In response to the demands of physical distancing and work from home that came with the onset of the current pandemic, many sales organizations were quick in adapting to a virtual sales model that they hoped would only be a holding pattern until the situation “returns to normal.” However, what we are looking at is not a temporary disruption to the sales process and methodologies, but a thoroughgoing restructuring. While many of the digital shifts were already in play before the pandemic, the new normal requires companies to adopt them within much shorter timeframes. Sales enablement has a vital role in all of these changes as it provides a robust framework to support remote sales training and coaching, virtual selling, and the implementation of a virtual sales model that is appropriate for the emerging digital world.
Here are four steps to enable sales teams for remote selling:
- Train sales reps to be trusted advisors
As physical distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and lockdowns drastically shut down free movement, sales organizations began to recognize the heightened importance of digital interactions with their customers. However, this trend was already gaining ground before the pandemic, as buyers have consistently indicated a growing preference for self-service options, with a substantial jump in the numbers from 2016 to 2019.1
On the surface, this growing preference may seem like a call to organizations to downsize their sales teams. However, recent surveys have found that sales reps continue to remain relevant, provided their roles are appropriately restructured. For instance, in one survey of B2B businesses, 94% of respondents agreed that salespeople generally improved their buying experiences while a majority of buyers said that the presence of sales reps increased their confidence in their purchase decisions.2 Notably, the survey also found that buyers want salespeople to become strategic contributors to their buying experiences, providing them advice that contributes value to their purchase decisions. Therefore, organizations need to train their sales reps to digitally track and gather information on buyers’ journeys and effectively engage and provide relevant inputs to prospects at different stages of the purchase cycle in a remote selling environment.
- Deliver relevant and timely content
While sales organizations strive to enhance the buyer’s digital experience, they also need to keep an eye on providing solutions that create the buyer’s desired outcome. As budgets get stretched, purchase decisions come under closer scrutiny, and the focus on efficiency gains increases. Sales reps need to be equipped with the tools and resources required to demonstrate the value of their proposal beyond any short-term cost-cutting. Content plays a vital role in this process. However, the existing content may not address fully the changed circumstances for buyers. Thus, it is important to re-examine the content strategy and audit key content assets to determine how they should be contextualized for the new reality that buyer organizations face in the current pandemic.
Great content is of no use to anyone if it can’t be found and accessed. Building effective content, therefore, also depends on building a dynamic and robust content architecture that lets sales reps quickly and easily find the right content when they need it. Yet, many organizations struggle with content creation and management, with marketing teams complaining that their content goes unused, sales teams complaining that they are unable to quickly and easily find relevant content when needed, and buyers finding that the content they receive lacks relevance and consistency. Modern sales enablement platforms can overcome these problems by streamlining content creation, storage, and distribution so that the latest and most important sales content is always available and ensuring that it can be customized to the needs and expectations of different types of buyers.
Finally, buyers want an experience of the product or solution before they sign on the dotted line. So, companies must invest in technologies that allow them to showcase products without requiring the onsite presence of sales reps. Modern content formats, such as interactive product walkthroughs and 3D product demos, enable buyers to experience what a solution can do for them and how they can derive benefits from it. This gives them a greater sense of engagement and control over the sales process and a more immediate grasp of how their pain points can be resolved.
- Build the human element through video
The pandemic may have shut down face to face interactions and in-person events, but that doesn’t mean that buyers have stopped seeking interactions with sales reps. The demand for engagement with customers and prospects has not dropped off. What’s changed is the form of such interactions.
With the loss of strong rapport-building opportunities for in-person meetings and the more intensive war for attention online, it’s critical that sales reps are equipped with the infrastructure needed for engaging buyers. As the next best thing to in-person interactions, video helps buyers see, hear, and recognize sellers, establishing a point of trust in the sales process. However, it’s important that the video solution sales reps use is integrated with the sales process and gives them the means to easily share key assets, provide demos, and leverage guided selling capabilities. Ideal for such circumstances is an enablement platform that comes with embedded video-conferencing capabilities. Sales reps also need to be trained on the changed context of video calls, where the terms of interaction and effective engagement are different from in-person meetings.
Video also plays a key role in the remote training and coaching of sales reps. Sales training and enablement solutions with video capabilities support the creation and exchange of coaching content such as demo calls and role-plays. They allow reps to practice, perfect, and record their pitch via video. Using these recorded videos, coaches can effectively measure a sales rep’s skills across a number of key dimensions, optimize the training process for each rep, and ensure that the reps are enabled with sales readiness in quick time.
- Update the sales playbook for the new normal
There’s something unique about the current pandemic-induced crisis: unlike previous downturns, the fallout of the current crisis varies significantly depending on where people are and what they do. In such a scenario, it’s difficult to apply a single playbook to the changed circumstances. The key to building a sales playbook that’s responsive to the new normal is having an insight into each customer’s specific needs and pain points in the current situation. Among the different elements to consider in terms of a sales playbook are:
1) Buyer personas: Understanding buyer goals, motivations, and behaviors is crucial to personalizing the sales process and making it relevant to customers’ specific circumstances. But in a crisis or downturn, all of these elements undergo significant change. At the most basic level, budgets and spending authority are likely undergoing changes due to the crisis. This means it’s necessary to ask whether the decision-makers have changed, whether the way they process purchase decisions has changed, whether budgets have been curtailed, and who has access to the budget in the new circumstances. For instance, some observers suggest that purchase decisions are shifting further up the ladder, with executive buyers retaining decision-making rather than delegating it down the line or assembling committees for the purpose.3
2) Buyer journeys: In the current crisis, where businesses are being differentially impacted, the buyer journey is also likely to be affected in very different ways. Where a solution is relevant to critical business processes, buyers may want to progress faster through the key stages of the purchase decision. On the other hand, solutions seen as less critical may face postponed purchase decisions. Understanding how purchase decisions within customer organizations have been affected is essential to gain insight into the potential trajectories of different buyer journeys. Mapping how different buyers are likely to change their progress through the decision journey is key to building a responsive playbook.
3) Metrics and KPIs: In the middle of a sudden downturn, maintaining efficiency and productivity are key to ensuring survival and growth. However, as the business environment and the sales processes change, the signals for efficiency and productivity may also change. For instance, expectations on sales outcomes may need to be lowered, closing deals may take longer, and contracts may have to be reworked. Therefore, it’s essential to re-examine critical metrics and KPIs and adapt them to the restructured sales process.
4) Messaging: Continuing with business-as-usual messaging is bound to be unproductive during a crisis such as the current pandemic. Instead, what is most required during a downturn is empathy for the buyer’s situation. When they struggle with difficult business challenges, buyers are unlikely to appreciate aggressive sales approaches that seem to be pushing them toward purchases that they are not entirely sure of. Instead, customers are more likely to respond positively to solution providers who try to understand their business problem than sellers who are merely trying to make the sale.
What sales organizations need to pivot to the new normal is a comprehensive enablement program that directs and supports the multi-pronged transformation of the sales process. This includes training sales reps to be trusted advisors, delivering relevant and timely content, building the human element through video, providing immersive, virtual product experiences, and updating the sales playbook for the new normal. With a cutting-edge integrated training and sales enablement platform, and a structured approach to sales enablement, companies can quickly and smoothly lead the way into transformed sales conversations instead of being forcibly dragged into the new normal by the economic uncertainty of the present.