It is more apparent than ever that we live in a digital world. When was the last time you read a newspaper made of paper? Today, news is largely consumed online, prescriptions ordered via text message, and movies delivered on-demand to our living rooms. Nearly every aspect of our lives has been affected by the Internet and our jobs are definitely not an exception.
Specific professions, such as sales, are particularly fit for adaptation in this new digital landscape. In fact, today’s buyers, both consumer and business, are demanding an online engagement. As a result, we’ve seen a dramatic shift away from field sales and towards inside sales. And businesses are investing more time and money into virtual selling in order to meet buyer demands and scale like never before.
Here are the top four ways sellers are adapting to buyer demand for an increasingly virtual engagement:
- Specialization to Better Server Buyers – The sales position historically consisted of a field sales representative, tied to a location, forced to become a jack-of-all-trades, adapting the sales pitch for each prospect in that territory. As geographical limits fall away, inside sales representatives have become much more specialized, and are therefore able to better serve customers by having a clearer understanding of their needs. For example, inside sales representatives have the potential to be assigned leads based on several factors, including product expertise, personal relationships, social proximity (how closely connected they are through social networks), or a myriad of other criteria. This creates a far better experience for the buyer and a much more effective way to sell in general.
- Personalization at Scale – Buyers today are talking to more companies, and getting more rich information in a shorter span of time than ever before. This requires sellers to step up their game as well, scaling their efforts but in a highly personalized way. At my company, Velocify, we use Salesforce as our customer relationship management platform and rely heavily on the ability to use Chatter (the salesperson’s 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.
- Greater Accessibility to Training – Several industries have been reshaped due to the Internet, with MOOC (massive open online course) being one example that revolutionized traditional education. I would argue that sales training has been transformed by the Internet as well. Virtual training 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 have organized the event within merely two months, aggregating some of the top sales experts and leaders to train sales executives on how to be successful in the coming year. The fact that the event is virtual allows accessibility for an unlimited amount of people and no time lost in traffic!
- Trust – Most people generally believe that trust is formed through in-person interactions and largely through eye contact. This may have been true for past generations, but salespeople have increasingly shown the ability to gain trust virtually, through new tools like LinkedIn. Today’s customers have grown accustomed to digital interactions in their business and personal lives. In fact, many buyers actually prefer a virtual relationship to physical meetings. For that reason, golfing or wining and dining isn’t necessary for the vast majority of deals. In today’s digital world, buyers tend to judge based on your social connections on LinkedIn and your participation in online forums and groups as a means to determine whether they can trust you.
The shift to a virtual world has transformed the sales industry to one that is faster, smarter, and more agile. The customer experience will inevitably improve, and the entire approach to sales will prove to be far more effective as inside sales technologies become more advanced.