The pandemic accelerated a shift that was already underway in the B2B realm: Remote sales is now the name of the game.
The numbers tell the story. According to a report by McKinsey, about 70%-80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote interactions with sellers, or even digital self-service, over in-person interactions with sales reps.
The reasons include ease of scheduling, savings on travel expenses, and COVID-19-related safety concerns.
A ROCKY START
As with most other industries that suddenly went digital during COVID-19, B2B sales had a rocky start. Leaders had to search for the right solutions, onboard sales teams, and handle all of the logistics. A lot of people felt forced into it, which caused some panic in the space.
At the start of the pandemic, there was no way to determine how the new distance economy would impact sales performance.
THE BENEFITS OF GOING REMOTE
In the weeks and months that followed, the many benefits of B2B remote sales came to light. Across the board, it seemed like employee satisfaction increased, and that went hand in hand with an increase in productivity. Once location was no longer a factor, recruiters cast wider nets, and teams worked together across greater distances to achieve common goals.
It quickly became clear that the remote sales arrangement wasn’t a bandaid or a bridge to make it through the pandemic. We were at the cusp of actual transformative change. After working past the initial hiccups, B2B sales leaders and teams alike started to fully embrace the apparent evolution in the space.
There are many benefits associated with remote sales, including the virtual elimination of direct and indrect costs related to travel. Those benefits in particular ring loudest for veteran sales professionals. It is also notable that a remote environment makes it easier to assemble internal and external sales teams.
These benefits all influence the scalability factor, which is the ultimate perk of remote sales. Software systems can help automate tedious tasks so that teams can focus their time on closing deals.
MORE THAN JUST SHARING SCREENS
However, many companies are still getting the experience wrong. Remote sales is not about automated scheduling and sharing screens over video conferences.
Everything about the process is evolving at an accelerated rate. In many cases, silos that once existed between sales and marketing teams have been broken down in an effort to better support the buyer journey. Product, design, and data science teams are also more available to sales teams, and we’re seeing the impact of that on product demonstrations.
The old-school methods of product demos included the likes of PowerPoint decks (cue “death by PowerPoint”), InVision mockups (cool, but overloaded with features and laggy), and live run-throughs of the products in hopes that all runs smoothly.
The downside to the latter is that it doesn’t always go that way—recall the notorious case of Bill Gates and the blue screen of death in his demo of Windows 98 or the time Tesla’s “bulletproof” Cybertruck windows were shattered by a metal ball. Pre-recorded product videos are safer, though many would argue that they are probably too safe—to the point of being generic and boring.
At the end of the day, product videos, while useful, are also a bit too one-size-fits-all, ultimately lacking the charm and impact of a live product experience.
Given these factors, many companies are turning to a more customized demo experience than a video. You may have come across “product-led growth,” where a real demonstration of your product leads to more inbound clients.
If you go this route, it’s important to keep in mind that no two prospects are alike, even if they are in the same industry. You also have to make sure your demo product won’t suffer downtime, your demo will provide an ideal and personalized experience to the prospect, and your prospect will be very fast in making a purchase decision about your product.
NOT EASY TO EXECUTE, BUT HERE TO STAY
In many ways, it is still too early to determine which parts of old-school sales have become obsolete. For instance, cold calls are rapidly losing their popularity, and impulse business travel for demos might be a thing of the past. The state of trade shows is also questionable; the pandemic forced all trade shows to go virtual in 2020, with little fanfare.
Sales teams managed to pull through remotely without networking in trade shows, which indicates that the leads that come from trade shows might not justify the costs associated with the trade show. The selling handbooks of tomorrow will be far different from pre-pandemic versions.
One thing that is certain: Remote sales is here to stay. The future is digital, and buyers and sellers alike have become accustomed to the perks of the remote workforce.
The key will be providing a personalized experience to prospects, and ensuring that you avoid demo bugs and malfunctions at all costs.
CEO at Walnut and “Tech Marketer to Watch” by Forbes. Startup mentor in the world’s top accelerators.