Here is one of my favourite Warren Buffett quotes – “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked”.
The reason this quote is relevant is because, before the COVID-19 crisis, virtual selling was nearing a tipping point with the time spent connecting virtually with customers 3.2x more than the time meeting customers in person.
According to Salesforce research – Third Edition State of Sales, 60% of reps reported an increase in virtual meetings over the last three years. Sales discipline required to deliver value and adapt to virtual selling is fast becoming a central part of companies’ agility to remain competitive.
The use of technology has accelerated the shift to virtual selling, with an increasing focus on sales reporting and analytics to better manage customer interactions, opportunities, and sales pipelines.
Adapting sales behaviour to be competitive virtual selling
The Harvard Business Review article – Supporting Customer Service Through the Coronavirus Crisis cited three tactics savvy service leaders are pursuing to help salespeople navigate this difficult situation:
1. Arm your salespeople with techniques that help them reduce customer frustration
Use targeted coaching guiding how to adapt, such as using advocacy language that conveys the salesperson is on the customer’s side. A topic we focus on during our online Sales Forecasting and Closing Deals Quicker course.
In the sales guide – A different, more human approach to managing your sales pipeline and accurate sales forecasting. We discuss why breaking old habits and upgrading them with new, better serving habits is not going to be easy.
Your habits are designed to be resilient, and they are not going to roll over and give up without a fight. You will have to work at this, which is the reason why those who commit, succeed, and others fail.
How committed are you to become the best version of yourself? Effective change always starts from within. We tap into this reality, delivering our online courses when breaking old habits that are not serving you well, replacing them with better ones.
If you and your team are going to improve sales discipline required for adapting to virtual selling, you first must make at an active commitment to yourself.
Too often coaching is passive transferring valuable skill and techniques that often become forgotten when salespeople return to their daily whirlwind of work challenges.
Now we are amid a crisis no one could have imagined; it will feel even harder to undertake long term change. When you are on fire, you think about the next 10 seconds, not the next ten years.
Those companies that come out of this crisis had prepared for the New Normal will have recognised that sales success is a marriage between effective leadership and salespeople’s commitment to becoming the best version of themselves.
Good leaders know long-term behavioural change cannot be achieved motivating using carrots and sticks. Your best salespeople and managers are motivated by purpose, autonomy and an opportunity to improve themselves.
To break habits that foster better sales discipline and behaviour, you must start from within, with yourself and the commitment you will put the effort in to become the best version of yourself.
Breaking habits required for good sales discipline can only be achieved if you, whether a leader, manager or salesperson, makes an active commitment to yourself to become the best version of yourself.
2. Prevent managers from reverting to bad coaching behaviours
Encourage your sales managers to move away from structured coaching or finding an hour a week here and there to review and support their salespeople.
Managers will be struggling with the lack the visibility they once had into their salespeople’ work patterns, making it hard to find moments to engage in coaching.
The tendency is to revert to bad habits and old behaviours. It is why we developed the Sales Pipeline Development Platform to give managers a more fluid, integrated approach working with their sale team and managing their deal reviews.
It is why we focus on questioning techniques, a point we highlight in our sales blog – Why do sales teams struggle to manage a value-based sale?.
Central to stopping old habits from sneaking back in the side door is to avoid disrupting their work regimes. Focus on integrating coaching good sales discipline, guiding work regimes to adapt to virtual selling regimes.
If the sales pipeline is the beating heart of your business. Your sales forecast the health of your business. It follows that your sales managers regular deal reviews are your company’s routine health check. If you are to guide and develop your teams’ sales discipline to be more competitive virtual selling, it is the deal review where you need to focus.
A deal review should not only occur at a fixed date and time each week. Having a schedule is essential and should continue. However, deal reviews should become a regular conversation.
Think of your deal reviews as the lifeblood to remain sharp and competitive supporting virtual selling and the New Normal sales regimes.
Whenever you support your team, or you reach out to your boss for support, think of your deal review as fluid. A continuing conversation is collaborating and tapping into each other’s expertise, insights and wisdom.
We discuss the value and importance of the deal review within our appraisal, development and review series of sales blogs, in particular – How will you adapt to the new world of sales?.
3. Use collaboration tools to help your salespeople tap into the wisdom of their peers, managers and clients
It is essential to foster collaboration between sales managers, salespeople and clients to tap into the collective skill, expertise and wisdom.
Modern instant messaging tools like Slack create workspaces to connect to get immediate advice and perspective. Their rapid adoption and success highlight how sales are changing.
It is why we integrate the facility for salespeople to share and collaborate their scorecards managing and guiding conversations with sales leads, prospect and opportunities using the Sales Pipeline Development Platform.
In the sales blog – Help buyers make better purchase decision ( https://www.nazca-services.com/help-buyers-make-better-purchase-decisions/ ). We discuss the importance of delivering value and earning trust. If you were to ask me what main reason many salespeople fail to earn trust and win more business; I would answer, “it is their obsession with their own sales journey”.
Your skill to earn trust, influence and move others, to build a value-based sale goes beyond money. It requires good salesmanship to develop trusting relationships to close a solution sale when forecast.
It needs obsessing with helping your prospects and customers solve their problems and helping buyers overcome their buying struggles.
Providing your salespeople with the right tools guiding them to earn trust and deliver value is central to adapting to virtual selling.
These tools must encourage collaboration within your own, your prospects’ and customers’ business to break down silos, tap into the wisdom locked up by helping and guiding conversation and collaboration.
