Virtual Selling Is Not The Future Of Sales! Part 1

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As we emerge from the pandemic, there are a lot of discussions about the future of sales. A lot of the discussion focuses on virtual selling–leveraging technologies like Zoom, Teams, and others as key engagement approaches. F2F continues to play a role, but many of the “pundits” are declaring virtual selling to play the dominant role. These positions are usually supported by productivity and cost of selling data.

I suppose, it’s human nature to look for the single thing that drives success. Perhaps, a century ago, pundits declared the future of sales was the automobile—we could see more customers more efficiently if we could now drive, rather than use the other means of travel. Likewise, shortly after Alexander Graham Bell uttered the words, “Watson, I need you…” people started re-imagining the future of sales being dominated by the use of the phone.

Without a doubt, each of these technologies have important roles in helping us reach and engage customers. They are important and play important roles in our engagement strategies. But they aren’t and never have been “the answer.”

Likewise, at various points in time and depending on what you sell, other things have been the “future of sales.” CRM was the cornerstone to driving sales productivity/performance management. Sales training, whether solution selling, consultative, insight, value based, Challenger have, at various times been the key to sales performance and growth. Or we can solve everything about sales if we just do more prospecting and demand gen. Alternatively, new structures–SDRs/AEs/AMs, etc or new workflows, or specialization, or partnering have become the answer to all our woes in driving sales performance. Or new functions like sales enablement, revenue ops, and so forth give us the answer. Conversational intelligence, AI/ML each provide us the miracle cures to driving sales effectiveness and performance.

Without a doubt, each of these things, and more, are important in doing our work as sales people. They contribute to our efficiency and, sometimes, to our effectiveness in getting our work done.

But the reality is sales and selling is a collection of complex interactions between organizations, human beings, and technologies. We have a systems challenge, each component of the system impacts and is impacted by the other components. Virtual selling, when not integrated to customer engagement strategies, without supporting data and informational technologies, without value creation strategies, without….. doesn’t solve the challenge of sales performance.

Inevitably, when we isolate one thing, without understanding how it is related to and is impacted by or impacts the other components, we may have solved one problem, but we have probably created problems in other areas. We have to use the well known approached to systems thinking in looking at our improvement initiatives.

If, for example, we choose Virtual Selling as a focus area, we have to look at the things needed to make us effective in virtual selling–it’s not just Zoom. We also have to look at what other parts of the system are impacted by what we are doing with Virtual Selling. We, also, have to assess, is Virtual Selling the highest leverage initiative in driving performance, or is it just fashionable?

With every new technology, new initiatives, new approaches, new program, new organizational models, we have to look at them in the context of the “system.” Where do they fit, what impacts them, what do they impact, does it contribute, collectively to our overall performance?

As important as this discussion is, as important as it is to look at our selling strategies in a more holistic fashion, there is a huge problem with this.

All of this is meaningless if we don’t understand how our customers want to buy, and design our processes to complement their “buying system.”

And that’s the focus of the next post.

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