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Virtual Sales: How to Survive – And Thrive – Despite the Coronavirus

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This article was contributed to by Stefanie Boyer.

Work is increasingly being done remotely – especially now during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As business networking events, prominent conferences and meetings across the country and around the world continue to get canceled or moved remotely, an obvious gap will emerge between those who have worked in this environment before and those who have not; those who have prepared for virtual sales meetings and those who have not.

Due to the number of face-to-face meetings, tradeshows and conferences being canceled, smart business-to-business (B2B) organizations are reinvesting their event, sponsorship and travel budgets into areas like digital marketing as a way to generate new leads and sales activity. Again, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Those who are prepared to lead virtual sales efforts will thrive while those unfamiliar with remote or digital-based selling will struggle.

Preparing For the Future

Last year, RNMKRS (www.rnmkrs.org), a gamified sales training app, held their first-ever virtual sales competition. Over 1,500 students from 40 colleges and universities, from New England to California, participated. For their spring competition, held last month, RNMKRS drew in over 2,000 students from over 50 colleges and universities, from as far away as Hawaii, Brazil and India. The app, which has students speak to an artificially intelligent customer bot who listens, adapts and responds, adjusts to players in real-time while also providing critical feedback. The app scores students based on how they:

  • Develop rapport,
  • Discover the needs of the person, or the AI avatar, they are selling to,
  • Present their product or solution,
  • Overcome objections, and
  • Close the sale.

While designed for real-world application anyways, these critical virtual sales lessons have arguably never been more important.

Combining our collective years of experience, both as a sales professional and company CEO and as one of the founders of RNMKRS and a respected professor in the art of teaching sales and marketing, below we have put together four sales tips for organizations looking to manage and maintain their sales pipeline during the coronavirus quarantine (and beyond).

  1. Focus on listening. It’s always the right time to connect with people on a personal level, now, however, more than ever. Developing rapport means listening – really listening – to people. Baked into the personal and professional stories you will listen to will undoubtedly be a need you can help fulfill – but don’t go in for the hard sell straight away. Connect person-to-person. The world needs a little more humanity right now. And remember, everyone has a lot going on, so it will be important to put in the time and necessary follow-up. Some sales cycles may get sped up because of urgent needs while others may become elongated. Be prepared to react accordingly.
  2. Classify your leads. Now has also never been a better time to organize your sales process and revisit how your organization is classifying leads. For some, this activity might be a complete overhaul. For others, it might be more about finetuning and validating. Either way, this is a good activity to tackle, especially as everyone gets transitioned and up and running from home. There are a multitude of ways a lead can be classified, and ultimately it will come down to your sales cycle and process. For instance, will you classify your leads based on the level of the opportunity or perhaps by the industry or vertical the lead is coming from? Now is the time to really give this some thought.
  3. Create timely solutions. The business world is in an interesting conundrum; as some industries look to scale and keep up with demand stemming from the coronavirus, others are downsizing, restructuring and facing major layoffs. Knowing your audience and what is going on with their business and their industry is paramount. More than that, however, is the need to customize solutions based on what is going on right now. For LABUR (labur.com), a workforce solutions provider specializing in digital transformation through advisory services, niche staff augmentation and executive search, tailoring solutions has meant completely digitizing recruiting and hiring efforts on behalf of client companies and addressing business and technology transformation needs stemming as a result of the virus. Be mindful, be timely and be flexible. Now is the time to create products and services that people need. Everything else will fall by the wayside and be forgotten given the current business climate.
  4. Get creative. Sales pitches and other presentations that may have otherwise taken place in person are now happening over a host of technology platforms. Get creative in how you share updates and information. Instead of a guided tour of the office, for instance, some employers hiring during the coronavirus are opting for virtual tours, showing videos of the company and providing live commentary. For presentations typically given in person, this might mean digitizing sales decks and accounting for the new level of interactivity.

In many ways, this new virtual working environment, like the RNMKRS app, will eliminate unconscious bias and level the playing field for sales professionals around the world.

How will your organization adapt and perform?