Virtual Selling is clearly on the rise.
Whether sales organizations are applying the approach through Inside Sales investments or by arming their field and account personnel for virtual interaction with prospects and clients, the money is moving toward these practices.
So what explains this rise of the remote and decline of distance? What are the drivers of change? What’s behind the growth of Virtual Selling?
Here are three driving forces that make Virtual Selling increasingly attractive and pervasive:
1) Buyers want it. When the stakes are high and deals are strategic, there are often many participants on a decision team. Bringing them all together for a face-to-face meeting is difficult. It’s even more difficult to include all of the specialists that might be involved in the sale from the supplier side. The sheer complexity of convening encourages buyers to consider virtual alternatives. When the stakes are lower and deals are more transactional, there is often little perceived value in a face-to-face meeting. Buyers simply find it more convenient and less taxing to conduct business in virtual space. Over the years, buyers have become progressively more comfortable doing business at a distance. While deal sizes, support needs, and other factors may create demand for on-site attention in some cases, it’s clear that buyers must now weigh those factors against the costs of conventional meetings.
2) Sellers want it. Corporate leaders are taking a closer look at the overall cost of sales. In many cases, they are disappointed with current sales expense ratios. With this in mind, they are seeking ways of reducing costs and increasing sales efficiencies. This motivation often encourages them to shift activity from a field sales organization to an inside sales organization. But it isn’t just about cutting costs. Companies are also seeking ways of increasing market coverage. They want to penetrate underserved markets; they also want to expand in existing accounts. Virtual and remote selling practices can facilitate these efforts. Finally, there’s an opportunity to experiment in new and unproven markets. Sales initiatives that otherwise would prove cost-prohibitive become possible when deploying sales professionals who are unburdened (or lightly burdened) by the demands of face-to-face meetings.
3) Advances in technology, process, and professionalism support it. What’s also apparent is the ongoing advancements and improvements associated with selling, communication, and collaboration technology. Every year, networks become more capacious, computing power more massive, and software more intelligent and supportive. Remote communication, as a result, becomes increasingly rich and vivid. We can exchange volumes of information and levels of insight through screen-to-screen interactions that we might struggle to convey in person. But it’s not just technology that enables these powerful interactions. Companies have made enormous strides in terms of supporting and enabling their sales professionals. This is particularly true in today’s “digital sales centers,” where managers can provide ongoing coaching and data-driven feedback. When sales people spend a great deal of time plugged into a matrix of pulsing information flows, they tend to progress and learn at a far faster rate than sales people who operate in greater isolation – perpetually disoriented and disrupted by travel.
With all of these forces at work, the case for virtual selling becomes increasingly powerful.
Whether your company is an incumbent or an insurgent in the marketplace, there’s a good chance that sales dollars are shifting to activities that involve an enormous amount of virtual or remote interaction with buyers.