Actually, we’ve been in the remote selling game for years now, haven’t we? Globalization and the just-in-time world of client needs have made it quite common. But it’s the pandemic that’s turned virtual communication into a selling survival skill.
A survival skill indeed, as the challenges of remote communication are vast, especially in enterprise selling with teams of buyers and sellers facing off on the all-too-familiar checkerboard screens. Sales calls with major accounts are complicated enough but now virtual contact compounds the complexity greatly. The dependence on technology, constant distractions and the awkward nature of contact with few visual cues create obstacles to communication with remote enterprise buyers. At the end of the day, we’re selling through and to disconnected connections.
Lessons learned, of course, have been gained in our time of COVID, and lists of tips are readily available to help increase the likelihood of successful virtual communication, Review them all and take away what you can.
From my perspective, though, the most vital element of insuring effective virtual communication is fundamental pre-call planning. Yes, there it is – planning. And we all know that many of us in selling have a disdain for the topic. Of course, that’s not universally true of sales reps but even with all the technology we have to streamline the process, many still view more than cursory planning as a waste of time – they just don’t buy into it.
Of course, it wouldn’t surprise you to hear that studies show pre-call planning increases the likelihood of call success. Articles cite factors like the value of research, the power of crafted goals, and the criticality of knowing where the account is in the buying journey. So, it certainly makes sense that executing on these fundamentals strengthens your position in advance of any type of sales call. But in virtual selling events, the complications of distance dictate that you must do even better.
It’s a team sport, selling is. Especially in the enterprise world, where both the stakes and the stakeholders make team selling mandatory. For a major account, opportunities present unique challenges far beyond those faced in deals with small and medium-sized organizations. Wide buyer networks, lengthy sales cycles, sophisticated competitors, and significant investments spent in pursuits are just a few of the frustrations demanding that selling teams bring their very best, especially from a distance.
Pre-call planning. Prior to virtual enterprise selling events, it involves much more than sales reps taking on tasks they often leave undone because, as mentioned, they don’t buy into the concept. It demands that vital planning activities touch and be touched by the entire selling team. The stakes with major accounts are higher, certainly, because the size of both the organizations and the opportunities dictate greater focus. And this magnified attention involves the entire selling team – sales, sales management, executive leadership, finance, marketing, legal, and other relevant functions connected to the account or the opportunity. In the great adventure that is virtual communication, team selling means much more than the beloved “Everybody Sells” mantra. It means “Everybody Communicates”.
With electronic platforms, pre-call planning for virtual team selling events is plug-and-play. Sharing agendas, project plans, prospect profiles, and other valuable assets across e-platforms with your selling team members in advance of events must be fundamental. So, too, must be welcoming the resulting feedback. Your functional teammates can weigh in with valuable insights regarding the planning for and the substance of the upcoming sales call. Think about it. For sales reps to blaze the trail alone, preparing call plans for critical virtual meetings without seeking input is not only foolish but counterproductive to winning the business. In significant pursuits, you simply can’t neglect any chance to fortify your competitive advantage. With your teammates, that competitive advantage becomes a collaborative asset. And socializing pre-call planning generates more than just suggestions. Your teammates who are subject matter experts can also play active roles in the upcoming call, bringing their valuable expertise to the screen. Their direct involvement exposes the buying team to the depth and breadth of your organization’s capability, providing a vision of the enhanced value that you’ll bring to the partnership after the deal is won. Your teammates, by increasing your value to the account, absolutely increase your chances of winning.
With so much to be gained, simply having your teammates follow their Zoom invites and show up for scheduled calls is an incredible waste of talent. “Winging it”, of course, is a strategy but a very foolish one. Buyers are smart. Your lack of preparation will be glaringly evident to your prospects. And one of those sophisticated competitors I mentioned, unlike you, will come prepared. Case closed. Post-mortem time.
There’s an anonymous quote I love that captures the value of pre-call planning for virtual events. Like many of my favorite selling quotes, it’s based in human relationships. “It’s not the distance that keeps people apart. It’s the lack of communication”. Think about it. And to overcome the challenges of virtual selling, take the quote to heart. Communicate clearly with your clients in your virtual meetings and follow that same commitment in your pre-call planning with your colleagues. Your preparation will be evident to your clients. They’ll know you care and your results will show it.