This article focuses on how business to business (B2B) sales appointments have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. It covers what virtual selling is, how things developed pre-and post-pandemic, and lists main challenges with tips on how to tackle them. We also touch upon the concept of virtual shopping.
With people staying home due to Covid-19 quarantines and business travel limited or suspended, virtual selling has become the way to go to reach clients all over the world.
Have you perfected your remote selling appointments your buyers actually engage with?
As a freelancer, two of the most important aspects to think about when conducting remote selling calls are the structure of your meetings and the tools you use. Let’s have a look at how to adapt your approach and processes to set you up for success and sell to your clients efficiently also over a video call.
In this article, we will investigate the benefits and downsides of virtual selling and how to tackle these new challenges.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed remote communication?
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the sales appointments were conducted face-to-face. In 2017, in-person selling appointments made up over 70% of the sales force, research by Xant suggests. People were accustomed to it.
Traveling to the client seemed like a must to discuss the most important topics and go through the sales catalog. Conducting an appointment where you couldn’t actually see the physical product was deemed rather difficult, if not impossible. But at the onset of the global pandemic, things changed.
In 2020, 58% of sales leaders expected the workforce to keep operating virtually until the end of 2021, compared to 24% prior to the pandemic, found research by Gartner. People are now used to seeing products through product demo videos and are open to the convenience of video calls. This is predicted to continue long-term.
This shift can be noticed in every industry from shopping to healthcare. E-commerce platforms like Shopify offer apps that have made it much easier for retailers and independent Shopify sellers to offer virtual video consultations and easy appointment scheduling. Even healthcare professionals like surgeons are using virtual consultations as part of their plastic surgery marketing strategies.
Did you know? Chatbots have dramatically helped businesses during the pandemic. Moreover, it changed the whole sketch of remote and urban working along with virtual selling
What is virtual selling?
Virtual selling or remote selling is simply where sales meetings that are traditionally held in-person are conducted over a video call leveraging tools like Zoom. This includes communication with new prospects as well as existing customers.
Remote selling is a cluster of business processes combined with technologies, where sales professionals communicate and engage with their customers or buyers remotely. Video sales meetings have become increasingly popular and way more common than before, due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
As with everything, virtual meetings come with their own pros and cons. For a sales professional holding a virtual sales meeting isn’t always easy. It requires a clear structure.
For example, it is harder to create the same connection, as it is more difficult to read the body language. The screen can act as a disconnector so it is crucial to be organized.
Difference between virtual selling and virtual shopping
Virtual selling is where a sales person communicates with their client or customer through a virtual meeting. It includes business-to-business (B2B) processes.
Virtual shopping or virtual shopping experience is a direct-to-consumer (D2C) process. It is where sales professionals communicate and consult directly with retail customers over a video call in order to personalize their online shopping experience.
Virtual shopping, similarly to virtual selling, has become more prevalent in response to the coronavirus pandemic and helps to increase conversions, customer satisfaction rates as well as customer loyalty.
Main benefits of virtual selling
Virtual appointments compared to in-person ones can be more efficient in many ways, such as the cost of travel drastically decreasing. Or the fact that you can speak to your customers or new sales leads in a matter of minutes. Let’s look at some of the main benefits of remote sales appointments.
- Cost-efficient: save budget on travel and events
Travel costs can be a killer when going to face-to-face sales meetings, networking events, or trade shows. Doing these remotely can save both time and money.
Traditionally, virtual communication was thought to be a low-cost alternative but began to change already prior to the pandemic. However, now with remote and hybrid work models becoming popular, this way of thinking has changed drastically.
- Your buyers may prefer it
One research suggests that buyers have said to now even prefer virtual calls over in-person meetings. 80% of B2B buyers would rather interact with sales agents remotely, according to McKinsey. Advancements in technology and the shift in people’s mindsets have hugely contributed to this change.
With wider access to remote work tools and new digital solutions, complex buying can now be conducted over a video call. The fact that people were forced to hold buying meetings remotely, meant that buyers perhaps realized that it is more viable than originally perceived.
- Time-efficient: close more deals faster
The fact that you don’t have to wait to travel to the customer or client and can schedule a meeting at a short notice can allow you to have more meetings with more customers. And in turn, close more deals.
Instead of seeing one client a day, you can now freely speak to three new prospects as well, leading to more sales opportunities.
This is especially the case when selling intangible products that are both hosted and accessed on the web. In SaaS sales, for example, your prospects don’t even need to install any applications. The product is immediately accessible.
- Easy to reschedule
Cancellations can be a headache. Managing selling meetings via a video call makes rescheduling much easier than before, both for you as well as for your client. This means there are no more missed appointments. What is more, less money spent overall on travel arrangement cancellations?
Main challenges of virtual selling
But trying to close sales without physically being there can come with several challenges.
Have you thought about whether your results are still maximized or are they decreasing? Have you thought about whether your virtual selling meetings are efficient in terms of their structure? Are your buyers and clients really engaged in the conversation?
Let’s go through the drawbacks of virtual communication and how to mitigate them.
- Failure to adopt new approaches and processes
In-person selling can differ from virtual in quite a few ways. The main aspects to think about are which tools to use (e.g. Zoom for video calls or MeetFox for remote appointment scheduling), how to structure the meeting, and how to make sure that the buyers feel both comfortable as well as engaged during the meetings.
The sooner you work on your processes and the leaner you make them, the sooner you can reap the benefits of higher productivity and therefore higher sales numbers.
Establishing structure during remote appointments is crucial. Bain & Company reported a mismatch between how virtual selling efficiency is perceived. People seem to assume remote communication is better for the results, with 88% of the executives expected improvement in win rates, whereas the actually reported improvement was 45%.
- Harder to building a strong customer relationship
A recent survey by Blue Ridge Partners into virtual selling asked 622 sales reps about how they have adapted to the new ways of working. The results showed one of the main obstacles being developing closer relationships with customers. And this can in turn decrease the sales rates.
Establishing a rapport can be rather difficult when communicating over the screen. Everything from hand gestures to how the person is sitting or moving can indicate how they feel and signal to you how to adapt your behavior to theirs.
- Low buyer and client engagement
Research into virtual selling shows that buyers remember a mere 10% of the conversation 48 hours after the call. What is more, over the course of 2020, a new term “Zoom fatigue” became prevalent. And it is a real thing.
Several people experienced disengagement from looking at the screen all day long. Therefore, it is extremely important to make your meetings as structured as possible and make sure to take enough breaks. For the self-employed, it has proven to have an effect on the quality of sleep and creative thinking, a survey by Eachnight has found.
The structure will help to avoid any unnecessary communication and focus on the most important discussion points. Freelancers who didn’t receive the recommended amount of sleep per night were 76% more likely to experience heightened levels of stress, research into Remote Work and Rest shows.
- Technology issues
Virtual selling is heavily reliant on a good wifi connection and the hope that technology won’t let you down. Any connection disruption can cause distractions during the meetings, to the point where the whole appointment has to be rescheduled.
So, be prepared to face these issues and also fix the anticipated problems. What is more, be prepared to reschedule and have an action plan ready to do so.
Techniques to improve virtual selling appointments
- Get organized and structure your meetings
Make sure to have a meeting strategy ready, know what to expect and what your customers might ask you. Virtual meetings have made everything more flexible, but have also increased the number of meetings in people’s calendars which adds to the stress levels, so staying structured is crucial.
Not to overrun with meetings or come away with zero results, be organized, prepared and have a clear structure in mind. Help your buyer to understand the differences between virtual and physical appointments and how you will manage your appointment.
Your buyer probably meets several other sellers, so it is crucial that they know what to expect. This will benefit both you as well as your buyer, alleviating any extra stress.
What is more, provide value right from the start, define clear goals and objectives so everyone would be on the same page from start to finish.
- Focus on relationship building and make it interactive
One of the most crucial aspects of any sales meeting is building relationships. And annoyingly this seems to be also one of the most challenging aspects of virtual selling. Therefore, it is important to make your buyers feel comfortable and keep a positive tone during the meeting.
What is more, make your virtual meetings interactive and engaging. Add some visuals to your sales presentation or implement breakout sessions. Calendly and its alternatives are good just for setting appointments, however visual collaboration tools like Mural can also help to keep the engagement and make your presentation more memorable and meaningful. You may also seek content writing assistance from SupremeDissertations if you don't want to waste time on this aspect but still want your meeting to be top-notch.
Keeping your communication consistent and following up on aspects that remain unclear can also help. Even sending a quick email, Facebook message or SMS message can warm remote relationships. Consider incorporating live chat technology on your website as well for even quicker and more efficient connections with your customers. Make notes during the meeting and send it to your buyers as a reminder, so it is easier for them to make the final decision.
Virtual selling is becoming the new norm and isn’t disappearing any time soon. New behaviors adapted during the pandemic seem to have stuck.
With buyers preferring digital meetings, it is more important than ever to adjust your processes and future-proof them. If you aren’t willing to adopt the new skills and techniques, you will only hurt yourself and risk sales results.
By knowing the main challenges, one can understand how to mitigate them and make sure to adjust and adapt accordingly.