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New sales technologies for our newly remote realities

communication technology
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

In the UK, there was a brief return to something of the ‘normal’ working life of before, with many heading back into the office. However, amidst recent Government guidance advising for people to work from home again, it’s clear that a digital working reality is here to stay. But what does that mean for those departments reliant on meetings and face-to-face interactions, such as sales?

Having made the first adjustments to working from home: shifting to virtual selling, how then can the likes of sales, marketing and other customer-facing roles ensure they are still providing a compelling buyer experience?

Sales’ digital initiation

The sales industry had already made notable steps forward when it comes to digital customer engagement. But thanks to the global pandemic and the rise of remote work, the stakes just got higher. Sellers can no longer rely on face-to-face interactions to establish and build connections and it can be more difficult to build that same rapport over a video call.

So, how can sellers stand out? Here, technology needs to be leveraged to their advantage, finding ways to get out of the monotony of the endless video calls and emails. Technologies like digital sales rooms, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are now emerging to help sellers more effectively engage buyers, helping sellers to differentiate themselves and more effectively communicate value.

As we transition into a more digitally driven future, now is the time for sales leaders to carefully consider which sales technologies could create the greatest impact for their teams. For some organizations, the use of a digital sales room to share materials and collaborate in real-time with customers may be perfect for their needs. And in other industries - specifically, manufacturing, construction, and medical devices - where there is a physical product to show, VR and AR can really come to the fore.

VR and AR – The new sales frontier?

As we all know, selling hasn’t gotten easier. With more decisions being made by committee, it is critical for new sales tools to support sellers in dealing with multiple customer stakeholders, helping with ‘collaborative’ rather than ‘hard’ selling.

Sellers and other customer-facing roles can use VR and AR as a tool to convey key information more effectively, in a visually immersive way. VR and AR help build buyer confidence by showing the customer products in context of their real-life environment or in a similar space. These tools can even allow buyers to virtually interact with the product and enables sellers to highlight specific features in an engaging and personalized experience.

Take Accuray, a manufacturer of cancer treatment hardware, for example. Accuray uses an augmented reality sales tool to show off its two large products and do away with the need to physically bring them to a tradeshow. With the flexibility of the AR system, any interested prospects can view the demonstration multiple times, even taking a huge robotic arm back to their own home (virtually of course). Particularly in the fields of medical devices, where lab or hospital visits are difficult and come with a multitude of health and safety concerns for all involved (in some cases it simply may not be possible), being able to still physically demonstrate how equipment operates and would function in that environment is more critical than before.

In some cases, the use of VR provides an opportunity hitherto not possible. Take the company Hekatron Branschutz, a market leader in fire and security products. Its ELBA laboratory is normally out of bounds for customers but can be explored and experienced through its VR 360 tour to give an overview of the company’s products and processes – whilst also adhering to safety and company protocols.

Digital sales rooms

Another technology that has come to the fore amidst this pandemic is the digital sales room. A term coined by Gartner, these digital sales rooms provide a space for buyers and sellers to collaborate and communicate throughout the lifecycle of a deal.

Today, most digital sales rooms exist as brandable microsites that allow sellers and buyers to share content and collaborate on a deal. This serves to help sellers take deal communications out of email, a channel that has been overflooded long before the pandemic, and easily collaborate with multiple decision makers. Sellers can guide buyers through files, adding content and context throughout the buying process. And better yet, these digital spaces also provide sellers with analytics on how the content is being used and engaged with, which is key when a sales cycle includes a large number of stakeholders.

Life sciences software company, MasterControl, for example, was struggling with collaborating and effectively communicating with customers, further hindered by the content it could share on email due to restrictions on the number and size of attachments. With the use of a digital sales room, its sellers can now create a shared space, specifically tailored to customers, to collaborate in real-time through comments and share collateral. The content tracking and analytics also provides valuable content performance insights to continue to improve content strategy and development.

A note of caution

Like any technology – no matter how simple or sophisticated – it's only valuable if you can measure its value. Whether you are looking to create a digital sales room to act as a hub for your sales conversations and a shared collaboration space, or taking it a step further, incorporating VR or AR tools, it is crucial to objectively evaluate how often these are used, the feedback from users and the wider impact.

Make sure that any tool you use has built-in tracking – this will also enable salespeople to see when customers are engaging, and what elements they are engaging with the most. This is most easily done when you utilize these tools alongside a sales enablement platform that can measure this engagement. As a result, the next time a seller talks to that customer, they know what they are interested in, what their focus and priorities are and can accordingly demonstrate how their product can respond to those needs, offering relevant further information and details. This all shows their overall deep understanding of that customer and helps them to further stand out.

There are also two further factors to take into account. Firstly, ensure that the tools you use work for their intended purpose – they must be flexible enough to demonstrate products to different audiences, encourage greater engagement and collaboration and can be evaluated with the use of analytics. Secondly, it is important to recognize the need for internal training to make sure your sellers are getting the most out of these tools and enhancing the customer experience.

 As the pandemic continues and how we work digitally continues to evolve – as do the expectations from businesses and customers – the likes of digital sales rooms, VR and AR will likely become an increasingly integral and day-to-day part of sales’ tech portfolio to create a digitally engaging experience at a distance. Yet, the use of these technologies for sales and other customer-facing roles is still in its infancy and there may be a few bumps along the road as businesses add more features and functionalities to better respond to customers’ needs and better create those engaging, collaborative buyer experiences.

Jim Preston VP EMEA Sales, Showpad

Jim Preston is the Vice President of EMEA Sales at Showpad, the global sales enablement technology leader. He has more than 15 years of experience in business development, leading teams and growing top global SaaS companies including Salesforce, Pitney Bowes and Neopost.