People are crazy and times are strange, things have changed, says an old Bob Dylan song. But even in the midst of crisis, in these singular, turbulent times, sales activity doesn't stop. Here, at Vainu, we've asked our salespeople to share their best piece of advice to keep on selling and succeed in remote sales.
How do you keep on selling when work commutes last what it takes to walk from the bedroom to the living room? How do sales reps can have successful customer meetings when the bezels of a screen encapsulate our social interactions? Can you hit quota when "furlough" is a widely used word?
Business-to-business sales right now is more difficult and plain different from anything we've seen before. A few weeks into the Covid Age, companies are learning to negotiate the new normal, recalibrating their strategies for the months ahead. We've already seen a few common shifts.
Remote sales is the new normal. For salespeople, going all-remote has posed a new set of challenges, some of them affecting the very fundamentals of sales, like a simple face-to-face meeting. All the elements of the sales playbook still exist, but anything from prospecting to outreach and messaging needs some adjustment. The silver lining? You can attend meetings wearing a button-up shirt and sweatpants.
In this article, our salespeople share the new tricks up their sleeves to continue selling these days.
What's the best piece of advice to master the remote sales job?
Sales jobs require a good dose of grit and determination. These days empathy matters as much.
Kaarlo Matero, Senior Sales Team Lead at Vainu, says, "I truly want to show empathy during these troubled times. This creates a mutual connection with the prospect and shows that you care about them—it's not just about hunting for sales. After establishing this initial connecting and hearing they are doing okay, I introduce my sales agenda. I stress why, during these times, it is especially important to still be active on the market."
Sjoerd Feenstra, Senior Sales Manager at Vainu's office in Amsterdam, agrees that listening to the prospect is more important than ever. Sjoerd explains, "If you assume the circumstances are a restraint for sales, it will become a problem. Just sell and listen to your customer's needs and adjust accordingly. It helps build trust and creates a connection."
Iiro Lamppu, Senior Sales Manager, Vainu Finland: "During these times, trust and flexibility are more critical than ever. By putting in the time to research your prospect and understand how you can help them with the challenges they face, you'll build trust in your sales meetings. And once you have that, your prospect will tell you what flexibility they need from you to help them make their purchasing decision.”
Lauri Heiliö, Team Lead, Customer Success, Vainu Finland: "Remote sales isn't that different, as long as you're able to connect with your prospects. Apart from investing in a faster Internet connection, I recommend working on your copywriting skills—influencing in writing is just as important as over the phone."
Don't let your pipeline run dry
Closing during uncertain times is tough. Budget freezes, delayed decisions, and changes in market demand all create new challenges and make it harder to sell. Before you find yourself scraping the barrel, you want to build a healthy pipeline. Louise Söderqvist, Team Lead, Customer Success Sweden & Norway, explains, "Keep prospecting to make sure you have enough companies to contact once the market starts moving again."
Barend Vink, Sales Manager, Vainu Netherlands: "Be relevant with your offering. If not, they will be irritated that you reach out," he says. For that, you must focus on your ideal customer profile, and adjust it if needed. Even if you don't agree on a meeting, good conversations are rewarding during these times."
Gennaro Finelli, Sales Manager, Vainu Netherlands: "Don't approach people or companies who are struggling with the whole situation without providing a clear solution to their struggles."
Iiro Lamppu: "When it comes to pipeline, you need to be more active right now in terms of the number of prospects you target. Look for companies that have more flexible buying processes, and focus on companies with growth signals such as those expanding or receiving financial grants."
How to approach remote meetings?
By now, many of us are discovering the first symptoms of Zoom fatigue syndrome. In other words, there are too many virtual meetings on the calendar. As a result, remote sessions need extra preparation to ensure every participant is engaged.
For Mika Jordanov, Sales Manager at Vainu Finland, meetings haven't changed dramatically, but he spends additional time preparing the agenda. He explains, "The most important thing is to remember that virtual meetings need a more structured agenda and you want, as a salesperson, steer the meeting in the right direction. A good rule of thumb is to always confirm the length of the meeting, present the agenda, and then lead the way. Come up with ways to show how your solution will help them instead of telling them what it does. For example, use animation, video, or interactive decks."
Willem Wijnakker, Sales Team Lead at Vainu Netherlands, agrees: "One must become a guru of online meetings.". The salesperson might be used to remote meetings, but this type of meetings could be something completely new for a prospect. Willem says, "It's important to always turn on your camera and try create trust. Make sure your slides help move the discussion along instead of presenting some sort of product demo. Online meetings can become less interactive, so put in that little extra effort to make the presentation engaging and personalized."
Nahom Elias, Sales Director at Vainu Denmark: "As it's harder to get engagement in online meetings, I make sure to create the agenda for each meeting together with the prospect, recap when I'm done to make sure we're on the same page, and then share my notes after the call to maintain accountability and transparency."
Beware of demo effect
Everything works... until it doesn't. Whatever the sales tools your using, spend some time learning how to use them.
Next, Pirkko Vuorilehto, Engagement Manager at Vainu Finland, shares some tips to feel confident when and if the demo effect happens.
- Call on individuals to speak when asking questions. This not only avoids awkward silences or people taking over each other but also keeps every participant engaged. Personally, I always keep a note with everyone's names and roles.
- Check that your visual background on the online meeting is good.
- When you're presenting, only share the relevant app and not the whole screen. This way, the other participants won't feel uncomfortable if they see your email, messages, or other sensitive information on the screen.
- A excellent way to build trust is to tell the client in advance about the notes you plan to take and the material you intend to share after the meeting.
Keep the conversation going
Next, to keep the conversation going, all touchpoints should be relevant. "Be extra active and collaborate with marketing to come up with relevant content that can help the person you're talking to. This way, prospects will remember you when they're ready to move forward", adds Louise Söderqvist.
Niels Rodrigues, Head of Sales at Vainu Rotterdam, explains, "These times require more nurturing and being more understanding about the whole situation. Take an advisor role and co-create things together with the prospect to keep the business going. Really invest in the followup. Stay on top and react to triggers and changes in the prospect company."
And when in doubt… always seek feedback
Loneliness is a major challenge for remote workers. To fight loneliness, Gennaro continues to reserve time to call his closest colleagues. "Make sure you still talk about cases with your colleagues", he advises.
According to Mathijs Ruigrok, Head of Sales at Vainu Amsterdam, sales managers want to encourage coaching and training. "Host joint booking hours and ask team members to join your meetings. It's difficult to hustle all by yourself," he says.