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Virtual Selling Is Not The Same Thing As Digital Buying

by David Brock on March 8th, 2022

According to much research and too many pundits on social media, the future of selling is virtual–or perhaps hybrid. Well yes, kind of, but we are really missing the point.

While we focus on developing our virtual selling skills; do you have the right camera/lighting, an appropriate background, are you dressed appropriately–at least from the waist up, are you looking at the camera, not the person’s image on screen…… our customers are doing something different.

Of course, they are engaging sales people through virtual channels, but that’s an increasingly small part of how and where they spend their time in their digital buying journey. They are investing more time in learning through digital content in other places–at our websites, through online discussions with others, through any number of any other sources. We know, collectively, they spend less than 17% of their time with sales people, virtually or in person.

We also know, increasingly, they prefer Rep-Free buying journeys. A couple of years ago, we learned 43% of buyers want no sales involvement–it’s a waste of their time, they feel they can learn better through other resources. All indications show that trend is increasing, we now expect more than 60% of buyers prefer a Rep-Free experience.

But we are sharpening our virtual selling skills.

I actually had a leader ask me, “How to we better identify and focus on the 40% who still want to see us?”

I anticipate we will see, “Lights, Cameras, and Decreasing Action!”

Some in marketing and sales revel at this shift in buying behaviors. It’s easier and cheaper to engage digitally!

But we’re missing something important!

Buyers are struggling more! They are finding buying increasingly difficult! They express greater regret for those purchases they make! Decision confidence is plummeting! More buyers are abandoning their buying journeys with the famous, “No Decision Made!”

These conflicting trends are fascinating–increasing preference for a digital first buying journey, yet decreasing confidence and success in their actual buying decisions.

It’s this vacuum that sales can–must–fill.

But sadly, too many seem to be missing this opportunity to create real value for our customers, increasing their success in buying and improving their confidence in the buying decisions they make.

We seem to be doubling down in dumbing down sales people. We revel in the future of sales as Virtual, it cuts down on travel expense and sales people can make more calls every day.

Sales people continue to focus on increasingly scripted product pitches and demos, PLG has become the future of growth! (But at the same time we are seeing precipitously declining results with SDRs, BDRs, AEs). We seem to be investing in the areas that are least helpful to customers and their buying journeys.

But there are bright spots with organizations that recognize where/how buyers struggle and are directly addressing. These organizations are doing what we’ve always known sales people should do, they are focusing on the customer, their business, their goals, and how they can help the customer more effectively achieve their goals.

They know that what they sell is less an issue than what the customer is trying to achieve. As a result, they focus their selling efforts (and, by the way, much of their digital content, on those issues).

We see a huge transformation in the relationships these organizations have with their customers. Their customers are looking for increased Rep involvement. These sales people become sought after by the customers. They help the customers with the issues they can’t address through digital channels. They move from being vendors to valued partners.

As the world of business becomes more complex, as customers struggle with making sense of what they experience and the overwhelm they face, sales people are the critical difference makers. The demand for sales people who can help the customer navigate their problem solving process, their buying process, that are sense makers, that demonstrate their caring and understanding, will skyrocket.

We are already seeing organizations adopting this approach in their go to customer engagement strategies significantly out perform their product focused competition. We see greater growth rates, greater retention, greater profitability, higher levels of sales performance, and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Of course, many of these sales interventions will be virtual, many will be F2F, many will be very old school (remember this device called the telephone? Visit a museum to see one.). But what matters to the customer, their success, and our ability to engage is less one of virtual, hybrid, or anything else, but the meaning and value we create with each interaction.

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