The red lights are blinking, the sirens are blaring, the signs that say “Danger Ahead” are flashing: Sales professionals of all stripes are in for a challenging 2021. Yes, 2020 was a rough one, but if you think next year is going to be smooth sailing, I have some unwelcome news for you.

The world irrevocably changed this year, in large part due to the COVID-19 crisis, and it likely isn’t going back to “normal” from a sales perspective. The RAIN Group, a sales training company, recently conducted a research survey of 528 buyers and sellers from a variety of industries, which uncovered a number of valuable insights about how sales strategies and tactics were impacted by the pandemic and how processes may permanently shift.

Virtual meetings

So long lunch meetings and boardroom pow-wows: The face-to-face sales meeting may very well be a thing of the past. RAIN Group found that, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a 163 percent increase in the number of sales meetings being conducted virtually.

This online meeting trend is likely to persist even when the pandemic subsides. Not all but many buyers and sellers (as well as companies) find this method to be more time-efficient and cost-effective. As a result, sales professionals must find ways to adapt to this new technology. The million-dollar question, however, is: Is it as effective for making deals and closing sales? Is something lost when we give up in-person facetime?

The downside of the virtual sales call

The RAIN Group’s research may have uncovered the root of sales professionals’ apprehension about this new normal. Among the top challenges cited by sellers:

  • Ninety-one percent are concerned about gaining buyers’ attention and keeping them engaged virtually.
  • Changing buyers’ points of view on what’s possible or how to solve a problem is a top worry for 89 percent of sellers.
  • Developing relationships with buyers virtually makes 88 percent of sellers apprehensive.

And sellers are right to be concerned. From the buyers’ perspective, sales pros have a lot of work to do in order to bridge the gap created by the virtual meeting.

  • Only a quarter of buyers (26 percent) report that sellers are “skilled at leading a thorough needs discovery virtually.”
  • Barely a third of buyers (34 percent) say that sellers are “skilled at showing them what’s possible or how to solve a problem.”
  • Just over 1 in 4 buyers (26 percent) agreed that sellers are “competent listeners.”

Using Industry Intelligence to improve virtual sales call

If you are a sales professional, these statistics may produce ire, anxiety…or both. Your job was difficult enough in “normal” times, and now you have an additional barrier to closing deals? It is understandable if you feel like throwing your hands up and surrendering. But take heart: There are ways to overcome the obstacles put in your way by the pandemic and virtual selling. And at the heart of the solution is Industry Intelligence.

Using Industry Intelligence can improve your virtual sales tactics from initial contact to closing, addressing the challenges cited by sellers in the RAIN research and alleviating the discontent expressed by buyers.

Get and keep buyers’ attention

Keep prospects (and existing clients, for that matter) engaged virtually by sharing timely news articles about their industry or the latest financial benchmarks for their niche, either by email or mail. Continue to develop the relationship by sharing relevant industry insights throughout the sales funnel. It’s a great way to stay top-of-mind and spotlight the value you bring as you develop the relationship.

Ask more relevant questions

Ask probing, industry-specific questions about how the buyer’s firm operates to gain an understanding of potential pain points and areas for optimization. Further explore the buyer’s top business challenges — what’s keeping them up at night — by asking about common risks and trends within their industry and delving deeper based on their answers to offer solutions. This is where “leading a thorough needs discovery” and being a “competent listener” become key.

Show off your knowledge of their industry

Share information about how other companies within the buyer’s industry are addressing their particular business needs — such as working capital or banking solutions — to further showcase your unique ability to “show them what’s possible or how to solve a problem” based on your knowledge of their industry.

The ingenuity of Industry Intelligence

We have crossed the Rubicon of the virtual meeting, and the sales profession may never be the same. Yes, the world was already trending in that direction, but the COVID-19 pandemic has officially pushed us over that cliff. Now, sales professionals who were used to building relationships through in-person interactions must find new and creative ways to engage with buyers virtually.

But all is not lost! Incorporating Industry Intelligence into your online presentations, video conversations, and “touch-free” client touchpoints will not only boost your credibility, it will help you prove your ability to offer tailored guidance and solutions, even when you can’t meet face-to-face.

Ready to start boosting your virtual sales results by incorporating Industry Intelligence into your processes? Request a free Vertical IQ demo today!

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