The COVID 19 pandemic has brought with itself significant disruptions and changes in the B2B sales landscape.
A recent McKinsey survey of 3600 B2B decision makers, revealed:
· An increase in the preference for digital by 2X more than the traditional sales interactions
· 2X increase in the likelihood of choosing companies that provide exceptional digital experience
· 96% of B2B companies have moved to remote selling, and 64% believe the new model is just as effective or more than before
· 79% of the companies’ state that they are likely to sustain this model for at least 12 months post the pandemic
As the pandemic continues to unfold, business leaders especially in sales are faced with a dilemma- to focus on the short term or invest in strategic & long-term growth opportunities. Subscribing to the short-term perspective, some sales leaders have focused on recovering lost revenue & sales momentum by setting extraordinary & unrealistic targets for their frontline sales teams. This could prove to be demoralizing for the salesforce, who would focus only on quick & immediate wins and overlook hidden but potentially larger opportunities. Business recovery depends on building a resilient salesforce and therefore to thrive and succeed in this new normal, leaders will have to adopt the futuristic perspective and will have to work on reskilling their salesforce, more so their frontline salesforce.
Move towards Remote Selling
The sales representatives have long done their job the traditional way which enabled them to enjoy the benefits of face to face customer interactions. One of the major changes this year for sales leaders has been the movement to an effective remote selling model. With 96% of the companies adopting the model, how can sales leaders then ensure that their salesforce are able to connect and at the same time create effective client interactions. Re-writing the customer experience and the related sales process across different channels needs to be the priority for every sales leader. The most logical starting point could be to first look at a digital salesforce enablement initiative.
With traditional learning and development methods taking a backseat, digital learning has gained enormous momentum. COVID-19 has sped up the adoption of entirely digitized approaches to reproduce the best aspects of face to face learning through virtual training, gamification & microlearning. These changes have made it possible to enhance the learning experience in a more cost-effective manner and permitted greater personalization of learning and therefore greater effectiveness. However, virtual trainings are more challenging than face-to-face trainings especially when it comes to engaging the front line. People are prone to frequent distractions and even a small mistake can have an amplified impact. Sales trainings need to be concise, engaging and fit in the busy schedule of a sales rep. This is where Gamification & Microlearning employing mobile based learning can be more effective. Instead of taking the frontline salesforce through a five-day training program, we can provide shorter, focused, and spaced microlearning content that demands much less time. This could be a win-win, both for the upskilling investment done by the organization and the time invested by a sales rep. Microlearning aids in learning enablement through:
· Focused learning of microskills with the help of bite-sized information
· Quick application of the acquired skills
· Rapid authoring & completion of learning content
· Budget friendly content availability
According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, microlearning enables 17% faster transfer of knowledge from classroom to desk. It effortlessly blends within the flow of work making it faster than other mediums to develop a new skill and bring a behavioural change.
Gamification further introduces a fun factor which enhances sales representatives focus and motivation as they achieve scores. If done correctly, gamification can also mirror real world dynamics and build a habit among the frontline salesforce to develop better customer interfacing skills because of the underlying game-design or game mechanic.
As sales leaders hunker down on remote selling and look at new methodologies of sales enablement, here are five virtual selling competencies that can be developed through microlearning to ramp up salesforce performance and enable them to sell virtually.
