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Key considerations when making the transition to online selling

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Maxx-Studio)

Sales is widely regarded as a particularly challenging profession, not least amidst a global pandemic. Now that a salesperson and a buyer can no longer meet in person, it has become increasingly complicated. It has resulted in the rulebook being changed and, in many cases, a re-evaluation of how to best perform the job.  

Salespeople are having significantly reduced face time with their prospects as their teams continue to adapt to the new way of doing business. Emails, calls and chats on the phone are now becoming the main forms of communication. This can result in sales leaders having less visibility into their team’s progress. It is crucial this doesn’t impact ongoing interactions with prospects or the team’s productivity as a whole.

But amidst these challenges, remote work or a hybrid working environment has become the new normal and something we all have to adapt to. A recent study by Freshworks has found that sales teams across a number of sectors have been forced to make dramatic changes to the way they operate in recent months, and many have increased their investment in technology to do this. According to the research, 87 per cent of sales leaders are hosting regular virtual meetings and 55 per cent are focusing on sales enablement and digital training sessions to keep their teams engaged and productivity levels up. The study found that as a result of this increased investment, sales leaders in the UK are confident their teams could move to a more permanent remote selling scenario with nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) ready to make the switch.

Many companies are therefore looking to implement the best strategy to permanently transition to remote selling. So, what are the most important factors business leaders should consider when executing this strategy?

Choose your tools wisely

The right remote working tools are necessary to boost productivity. For example, an inefficient chat software that does not maintain threads can result in decreased visibility into a sales team’s work. In many cases, evaluations are required to see what is contributing to the cluttering of their team’s work. If a troubling area is identified, time must be taken to evaluate what each software offers. This includes asking key questions such as how it solves problems and whether it is easy to use and incorporate.

A classic example of this is Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It can often be misperceived as a ‘data dumping’ software and its importance is often overlooked. However, now more than ever it is vital to assist with the handling of various ongoing deals from different clients and prospects.

A CRM system keeps everyone on the same page by providing context on every deal, prospect and customer.

It affords every salesperson the opportunity to remain updated on the intricacies of each deal. Sales teams across the UK are recognizing its importance, with 68 per cent of sales teams using this time to focus on getting more in-depth insights from their CRM systems.

Proving the value of your business

During such uncertain times, with lockdown rising and dropping in different areas of the country, companies have been forced to adopt remote working in order to keep functioning. The adaptation period is not seamless in many cases so sales teams should be looking to educate customers about the solutions on offer and to provide them with the support required.

As a result, sales teams must look to prioritize reaching out to their potential customers and provide evidence of how they can help them overcome the challenges faced this year. It is also vital to talk to current customers, understand how they are handling the situation, and use this information to suggest ideas and best practices to prospects.

For example, some companies might have been forced into a change to their messaging during these trying times. It is the responsibility of effective sales teams to adapt to this, recognize why a prospect has been forced into this action and not waste the valuable time of their prospects.

Avoid mundane communication with prospects

The current global working climate dictates that gaining a prospect’s attention and getting them to open sales emails is a much more challenging task. A core element of the sales process is the personal connection built between sales teams and their prospects and customers. A phone call or a video meeting is able to express or establish far more about an offer than any regular email.

Whether it be just a sales email or a call, prospects need to know who they are responding to. A video meeting is able to give that human interaction that many of us are lacking right now and provides some semblance of normality.

Similarly, creating and sharing videos while prospecting on social media makes it engaging and easier for prospects to consume content. It also puts a character to the salesperson they are engaging with.

Remote selling is here to stay

While some of the strictest lockdown measures are starting to ease, many businesses that can work remotely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Sales executives typically rely on relationships built through face-to-face communication and networking to close deals. However, the encouraging statistics from our study indicate sales leaders are adapting their approach to the current climate, to enable remote selling and set their teams up for growth in the short and mid-term.

The pandemic represents an opportunity for sales teams to make the permanent transition to remote selling. By creatively communicating with prospects, making the increased value of their business evident and incorporating the right set of tools, the transition can be largely seamless.

Simon Johnson, General Manager UK&I, Freshworks