Virtual Selling Is Here to Stay: Five Tips for Success
Last year, I wrote about what sales organizations could learn from inside sales teams to succeed in the era of remote selling. We were in the midst of a tectonic shift in the way we work and perhaps no profession was changed quite as much as that of a seller. First, organizations sent road warriors to their home offices and transitioned massive tele-sales floors to remote operations. Next, we met the first wave of virtual selling challenges head on, by adopting collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Now, we know that the world will not “go back to normal” and our professional lives are forever changed, even if it starts to once again feel more familiar than it has in the past 18 months. Virtual selling is here to stay. Simply making in-person meetings into Zoom interactions isn’t going to cut it going forward.
Virtual selling is a whole new style of sales. This realization is prompting chief revenue officers to reframe how they define success and how they support today’s seller. To support these efforts, the role of sales technology must also evolve.
CRM started as a way to capture information the business needed for continuity and forecasting. When it became clear that reps found it more burdensome than helpful, the technology evolved and the mantra emerged that CRM should reduce time spent on administrative tasks so that sellers could spend more time selling. Now even that thinking is outdated. Not only has the sales role evolved to adapt to the virtual model, but we now expect more from our CRM technology. Professional and personal lives are more intertwined than ever before. Many of today’s sales reps are taking calls while cooking family dinner instead of closing deals at the steakhouse. Today, a more accurate virtual selling mantra should be: CRM should help reps spend less time selling, and more importantly, spend the right amount of time on high-value revenue generation. This betters their professional and their personal lives. And importantly, it betters the bottom line of their organization. Win, win, win, right?
For sellers to really thrive in this environment, there is no room for wasted time or wasted effort. Sales technology must step up to make this a reality and sales leaders need to embrace the advancements in order to retain their top talent. As we adopt an increasingly virtual model, I offer the five tenets virtual selling organizations should follow.
1. One Screen to Rule Them All: Holistic, Unified Sales Intelligence
Preparation to send a prospect email or make a simple sales call shouldn’t be a job unto itself but it often requires toggling between applications and massive time investment.
It’s what so many field reps have been doing for years, but in the new model of virtual selling it’s not the type of work sellers need to be wasting time on. It’s the CRM’s job to present everything a rep needs to succeed in a single, scrollable, searchable and unified screen. Full stop. No need to bounce around eight different tools. No need for Post-It notes and Word docs. Instead, everything is housed in one place, one single screen, including email, videoconferencing, and dialing tools.
2. Conversational Consumer-Grade User Experiences Will Make B2B Apps Better
Blending of personal and professional worlds means B2B applications must catch up and meet the caliber and usability of B2C applications. The No. 1 thing people expect is conversational interfaces—a clunky user experience will deter adoption and fall by the wayside. Instead of navigating to a sales hierarchy or account contact map, a rep should be able to simply say to their CRM “show me the account profile.” And rather than changing an opportunity stage manually, a rep should be able to tell their CRM “close this opportunity.” Conversational user interfaces should be able to do everything—search, find, filter, update, and communicate—making CRM a trusty sidekick for the time-strapped seller.
3. Say It With Me: Automation, Automation, Automation
Part one of automation is about automating data entry, but that’s not limited to only data enrichment services and things like email and address verification (both important, but only step one). Automating CRM data entry means the sales tech must automatically log the daily tasks a seller engages in. For example, the CRM records an email conversation or captures a call outcome and creates a call log. It creates follow up tasks and sales activities based on what’s happening at an account. And it does this—you guessed it—automatically, without a seller having to remember to do yet another administrative task.
Part two is about pre-emptive automation. You’ve heard of AI or machine learning that can score opportunities and provide next best actions? Great. But what about a CRM that not only calculates sales intelligence, but uses that intelligence to automate routine sales tasks on behalf of reps? For example, a CRM notices this lead meets all four qualification criteria set by the sales organization, so it automatically converts the lead and schedules a hand-off meeting with the account executive. Or, every year in September this account reorders fall inventory, so CRM creates an opportunity with an estimated amount and close date. It can even be as simple as a CRM knows that deals of this certain size typically have at least 4 contacts, so it verifies and adds two new organizational contacts with the right level and type of title to the opportunity.
4. Play Into the Competitive Edge With Gamification
Sales tech can play a role in motivating and engaging reps once they are fully enabled. Reps love to meet a goal or get into a little competition. Gamified dashboards and contests to track, motivate, and manage the big picture—beyond basic quota attainment calculations—will do the trick. But going along with this, sales tech has a role to play in making sure gamification doesn’t turn into gaming the system. Sales tech that emphasizes automation and supports reps in mundane activity capture can help give managers the instant visibility they need without having to send their weekly “update your CRM” reminders and schedule the dreaded pipeline review.
5. Bring It All Together With Dynamic Sales Coaching and Performance Management
Measurement by quota attainment alone isn’t a sustainable model for the new world of virtual selling. If you manage a team of sellers, you first need to support reps with better onboarding and coaching tools. They want AI-backed support, but you can’t make them feel like Big Brother is watching. Every single drop of intelligence must add value. Your role as a coach is even more imperative because your team is not in the office and they have lost out on more than a year’s worth of in-person skills development. That means soft skills as well as product education, and, more importantly, personalized coaching and deal support (managed on their terms). And, in this employee market, if you don’t help your reps get up to speed fast, the hungry and ambitious ones will move to the next opportunity where they will get that support.
As we continue to shift further away from the traditional selling model, keep these five core tenets in mind as you rebuild the profile of a virtual selling organization and empower your sellers to be as successful as they can be.
Kayleigh Halko is senior manager of CX product strategy at Oracle. Halko works closely with product and sales leaders to ensure all internal and external stakeholders understand the value and benefits of modernizing their sales technology to meet the needs of today's digital buyers and sellers. Previously, she was at CX platform company Glympse, where she built the company’s first cross-functional marketing program and drove a complete corporate and product rebrand. Prior to that she led partner marketing at TOA Technologies (later acquired by Oracle), and was instrumental in the global rebranding, product positioning and sales enablement for Oracle Field Service Cloud post-acquisition.