If your company sells B2B, McKinsey published a stat you need to read: “99% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50K or more online.”
“99% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50K or more online.”
Virtual selling is our new normal.
I went through this almost twenty years ago after the September 11 Attacks, when I sold CRM software.
Before 9/11 most of our sales work was conducted face-to-face. We got on planes and did demos to boardrooms of executives on what our software could do for them. After 9/11, getting on a plane wasn’t an option anymore. We quickly adopted WebEx and video conferencing solutions to sell our product.
What we learned during that period is you can sell enterprise software from $100,000 to $250,000 without ever meeting a person.
The software industry never returned to its pre 9/11 sales model, and for good reason:
- Sales Velocity: Every time you book a meeting in person it requires scheduling, driving, and flying. All of that slows down the sales process. A web demo can be scheduled far faster, which compresses the buying process.
- Cost of Sales: Eliminating travel reduces the overall cost of sale. This means you can reallocate some (or all) of that expense to pay higher commissions and hire better quality salespeople.
- Customer Preference: This is the ironic part, but buyers often prefer virtual purchases over face-to-face. Continuing on the McKinsey research, “only 20–30% of B2B buyers want to ever interact with reps in person.”
What the software industry learned twenty years ago, the rest of the sales world is adopting today. The pandemic has made sales meetings unpalatable and unsafe.
But it’s not easy. The transition to selling virtually is showing the weakness in many organization’s sales and marketing processes.
For example, can you sell your services without an established relationship?
In regulated industries — like insurance, financial services, legal and accounting — 80-90% of what a company does can be purchased at any of their competitors. For example, accounting firms deliver audit and tax services. What separates one accounting firm from another may be in the 10-20% of specialized services or expertise.
Realistically, the primary differentiator is relationships with clients, prospects and centers of influence.
But virtual selling doesn’t afford the time and space for networking, luncheons, hosting events and doing all the stuff that goes into relationship building.
Virtual selling is faster. It’s more decisive. It’s focused.
To win at virtual sales requires three things:
- Position To Win: Virtual selling requires much more focus than relationship selling. This means clearly defining your target customer, their needs, and how you serve them. Your brand cannot be all things to all people. You can’t be endlessly customizing your services to fit any need. You’ve got to clearly define who your company serves, how you deliver value, and who isn’t a fit.
- Package Your Services: Make your services really easy to understand and buy. You don’t have time to build up a relationship, you’ve got to get to the point fast. Clearly articulate and demonstrate your value proposition in the first meeting so that your customers can see themselves in it.
- Simple Clarity: Simple Clarity is the ability to describe your business, products, and services in simple, concise language. There should be no confusion about what your company does, who it serves, and how it delivers value. And your customers should know those statements before they even speak with a salesperson.
The transition from in-person to virtual selling isn’t always natural. It requires a different toolbox for salespeople, and more effective marketing for companies. (Your website and digital marketing have to carry a much higher load in virtual selling.)
But you’re not blazing a new trail. The software industry made this transition two decades ago, and every other industry will make the transition to virtual in 2020 and 2021.
As McKinsey states, “Over 90% of B2B decision makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run.”
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