Selling Virtually When You Can't Be Face to Face

December 20, 2021

Adjusting to large industry changes might feel quite distressing initially, but is it truly problematic? In terms of the shift towards selling virtually, not only are we adjusting, but both parties are starting to prefer this method of communication. According to a recent McKinsey Report, “more than three-quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions” (Bages-Amat et al, 2020). This impressive statistic alerts us that this shift has been well received, and thankfully, buyers and sellers are on the same page. When moving forward in the digital world of selling there are many things to keep in mind. 

Emphasis on Referrals 

Sales professionals are not strangers to the concept of referrals, and with this virtual selling revolution, referrals may be arguably more important than ever before.

Referrals are important because they build trust between the prospect and the seller. This bridge of trust may be harder to build now that most initial interactions occur virtually, and buyers are not able to gauge sellers using the same proven criteria they used previously during in-person settings. 

Now there is even more emphasis on referrals, because according to the Harvard Business Review, “referrals are the one powerful tool for getting past the access chokepoint” and they help salespeople, “transfer earned trust from a customer to a prospect” (Zoltners et al., 2021). 

Prospecting is not happening as it used to, and neither is the process of referrals. A customer might not introduce connections to their seller as easily or as often as they may have in face-to-face settings. Individuals working in sales must focus their energy on obtaining referrals and converting these referrals to customers.

Master the Virtual Selling Landscape 

Due to its popularity, Virtual selling is most likely going to be a long-term solution. Salespeople must prioritize their mastery of the digital world. As the Harvard Business Review explains, “digital fluency was forced on sales teams in the pandemic” (Zoltners et al, 2020). In other words, salespeople were pushed to quickly learn the ins and outs of the digital landscape to sell effectively. 

And as this “trend” becomes the norm, salespeople will be expected to maintain fluency in the digital world to keep up with the expectations of buyers. This includes consuming general digital knowledge, and it also means salespeople should learn what their buyers specifically want to see with virtual communications. 

Sellers must focus on building a strong digital relationship with their buyers by communicating with them in a way that showcases their knowledge of technology and the buyer’s preferences. For example, some buyers might want to learn about a product via a presentation, while other buyers would rather receive a written description. In addition, one buyer might prefer video calls while another prefers regular voice calls during meetings. Salespeople should be the Master of Digital Technology and they should learn what their buyers want from them despite the loss of face-to-face communication. 

No Travel, No Problem

A major perk of selling without face-to-face interaction is that they need to be in the same place as a buyer is eliminated. “Geography is no longer a barrier” (Zoltners et al., 2021). It is easier for people to connect with others without being limited by location. Now that virtual selling is so mainstream, some buyers and sellers might be more likely to interact, where they might have never connected in the past. Salespeople should take advantage of virtual selling by expanding their reach to wider audiences.

In addition, “virtual connection also allows buying and selling to progress through a series of shorter, more focused video meetings (rather than a longer face-to-face meeting),” (Zoltners et al., 2021). This time-saver can help to increase efficiency throughout the entire sales cycle. 


- John Asher, author of The Future of Sales

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