These are three examples, among many, we focus on supporting, on adapting sales discipline to be more competitive virtual selling.
Release your sales teams from outdated internal processes
Maintaining rules and procedures that only serve to frustrate salespeople who are already struggling to adapt to the New Normal, only serves to offer a safe harbour for poor sales discipline.
It is imperative your business processes and culture quickly adjust to the changing situation if you are to remain competitive and to thrive into the future.
Sales behaviour that increases prospects and customers frustration will weaken sales pipelines and your business health.
Poor sales discipline presents itself with many faces. One face is the negative language used, allowing salespeople and those supporting them to hide behind your policies and procedures. “I cannot do that because…”, “I’m not the right person to answer that question, let me pass you onto…”.
This language is the evil twin to advocacy. Like cancer, it will undermine the progress many other people in your company are making, adapting culture and work regimes to a digital-first sales environment.
If your sales processes do not focus on being nimbler, solving customers’ problems, helping buyers with their buying struggles, and adapting sales behaviour to virtual selling, you will become uncompetitive.
You risk taking your salespeople away from selling to focus on your internal processes. Instead of fostering business agility, your policies and procedures will create conflict and frustration, ultimately undermining your company’s strength to survive.
The less time spent selling means your salespeople have less time to strengthen their sales pipelines, achieve quota targets, earn the trust required to deliver value growth.
Being effective virtual selling requires you adapt your policies, processes and provide your salespeople with data-driven sales tools. Data needs to flow both ways, from your salespeople efficiently reporting data and updating procedures. And back to them giving data insights supporting a more agile sales discipline and behaviour, helping customers solve their problems.
It is the reason why we have seen increasing importance given to sales teams having access to data-centric sales tools informing and guiding them on better managing their sales engagements.
Adapting to virtual selling requires you focus on sales discipline.
Those companies that have not been strategic preparing themselves are being launched into their crisis as they struggle to adapt and survive within a rapidly evolving digital-first sales environment.
Those companies that do not take the time now to adjust and prepare their sales teams for the New Normal, risk coming out of the COVID-19 crisis with weakened sales pipelines and cash reserves.
They will emerge to face different competitors who better adapted to the New Normal and a market who have embraced a more digital-first, virtual sales, and buying work regime.
Buffett’s quote – “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked,” is relevant because COVID-19 has forced the tide out faster than anyone had expected, and it will leave everything exposed.
Poor sales discipline and deal reviews are two areas at risk of being exposed. Those companies that have been covering over the cracks caused by inconsistent and inadequate sales discipline managing their sales pipelines will be exposed as having been swimming naked.
Even those companies that are in front of the virtual selling curve also risk being exposed. If they too have been papering over cracks caused by poor sales discipline.
Effective sales behaviour is lagging the virtual selling curve
While sales reps have increased their time connecting virtually with customers at a rate 3x greater than connecting in person. It is, however, still normal behaviour within many companies that their sales leaders manage an end of a quarter scramble to achieve the company forecast number.
We may be amid a crisis not seen since the Great Depression that is accelerating virtual selling to become the New Normal. It will expose the fact that many companies’ sales pipelines have been in crisis for a long time.
In the sales blog – Anticipate the next three, four, or five obstacles ahead I discuss the challenge that salespeople’s performance is consistently achieving quota is not getting better; it is getting worse.
In the Salesforce report, 26 sales statistics that prove sales is changing, Tiffani Bova presents a compelling argument that there are no sales pitches in the new Age of the Customer, instead, sales teams need to adopt a data-driven approach.
Bova’s number one statistic is sales professionals are spending just 34% of their time selling.
If they are not selling, what are they doing?
For many salespeople, they are struggling to keep up with data entry, quote generation, and other tasks that take them away from customers. Unsurprisingly, 57% reported they expected to miss their 2018 – 2019 fiscal period quota.
Digital-first sales tools need to help salespeople reclaim some of the time lost so they can get spend more time selling. Salespeople may have less opportunity to meet customers in person. They still need to get out into the virtual world of sales and meet remotely with prospects and customers. The only difference now is they are doing it from behind their computer screens.
Within a digital-first sales environment, the term “Selling” needs to be better defined.
“Selling”, in our view, is any activity that works to keep existing customers or secure new customers. Socioeconomic, health, and how we conduct business is shifting towards virtual selling. But the underlying objective to remain agile, continually adapting how we sell to keep existing customers and securing new ones, remains.
The challenge for many companies will be whether and how they can get ahead of the virtual selling curve by adapting their sales teams and managers’ behaviour and discipline required to maintain stronger sales pipeline and accurate sales forecasts.
Pulling it all together
To adapt sales behaviour and discipline to be competitive virtual selling requires you to focus on two areas:
- Internal policies and processes so they support a more agile culture that does not disrupt sales regimes but supports them adapt to virtual selling.
- Sales behaviour and discipline required for changing to the faster, more agile sales regimes and remain competitive in a fast-changing digital-first, virtual sales environment.
It is the reason why we have developed the Sales Pipeline Development Platform that includes sales tools to guide conversations and collaboration between internal stakeholders and partners, also external prospects and customers.
It is the reason we added a training space providing access to online courses that integrate directly with your systems and sales pipelines.
In the next sales blog – How can I be successful in a digital-first sales environment? , we focus on why your primary focus should shift from tracking sales lead through your company’s sales pipeline to supporting your prospects and customers address their buying struggles and move along their buying journey.