1. Building Rapport
According to the Adobe Annual Digital Trends Report, 2020 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great digital customer experience, and for SaaS companies investing 3 years in customer experience can lead to a $1 Billion increase in revenue. Building trust and rapport with the client is the first step to achieving that. One of the problems that sellers may face during virtual interactions especially with respect to rapport formation is that less information is transmitted remotely, and people are more likely to be distracted and dis-engaged in the meeting. Therefore, in the first few minutes, salesperson should make the customer feel comfortable by being as personable as possible. The first thing to do is use video. According to a study by Zoom Communications, video created 82% more trust, as self-reported by survey respondents. Keeping the video on always sets a warmer tone for the entire process and creates better connection. Second important consideration while building rapport is to show the buyer that you have done your research by focusing the conversation on them. This best achieved by gathering information before the meeting. Discussing hobbies, bringing up important things you remember from past conversations not limiting them to business but including their personal interests as well
2. Active Listening
Building rapport and the consequent relationship building is intricately related to active listening. Listening to buyers is always important, however actively listening to customers is especially important when we must engage with them virtually. It requires the salesperson to ask engaging questions and follow up in ways that communicates understanding to the customer. This step enables helps the salesperson to effectively prioritise active buyers, move into the exploration mode when the buyer expresses an interest and to also adjust the sales process to the buyer’s timeline. Paraphrasing, asking relevant questions and confirming whether you have heard them correctly are all important for active listening. The following is an example of how you can employ active listening while addressing objection:
Prospect: I’m really concerned about plan X. I do not think it will work well for our team.
Salesperson: Got it. We certainly do not want to get you started if you are not clear on how you are going to be successful with the plan. Are there specific things about plan X that you do not think will work?
Prospect: Yes. I don’t think we have the people who can implement it.
Salesperson: Do you think that we could take out time for M so that she can learn how to do F?
Prospect: I think it is possible to teach M but is there a way that you could just do it for us.
Salesperson: That is outside of the scope we defined for our work but let us get back on this. We have done that for other clients and can help till you’ve identified a member to handle it for you.
By using feedback and asking relevant questions you have been able to clarify the buyer’s objection effectively.
3. Value Selling
According to CEB, 57% of the buyer’s decision is made before they even pick up the phone to speak with the sales team. This effectively means that even before the call the customer is aware of your business and products. Therefore, in that call the customer is expecting you to share something they are not aware of already. There are several ways in which a salesperson can achieve value selling, quantifying the product’s ROI allows you to give the buyer the information and to build confidence in the solution. Another method to enhance value selling is to train the salesforce in upselling and cross-selling so that they can expand the buyer’s choice and change their thinking. For instance, a customer who is happy with your Product X can be educated to buy a higher version of the same product by detailing the added benefits and features. This way instead of regurgitating information, the salesperson can provide value that they may not find elsewhere.
Virtual selling requires high level of preparedness when it comes to presenting and pitching to clients. The salesperson should begin with creating a professional atmosphere to communicate the same level of competence they could expect in an in-person setting. Following this with a proper structure for the call which is formal but at the same time succinct ensures that the client does not lose interest in the sales pitch. Integrate a strong narrative, build in both verbal and visual cues, and space your slides with pauses to enable the buyer to ask you questions. This requires developing necessary facilitation skills. Lastly, ensuring that the sellers can convey a strong sense of presence, even though they are speaking remotely, greatly reduces the probability of distraction. Understanding non-verbal cues of communication are equally important when presenting virtually.
To be able to build long-lasting customer relationships especially in these times require developing the competency of empathy. The salesforce and the sales leaders coaching them must be able to humanise the sales process more than they have in the past. Empathizing with the clients and their situations is crucial to effectively communicate with them without possibly hurting their sentiments. Staying silent when the buyer is talking and asking questions such as “How do you feel about this?”, “What are your thoughts?”, being emotionally aware enables the salesperson to personalize the selling process.
Gamification and Microlearning for Remote Selling
When time is precious, attention is limited, and tolerance is low - our best allies are creative, brief, and simple ways to deliver training. Recognizing the nuances of when and how the salesforce learns can enable you to personalize their learning experience and enable a more effective sales development. A data-driven approach to microlearning can further bridge the gap between your intuition and actual results about the sales team.
Master-O enables personalized microlearning that develops a learning habit among sales representatives to improve sales competencies & provide a better customer experience.
Looking for creative ways to upskill your sales reps so that they can engage your customers, reach out to us at [email protected]