customers with too many options to become distracted from the key messages that sellers need to convey. Sellers who convey a strong sense of presence, even though they are speaking remotely, greatly reduce or eliminate this kind of distraction.
- Finally, virtual selling requires higher meeting facilitation skills: Engaging effectively in a virtual communications medium requires salespeople to structure their calls more formally and succinctly, breaking the meeting into three distinct parts: an effective opening, a strong meeting body, and a useful closing and commitment.
While the current pandemic has forced most salespeople to engage with customers virtually, it is likely that virtual selling skills will become required for “the new normal”, even after the virus subsides and economies begin to return to normal. Online communications and virtual interactions were on the rise for salespeople before the current crisis. The present conditions simply emphasize the many advantages of virtual engagement for wider audiences of both sellers and buyers. It is almost certain that virtual selling skills shall remain important henceforth for a much larger number of sales professionals.