Selling digitally is here to stay. So, how can you make sure your sales team is a success? Read the thoughts of Cheryl Ruck, Senior Consultant at expand.
A little over a year has passed since the World Health Organisation announced coronavirus as a global pandemic. A little over a year since the world of work changed and employees across digital, technology, communications and many others shifted to a fully digital-first approach to doing business.
Whether working in marketing, finance, sales or any other business function, the impact this had affected almost all aspects of people’s day to day working life. From how we communicate and collaborate with our colleagues on projects, to no longer being able to meet with clients and having to find new ways in which to sell to them, people had to adapt in order to keep up.
What's the state of play at the moment?
Cast your minds back 12 to 18 months ago and no doubt you would have headed out to a sales meeting or attended an industry or networking event. Chances are you had some pencilled in for 2020 and no doubt these were cancelled or delivered virtually.
A year on from when meeting in person all but stopped, it got me thinking about salespeople’s traditional reliance on face-to-face meetings to sell products and services. Have companies capitalised on the opportunities digital sales presents and have they given their teams the tools to be successful?
It’s a tough question to answer, and no one can say with any real what the future of sales looks like, but from the conversations we’ve been having with industry leaders in recent months, it seems there are two things that are clear: selling digitally is here to stay and their sales teams need to upskill to stay ahead.
Recognising the importance of future-proofing their roles as the world of work becomes ever more digital is paramount for sales leaders and rightly so, this is the area sales leaders are most concerned with and focused on getting right.
Having had a number of conversations around this topic recently, I’ve tried to digest and collate the topics that kept cropping up.
So, here are a few recommendations on what teams can do to upskill their teams so they can continue to sell effectively across digital formats.
Build your own ‘hub’ for training and knowledge
The rise in remote working has had a significant effect on a firm favourite of sales teams in form of ‘shadowing’. Without the on-desk training and knowledge sharing, many companies have set about creating their own online ‘Sales Academies’ or internal knowledge hubs.
These can be a mix of company training guides and knowledge on key areas, but bringing in external content and resources on key topics such as training videos and relevant articles really helps to build up this library and move towards a dynamic, bite-sized learning approach.
In addition to having a knowledge hub for everyone to tap into, encourage your teams to invest in themselves and upskill individually. This could be through webinars, podcasts, or sales books. Whatever their chosen method, sharing their learnings with the wider team will enable everyone to continuously learn, grow and develop.
Use technology to record, review and learn
Being able to critique a sales meeting is an important skill that salespeople need to develop and it’s not only their own they can be reviewing. Sharing examples of successful meetings, as well as ones that didn’t pan out as planned, is a great way for the entire team to learn and develop together.
Embrace the challenges and pace yourself
It’s probably fair to say that virtual meetings can lack the dynamism and spontaneity of an in-person sales meeting. The connection isn’t the same, the flow doesn’t feel quite right, and the discussions can sometimes feel a bit dampened as you wait your turn to interject or there’s connectivity issues slowing the whole thing down.
If your teams can embrace these challenges, follow a good, structured agenda and accept that virtual selling can be energy-sapping as the call goes on then their meetings will be more effective and will get more value from them.
Introducing clear, structured meetings internally is a great way to learn and practice delivering information and having discussions in the right way that doesn’t waste time and energy.
Focus on developing your team’s soft skills
How salespeople are able to engage with potential customers and walk them through the process from initial engagement to closing the deal has changed as they transition to digital platforms.
This was an interesting point that came out of a few discussions and that we’re seeing crop up on a lot more job specifications. Soft skills matter most in sales and are crucial in salespeople connecting with their customers and understanding their changing needs.
The businesses we speak to that said they focused on developing their team’s soft skills such as empathy, active listening, emotional intelligence and collaboration have been the ones who have seen real success over the past 12 months.
What lies ahead?
Hopefully, these recommendations are useful, but they are by no means the only things you can be doing to ensure your sales team’s success. Each team and team member is different so you need to have a number of tools at your disposal to develop the skills of everyone.
As we slowly but surely continue down the road to normality again, it remains to be seen whether or not salespeople revert back to what they know or continue to grow and develop the skills to do business digitally.
As I mentioned at the start of this piece, it’s difficult to say what the preferred choice will be, but one thing is for sure, if virtual selling is to be their go-to sales strategy then equipping your teams with the necessary skills, confidence and resources to be successful is essential.
For advice on how to help upskill or add sales talent to your business, get in touch with the team.