It’s become high fashion to declare the future of selling is “virtual.” While F2F, telephone, text, and other approaches will continue to exist, everything is moving to virtual.
Usually, there’s a whole bunch of data to support why this is important. For example, sales people can make back to back sales calls through the whole day. Rather than making a few calls, they can schedule every hour of the day with Zoom calls. That improved productivity data is always accompanied by cost of selling data. We get more done with the same resources.
There’s a problem to our thinking on this. We are optimizing to our own objectives, ignoring how the customers want to be engaged and their preferred buying process.
For years, we’ve seen profound changes on the way customers want to buy. The pandemic has only accelerated those changes. Just as the pandemic forced us to sell differently, it has forced the customer to buy differently.
Customers are buying differently–and they are reducing their need/preference to use sales people in that process. Customers no longer look to sales people to learn about solutions, they have more effective and efficient channels to learn about products and solutions.
Customers aren’t finding sales people helpful, so they are looking for help in other places. They have reduced the total time they spend with sales people to less than 17% (all sales people). They are investing their time where they get the most value–and increasingly, it’s not with sales people.
So the fact that we believe the future of selling is virtual irrelevant! Our customers don’t care and will be hanging out someplace else. Paraphrasing Wayne Gretsky, we are designing our sales engagement processes for where the “puck was,” not where it’s going to be.
We serve our own self interests better, as well as creating more value for our customers when we shift our focus. We are more effective, more impactful, and create greater value when we align what we do with how our customers want to buy. Buying is shifting from being sales led and digitally supported, to digitally led and sales supported.
We have to redesign our entire sales and marketing processes to meet our customers where they want to be and how they want to buy. We have to reassess how we support customers through their digital buying journeys. We have to recognize some digital buying journeys will require no sales interventions. We have to reassess, when, with who, how we design sales interventions that complement, reinforce, and create value with the customer in their buying process.
We have to rethink, how do we create the most value with our customers? We have to answer questions:
- How do we incite the customer to search, when they aren’t searching or considering change?
- How do we recognize that a customer problem solving journey may not provoke a buying journey?
- How do we work most effectively with customers that are on a problem solving journey, but not yet a buying journey?
- How do we help the customer architect and navigate the buying process? This has less to do with solution selection, and more to do with managing their own journey more effectively?
- How do we help the customer learn more effectively, through which combination of channels?
- Where and how do we create sales interventions that are most impactful to the customer? What do those sales interventions look like? (some of them may be virtual, some of them may not be with sales)
Saying the future of selling is virtual is meaningless to anyone but sales people. And that becomes meaningless to sales people if customers aren’t showing up to virtual meetings.
We can’t have a productive conversation about the future of selling, without first starting with the future of buying. And we can’t have a productive conversation about the future of buying, without understanding a little about the future of work—but that’s a future post