If we were to compare the sales landscape of today to that of 3 years ago, we would easily recognize the shift from in-person to virtual selling. And while the pandemic may have accelerated the adoption of remote interaction, the impact of merging our digital and physical worlds has forever influenced how we do business, even post-pandemic.
A recent B2B Pulse Survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that “B2B selling has truly changed much faster and more dramatically than many would have imagined” with “ninety-four percent of respondents view[ing] today’s B2B omnichannel reality—in which customers buy face-to-face, remotely, and online—as being as effective or more than before COVID-19”.
These findings motivate our team at MMC because the core of our mission for over three decades has been to help manufacturers and distributors with direct sales forces explore alternative channels fit for a new era of business. "A new era" facing complex buyer journeys, saturated marketplaces, and heightened customer expectations from leading brands and consumer experiences.
For the first time in history, businesses big and small found themselves on a level playing field. Channel adoption intended to provide temporary solutions has now become expected by customers. Simply “switching back” to pre-pandemic selling models won’t do.
McKinsey & Company states:
“B2B sales are now resolutely omnichannel, with e-commerce, face-to-face, and remote videoconference sales all a necessary part of buyers’ experience. But buyers’ move to omnichannel hasn’t been a matter of simply shifting more transactions online. What B2B customers want is nuanced, and so are their views about the most effective way to reach them.”
As we emerge from the pandemic, one thing is certain, virtual selling is here to stay.
The Gartner Future of Sales 2025 report predicts that “by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels. Chief sales officers (CSOs) and other senior sales leaders must accept that buying preferences have permanently changed and, as a result, so too will the role of sellers.”
We've seen these trends unfold firsthand for our clients and prospects. For many, the question has become less about "why should we change" and now about "how do we adapt quickly and effectively" to achieve growth in the virtual sales world.
If you're looking to make the shift, here are three critical components of virtual selling that we deem necessary.
1. Customer-First Mindset
"COVID-19 has not just changed the way distributors sell, it has also changed how their customers buy. Whereas many customers may have previously preferred face-to-face selling, COVID-19 has forced most buyers to accept remote conversations as a viable purchase method."
Preferences previously forced have now become the norm with 2/3 of buyers opting for remote human interactions or digital self-service at various stages of their buying journey. The number of channels used has also doubled over the past 5 years, from 5 in 2016 to 10 in 2021 (McKinsey & Company).
Do your sales reps know their customers' channel preferences and where they are in the buying cycle at every touchpoint? Today's buyers are dynamic, and sales teams must keep pace with their complex journeys and lengthened buying cycle.
As marketing and selling conditions change, ensuring the right message is delivered at the right time in the right channel is vital to getting customers to purchase.
2. Better Quality Data
We consistently stress at MMC that virtual selling must start and end with data. It's an alarming statistic that "30% of data within a CRM decay annually without proper hygiene" (Informatica). Put bluntly, the lack of data management means unmarketable customers and millions of dollars in lost revenue potential.
So, what does proper data hygiene include? When managing our clients' data, we strive to build a marketing database containing golden records with "data we can act on" or actionable data.
MMC's VP of Client Management, Jay Miller, when asked about the topic, said this:
"There is no replacement for consistently accurate and verified information about your customers. We take into account the following data points: Categories customers buy today versus the categories they should be buying, frequency of purchase, product planning, brand and supplier preferences, loyalty program enrollments, number of crews working at one time, in addition to many other unique identifiers. All of this information leads to more strategic engagements with your customers, who then establish a sense of comfort with your team as they know you understand their business, their needs, and how to be a valuable partner."
Working to improve your customer data has proven to be the most valuable exercise in a virtual sales environment. The direct correlation between sales growth and customer data quality score is evident, and one of the reasons we usually attack data first when working with new clients.
3. Establishing Your Omnichannel Toolkit
We mean a few things when we refer to "omnichannel" selling. We define it as an integrated, multichannel approach to marketing, selling, and servicing customers. It's focused on a cohesive customer experience, no matter how or where a customer is in the buying journey.
For our virtual sales channel specifically, omnichannel allows us to connect technology, data, content, and communication tools, such as phone, email, live chat, video, and text for a seamless customer experience. It also permits our virtual sellers to seamlessly switch between channels without losing context from customer interactions across all other engagements.
Here are a few stats to support why we prefer omnichannel over traditional multichannel methods (Source: CustomerGuage)
B2B companies that excel at omnichannel customer experience retain an average of 89% of clients
75% of B2B customers repeat purchases from companies with omnichannel capabilities
B2B companies are more likely to grow revenue and retain customers by implementing an omnichannel strategy
So, what does it take to implement omnichannel into your organization? Here is our high-level checklist:
The New Normal Starts Now
How has your organization been managing the shift to a virtual selling environment? Have you considered designing your plan with a customer-first mindset? What are you doing to strive for better quality data? What do you need to consider establishing an omnichannel toolkit for your virtual sales team? These are some critical questions for you to consider during your transition period.
If you'd like to add virtual sales in your go-to-market strategy, we can help! Book a free consultation with our team to get started. We start by assessing your current sales approach and then map out your growth potential when overlaying our solutions.