Excerpted from the forthcoming book Next Era Selling by Anneke Seley and Britton Manasco.
Money is on the move. Large, established enterprises – the ones we refer to as “incumbents” – are seeking ways of going down market and expanding their sales coverage areas. Younger firms focused on high-growth – the ones we call “insurgents” – are looking to go up market. They want bigger, more strategic accounts – though they are wary of the expenses associated with traditional sales structures.
Whether your firm is an incumbent, insurgent or somewhere in between, there’s likely a growing sense that the status quo is unsafe and unsustainable. After all, this is the era of perpetual “disruption.” Even the disrupters – the innovators who’ve changed the game in their respective markets – are vulnerable to disruption over time. That is to be expected as we experience “the acceleration of everything.”
But what do these dynamics mean for sales strategists?
What’s clear is that business and sales leaders in all industries are intent on increasing returns on their sales investments. They’re actively scrutinizing sales revenue to sales expense ratios and, too often, they don’t like what they see. And even when sales expenses have been contained, there’s a recognition that the sophistication of their selling organizations – and revenue generation teams overall – must rise to new levels of sophistication.
This helps to explain why business and sales leaders are now confronting something we call the Virtual Selling Imperative. It’s a shift in selling strategy and practice that now requires a rethinking of mindset, skillset, and toolset. It’s about transcending geography and other boundaries to break through the Trust Barrier with your buyers. It’s about making the virtual truly personal.
Whether remote, digital, social or some mix, virtual selling is an increasingly prevalent way of engaging prospects and customers. And it’s not confined to an inside sales organization. Indeed, virtual selling is now infused into the work of high performing inside, outside, account, and channel sales teams. But practicing it in an exceptional way demands new thinking and new designs.
So what explains this rise of the remote and decline of distance? What are the drivers of change? What’s behind this Virtual Selling Imperative?
Here are three driving forces that make virtual selling increasingly attractive and pervasive:
- Buyers want it. When the stakes are high and deals are strategic, there are often many participants on a decision team. Bringing them all together for a face-to-face meeting is often extremely difficult, particularly if they are distributed geographically. When the stakes are lower and deals are more transactional, there is often little perceived value in a face-to-face meeting. Buyers simply find it more convenient and less taxing to conduct business in virtual space. Over the years, buyers have become progressively more comfortable doing business at a distance. While deal sizes, support needs, and other factors may create demand for on-site attention in some cases, it’s clear that buyers must now weigh those factors against the costs of conventional meetings.
- Sellers want it. Corporate leaders are taking a closer look at the overall cost of sales. With this in mind, they are seeking ways of reducing costs and increasing sales efficiencies. This motivation often encourages them to shift activity from a field sales organization to an inside sales organization. But it isn’t just about cutting costs. Companies are also seeking ways of increasing market coverage. They want to penetrate underserved markets; they also want to expand in existing accounts. Virtual and remote selling practices can facilitate these efforts. Finally, there’s an opportunity to experiment in new and unproven markets. Sales initiatives that otherwise would prove cost-prohibitive become possible through virtual selling.
- Advances in technology, process, and professionalism support it. What’s also apparent is the ongoing advancements and improvements associated with selling, communication, and collaboration technology. Every year, networks become more capacious, computing power more massive, and software more intelligent and supportive. Remote communication, as a result, becomes increasingly rich and vivid. We can exchange volumes of information and levels of insight through screen-to-screen interactions that we might struggle to convey in person. But it’s not just technology that enables these powerful interactions. Companies have made enormous strides in terms of supporting and enabling their sales professionals, providing ongoing coaching and data-driven feedback. When sales people spend a great deal of time plugged into a matrix of pulsing information flows, they tend to progress and learn at a far faster rate than sales people who operate in greater isolation – perpetually disoriented and disrupted by travel.
With all of these forces at work, the case for virtual selling becomes increasingly powerful.
That said, it’s worth recognizing that no one is arguing explicitly or on principle against virtual or remote selling. Indeed, some sales leaders and professionals might suggest there’s nothing new here. After all, most field salespeople already spend a great deal of time on the phone and engaged in various digital interactions. Why shake things up or suggest that a good shaking is needed?
It’s important to recognize at this point that this is largely an argument of degree, commitment, and investment. But differences of degree, as we see it, are now critical to success. In this executive briefing book, we offer actionable strategies that are delivering clear and visible results. Among them:
- Strategy #1 Front Office Fusion. By unifying and aligning the front office (sales, marketing, and customer service/success), companies are spanning silos that might have otherwise led to bad handoffs and poor service. Instead, professionals in these various roles are actively collaborating to deliver an exceptional customer experience every time.
- Strategy #2 Inside Upside. By raising the ceilings and lowering the walls that have previously confined inside sales organizations, firms have liberated them to expand their territories and coverage areas. They’ve raised quota sizes and average deal sizes – bringing new levels of respect, enthusiasm, and opportunity to professionals in these roles.
- Strategy #3 Outside Upside. By encouraging field or outside reps to take on increasingly strategic deals and accounts, companies are enabling reps to truly become consultants and trusted experts. They narrow their funnels, going deeper with fewer accounts while delegating transactional sales work to the inside sales team.
- Strategy #4 The Inside-Outside Alliance. By facilitating and encouraging collaboration between inside and outside sales teams, firms are expanding their market coverage and coordination while bringing new levels of professionalism to their existing and prospective customers.
- Strategy #5 Networked Specialization. As buyers seek more guidance and support in promising markets, firms are leveraging the expertise of specialists to address their needs. With an average of roughly five team members associated with every buying decision, the rapid and parallel deployment of specialists – in a highly virtual and distributed environment – meets the needs of decision stakeholders. Trusted experts can open up executive doors that otherwise might remain closed and solve complex problems that would otherwise go unsolved.
In this emerging era of virtual selling, you can pursue strategies that previously would have been cost prohibitive. You can open up markets that would have proved elusive. You can run experiments that would have been too expensive or difficult to run. You can engage buyers in compelling new ways, bringing guidance that moves them to act – and leads them to success.
In Next Era Selling, we draw on the experiences of recognized firms such as IBM, EMC, Oracle, ADP, SAP, and SalesForce.com, as well as high-flyers such as Curvature, HubSpot, ServiceNow, ZipRecruiter, TriNet, and Act-On Software to illustrate our key themes and arguments.
To enter the vanguard of next era performers, you’ll need to first clarify how to invest your limited sales resources for maximum returns. You’ll need to know why it matters to move from costly and conventional strategies to virtual selling strategies that make you unstoppable.
To obtain a free Special Excerpt from the forthcoming book, go to www.nexteraselling.com .