27 May 2020
While remote working can be a substitute for desk jobs, things are quite different in a (B2B) sales environment, which usually relies on face-to-face interactions. This situation requires a shift in way-of-working, as well as an unexpected surge in digital commerce and customer engagement. In this article, we share our thinking on how to keep the engine running in (B2B) sales, while being unable to physically visit customers.
A virtual way-of-working: successfully selling via a screen
Staying at home forms a dramatic shift in the daily routines of salespeople. Today’s challenge is to stimulate openness for change to enable virtualization of their way-of-working. Several of our clients did so successfully by piloting online “sales visits” or broadcasting their product launch instead of showcasing it live on a trade show. One of our clients in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) even reported improved conversion compared to offline visits.
To put in place a fast and foolproof virtual sales engine, we recognize five process steps:
- Fix the basics
Equip your salesforce with the right hardware and tools. Preferably use devices and software that are already used or are off-the-shelf (SaaS) solutions to minimize educational needs. Also validate if the buying counterparty has matching infrastructure in place. Remember that you want to service them, not complicate their lives.
- Rewrite your sales pitch
Re-evaluate if your brand story and products/services are still relevant in Corona-times. Historically, uncertainty causes buyers to prefer familiar brands to new ones. Consider increasing the promotion of well-known brands over new launches. If possible, adapt your sales pitch to the particular relevancy of your products/services right now.
- Test small
Establish a testing panel with cross-category and cross-region sales specialists, as well as a loyal group of pilot customers. Incorporating process- and technology-related feedback into an MVP 2.0 increases the speed and smoothens the process of rolling out this new way-of-working at scale.
- Overinvest in change management
Ensure a foolproof approach through clear manuals and instruction videos (also for your buyers/customers). If needed, arrange (external) virtual sales trainings to get your salesforce comfortable with selling via a screen. Dedicate the required IT- and project management employees to function as a “hypercare” department during the rollout and respond quickly to early feedback.
- Enable data-driven sales
As a next step, use the time savings from virtualizing sales efforts to shift towards data-driven sales. This implies your salespeople transform from generic into targeted value creators. For example, through leveraging the right data and dashboards, a sales representative could get buyer-specific recommendations on assortment, pricing or restocking, allowing him or her to drive very targeted sales.
Practical examples of sales virtualization efforts
To put these principles into practice, we would like to share with you some case examples from our own work:
- A beverage producer used an on-the-ground salesforce to check the refrigerator layout – a direct sales driver – of partnered outlets. We virtualized this process by instructing store owners to share a picture of their fridge via WhatsApp, enabling sales reps to evaluate and provide direct feedback. Within weeks, this led to a double-digit sales uplift per average store. No technology acquisition or education was required, significantly shortening the implementation cycle.
- An industrial company wanted to tap into new customer segments through their online platform. We supported them by applying a two-step approach. Firstly, we created Google Ads campaigns to reach a 5-10 times bigger audience than possible with their regular salesforce activities. Secondly, we designed a process to onboard newly reached customers at scale. As a result, a representative now builds (new) customer relationships, explains platform functionalities, and gathers direct feedback via videoconference.
We are here to help
For a decade, SparkOptimus has supported her clients to achieve concrete results in areas that are now more relevant than ever. This has resulted in our fourth #1 position in digital consultancy in the Netherlands. Especially in these days of turmoil, we are determined to help you navigate current and post-Corona times, setting up your (online) business for success. Feel free to reach out – we are here to help.
This article is part of our series “Accelerating digitization & organization in times of Corona”. Also read:
- Article 1: “Why your ‘future’ online B2B platform is needed now: How to start, scale, and not miss out”
- Article 3: “How the COVID-19 outbreak incubates disruptive thinking – three levels to design the future of your business”
- Article 4: “How to start boosting ‘direct-to-consumer’ sales today – even without a D2C platform”
- Article 5: “How to transform your organization for digital success in these times – leveraging the momentum of drastically changing routines“