Hardly anyone wakes up and reads a newspaper anymore-we have the New York Times on our phones and computers. We also order movies from our living rooms and text the pharmacy for a prescription refill. Virtualization has played a key role in shaping the world today, and sales is no exception.
Sales is especially well-suited for the benefits that virtualization can offer. With the shift towards inside sales, traditional inefficiencies (like lost travel time and limited access to resources) are stripped away so that customer interaction, professional development, and relationship building-the core elements of successful selling-can scale to a degree that was never possible before.
Here are the top four ways that the increasing use of virtual selling technologies has elevated the sales game today.
- Sales roles become increasingly specialized. Not being limited by geography opens new doors for sales organizations. A field sales rep is tied to a location needs to be able to sell every product to every type of customer in their territory; the field salesperson has to be a jack-of-all trades. The inside sales rep, however, is able to serve a customer's needs better by having more specialized knowledge. For example, inside sales reps can get assigned leads based on product expertise, personal relationships, social proximity (how closely connected they are through social networks), or a myriad of other criteria. A much better experience for a buyer and a much more effective way to sell in general.
- Sales scales much better in a virtual environment. The Internet gives sales people and marketers a much broader platform than ever before to share messages and to collaborate with others. For example, it's now possible to simultaneously present to and collaborate with every individual involved in a buying decision in one webinar. That process used to take weeks of travel. It's also possible to pull more internal experts into a sales process than ever before. At my company, Velocify, we use Salesforce as our customer relationship management platform and rely heavily on the ability to use Chatter (the salespersons version of a Twitter exchange) to exchange notes on deals across the company and gain product knowledge running up to important meetings. That process simply took much more effort when one had to rely on a series of phone calls to get the same information.
- Salespeople's access to learning is far greater than ever before Just like the MOOC (massive open online course) has revolutionized traditional education, sales training has been transformed by the Internet too. Virtualization allows salespeople to learn at scale. A prime example of this is ELEVATE, a virtual training event Velocify is hosting in December, which will be the world's largest ever sales kickoff event. We've been able to organize the event within a couple of months, bringing together 40 of the world's most renowned sales experts and sales leaders to train sales executives on what they need to know to be successful in the coming year. By putting on the event virtually, we can afford to offer the training for free for an unlimited audience size and avoid all of the travel and time costs of attending a regular conference.
- Winning buyer trust doesn't require a long-term social relationship. In the past, salespeople had to physically show up to earn a customer's trust. That meant forging personal connections, meeting up for drinks, convening trips to the golf course and generally befriending the buyer prior to closing a deal. It was a cordial era of sales that many mourn, but ended up making life more difficult for salespeople and costing the company. Today's customers have grown accustomed to digital interactions in their business and personal lives, making it easier for remote salespeople to build trust through virtual meetings and common connections on social media. Indeed many younger buyers are so used to this type of relationship that they prefer a virtual sales relationship to physical meetings. For that reason, golfing, wining and dining isn't necessary for the vast majority of deals. These days your social connections on LinkedIn and involvement in key online forums and groups are the fabric of how buyers decide whether they can trust you in a sales relationship.
Migrating into the virtual world has made sales faster, smarter, and more agile. It's made for a better customer experience and a more effective sales approach-a trend that's only going to continue.