More and more organizations are implementing virtual selling as they reevaluate their travel budgets, cost of sales and changing desires of buyers.
Sean Campbell, CEO of Cascade Insights, a B2B market research firm specifically focused on technology companies, sat down with us to discuss what virtual selling is and why it’s becoming increasingly common in sales.
What is Virtual Selling?
In short, Campbell defines virtual selling as, “How to get a PO (purchase order) without being there.” His longer definition is, “Running a sales process where you can take many months to do it, you got phone calls, proposal presentations and even the contracting process. And all of that, or 95 percent of that is done virtually.”
Virtually selling can be done, “From the moment they said hi, to the moment you have a PO and delivery of the work output,” Campbell said.
What Virtual Sales in Not?
People unfamiliar with virtual selling may think of it as the easy way out, or that it doesn’t require as much effort as being in-person with a customer. Campbell says that’s just not accurate.
“Virtual selling is not doing it while you’re in the drive-thru,” Campbell said. In fact, certain aspects of the sales process become even more amplified virtually. This often requires the seller to have a different level of focus and being present. “You have to become this incredible listener and questioner that exceeds what you need to do in-person.”
Three Tips to be More Effective Selling Virtually
Ask great questions. This will fundamentally set you apart from almost anybody. Any good salesperson can pitch, but many never ask a good question. “If you open with good questions, it can go a long way,” Campbell said.
Learn to say no. “I’ve sold more by saying ‘no,’ than saying ‘yes,’” Campbell said. “That doesn’t mean an obnoxious ‘no,’ it means ‘no, I wouldn’t do that, I would do this.'”
Focus on the audio. In virtual selling, communication needs to be clear, which means using reliable technology. “Imagine you’re a podcaster – the quality you want that podcast to sound like – think about your calls that way,” Campbell said.
How Has Virtual Selling Evolved?
Back in the day, it was almost impossible to get a PO unless it was done in-person. But in today’s world, sellers need to be strategic about when they schedule face-to-face meetings. “You can almost graph the size of the PO without ever showing up,” Campbell said. “It gets larger and larger every year.”
According to Campbell this increase is due to changes in buyer behavior. “They accept you not being there,” Campbell said. “They like the fact that they don’t have to pay for your plane ticket.”
The transition to virtual selling has been aided by new technologies like Calendly and UberConference, that make scheduling and conference calls a breeze. “When you build up that toolbox, you are much easier to work with than you were with your day planner, sitting in their office,” Campbell said. “You can operate at a scale that you never could before.”
What is Most Effective When Someone is Trying to Sell You?
We like to ask all of our podcast guests this question. Here’s how Campbell answered:
“Well I wouldn’t do what this guy did the other day…I said ‘what’s this regarding?’ and he said ‘that’s great.’ We weren’t even remotely a target for his position. It didn’t matter what value prop he had, we weren’t even remotely in his universe. What works for me is – be direct. Open the call, ask me if it’s a good time and mean it. Don’t badger, educate. Educate me; ask a good question. That will full-stop me and I’ll be like ‘what was that?’”
In every episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we try to pull one nugget of wisdom from our guests that they would impart on a sales professional. Here’s this one:
“Be brave enough to say ‘no.’ Seriously, just say ‘no’ a little more.’ ‘No, it isn’t a good time to talk,’ ‘no, I don’t want to stuff that in this proposal because it’s not in your best interest.’ If they trust you to say ‘no,’ you’re going to be way better off for the long run.”
This post is based on a podcast interview with Sean Campbell, CEO of Cascade Insights. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.