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    How to maximize selling in a virtual environment

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    If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that almost anything can be done remotely if it has to be. But is complex b2b sales an outlier? Can you really do everything in a virtual selling environment that you can in-person? And can you do it well?

    I caught up with Dave Shaby, one of the authors of RAIN Group’s latest book, Virtual Selling, to get some answers. Here’s what he had to say about how to maximize selling in a virtual environment.

    Some salespeople are lost in a virtual environment and know it - and some are lost but don’t know it yet...

    I asked Shaby to talk to us about what he’s hearing from the hundreds of sales professionals he has worked with since the onset of the pandemic. He said that some salespeople are really excelling, but more are struggling. And, he says, not everyone realizes they’re struggling.

    “When I ask people how they’re doing with the virtual selling environment,” he says, “answers range from ‘I already know how to sell, so of course I can sell virtually,’ to ‘I feel lost and I don’t know where to begin.’”

    Understand who you need to be spending time with the most, and focus there.
    Dave Shaby

    He says that some of those who think they’re doing well now are not getting the results they used to. They may blame this on “the economy,” but Shaby says that those same salespeople could excel if they mastered the right techniques.

    Key virtual selling techniques salespeople must master

    1. Get the technical aspects right. It’s not enough to simply know how to use Zoom and share a Powerpoint virtually. Salespeople must master the art and science of showing up professionally in virtual settings. This means paying attention to what is in the background of the video, making sure the camera angle makes you look good (no up-the-nose shots!), checking sound quality, eliminating distracting background noise, and knowing how your presentation software interacts with your screen share. These may seem basic, but salespeople don’t automatically get them right.
    2. Manage the meeting effectively. “Time and space is different in a virtual setting,” says Shaby. People are more distracted, less engaged, and, frankly, tired of Zoom meetings. To combat this, salespeople must master new ways of managing meetings. He encourages them to have smaller meetings, with fewer stakeholders at a time. Be proactive about how the agenda will work to stay on point and maintain attention. Use people’s names so they feel engaged. And use technology to your advantage, incorporating polls, visuals, white boarding, chat, and other features to generate and maintain engagement.
    3. Create time and space for relationship building. More than any other aspect, this is where virtual selling is different than in-person. You’re not walking halls and sharing drinks. You have small windows of time and space in which to build relationships and get to know people. Salespeople must master the skill of creating opportunities to spend social time together. During meetings, check in and ask how participants are feeling, what they’re thinking. Ask key folks to stay after a few minutes and check in with them and how they’re doing. Try to get brief one-on-ones at regular intervals. And don’t assume that people like you just because you’re doing good work.

    Managers have to step up for virtual selling, too

    Managers are the critical multiplier for sales, and they have to adapt in order to manage for virtual selling. Shaby says there are two key factors they must be paying attention to:

    1. Understand that your team is managing their time differently now. They’re no longer driving from meeting to meeting, and they’re no longer standing around water coolers sharing information. It’s easy to grow stagnant and give up. Take the time to understand how they use their time in the virtual selling environment, and work with them to establish new rhythms that keep them moving forward.
    2. Don’t assume your salespeople know how to perform virtually. Get into video calls with them and have them practice their presentation. Introduce them to new ways of engaging their audiences. Spend some time in sales meetings talking about backgrounds, physical presentation, background noise, and other technical factors.

    How to grow accounts in a virtual setting

    Account planning and growth is different when you can’t spend time on the golf course, at networking events, or walking the halls with clients. Shaby wants salespeople and their leaders to understand this and adapt.

    1. You have to manufacture serendipity. Create opportunities for opportune moments to pop up. Lunch and learns, virtual coffees, and other events, for instance.
    2. Create space to create value. More than ever, you can’t just focus on the business at hand. You must be adding value to your client’s business with valuable conversations and consulting.
    3. Use your time wisely. You will save time by not driving from site to site, but it’s easy to let that time get sucked up with other things. Plus you must be doing more to maintain connections. Understand who you need to be spending time with the most, and focus there. The days of shot-gunning your approach at networking events and on the golf course are over for most of us, at least until partway into next year, so you must learn to focus.


    In Membrain, one of the ways that we help sales teams grow accounts is by providing a powerful visual that helps them see where their biggest opportunities for account growth are.



    In addition, our workflows help salespeople stay focused on the steps needed to progress each account, so they can manage their time wisely.

    Final thoughts

    Shaby leaves us with two final thoughts:

    1. In order to shine in virtual selling, you have to find new ways to hold people’s attention.
    2. More than ever, you have to be able to make the case for change in a compelling manner.

    The book, Virtual Selling, contains tactics for both of those points and much more. I highly recommend it.

    Now it’s your turn. What have been your most successful tips, tricks, and tactics for making the switch to virtual selling?

    George Brontén
    Published December 23, 2020
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn