The year 2020 disrupted almost every aspect of “normal” life - including how consumers and businesses engage with each other. With global stay-at-home orders, the internet and various virtual platforms became crucial for commerce. The lack of physical meetings alone creates unique difficulties for companies across the country, so sales teams have turned to the next best thing: virtual selling. Keep reading to learn how manufacturers can improve upon their virtual selling abilities by addressing the challenges created by the COVID-19 environment and leveraging available tools and opportunities.
- What is Virtual Selling?
- The Popularity of Virtual Selling
- Why Should Manufacturing Companies Consider Selling Online?
- Biggest Differences Between Traditional and Virtual Selling
- Methods of Virtual Selling
- How Can Manufacturers Thrive in Virtual Sales?
- It's Time to Integrate Virtual Selling into Your Business Plan!
What is Virtual Selling?
Essentially, virtual selling is the act of engaging and nurturing leads through to a sale solely through online digital or virtual interactions. Virtual selling is increasingly popular for customers, too, which further indicates how consumer behavior habits have evolved over the last year or so. Research by McKinsey found that 75% of B2B customers prefer remote sales interactions over traditional face-to-face ones.
The Popularity of Virtual Selling
According to a study by McKinsey, sales leaders stated that digital interactions were 2-3x more important than traditional sales interactions in 2020. Why? The answer lies in understanding customer behaviors: when researching a product, customers’ preference for digitally-enabled sales interactions has jumped significantly, with suppliers’ mobile apps and social media or online communities showing their sharpest increase since 2019. Furthermore, in actually making a purchase, buyers cited a strong preference for self-service, with suppliers’ mobile apps more than doubling in importance since 2019.
Why Should Manufacturing Companies Consider Selling Online?
This ease of online ordering has shifted consumer and business client expectations, which means sellers need to adapt if they want to survive in an increasingly competitive world. Suppliers providing high-quality digital experiences to buyers are more than twice as likely to be picked as a primary supplier than those who provide lackluster experiences, and 70% more likely than those providing an average one.
Biggest Differences Between Traditional and Virtual Selling
Of course, there are pros and cons to virtual selling compared to traditional methods:
- Non-verbal cues are limited in virtual selling: When there is no in-person interaction, it can be hard for both sellers and buyers to read body language and other physical cues during meetings. Plus, it’s hard to accurately gauge things like enthusiasm and tone of voice over an email.
- New opportunities are possible with virtual selling: For example, it’s impossible to be in two places at once—technically. A virtual sales rep can make a deal in Shanghai, meet a new client in London, and finalize the terms to a sale in Chicago in one day all from their kitchen counter in Seattle. Virtual platforms also allow for scaling—one announcement on a webpage (or a recorded video presentation or meeting) can be viewed by countless potential clients as opposed to meeting each of them in person to discuss the same thing.
- Furthermore, virtual selling incentivizes efficiency: No one wants to sit in front of a computer camera for longer than necessary, nor do they want to read an overly verbose email. Online interactions are meant to be efficient and to the point. According to the 30-second rule, an audience will decide in the first 30 seconds of a speech whether or not to pay attention. This means that speakers in the virtual environment need to get their point across quickly and concisely or they risk losing their recipient’s focus.
Bottom line, when looking at virtual versus traditional selling practices, it’s important to think about the possibilities each method provides and maximize them. If your manufacturing business is forced to transition from in-person sales to virtual, either due to health concerns or changing consumer demands, focus on the new opportunities and options such a method opens up and take full advantage.
Methods of Virtual Selling
There are a variety of methods of virtual selling, including:
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Companies can use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator tool to seek out prospective clients, gather information, and even create lists of desired clients based on a customer profile. You can filter down your ideal client by company size, region, job title, and more. Beyond simply finding clients, Sales Navigator helps you understand these potential customers so you can create a more personalized outreach plan. A major key to success with Sales Navigator is frequency. Rather than sending out repetitive or generic messages that risk getting blocked by the very clients you are trying to pursue, this platform enables you to be more specific and targeted.
Personalized Sales Videos
One of the greatest tools to leverage in sales is making the client feel special. However, maintaining a one-on-one connection that is so effective in making a deal can be hard when in-person meetings are not an option. This is where personalized videos come in: they distinguish you from all the other cold, automated emails that go straight to the spam folder and demonstrate to your client that there is a real human being on the other end. In fact, using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts your open rate by 19%. It gives your company a tangible presence, which makes a significant impact on your sales pipeline.
Regardless of whether you host a virtual event or are present at another company’s digital occasion, there are plenty of opportunities to capture sales opportunities simply by being present and active at the event, providing value, and being helpful. The best practice here is simple: look for ways to be a part of the community and industry so that you remain active in people’s minds when they think about your business field, whether through virtual meetups, Facebook groups, public chat channels, live broadcasts, or another digital venue. The easiest way to get started is by visiting online forums that are focused on your industry and listening for any events or groups that members may mention.
How Can Manufacturers Thrive in Virtual Sales?
To fully take advantage of the benefits of virtual sales, there are some best practices to follow:
Align Your Digital Marketing Plan With Your Value Proposition
Be sure to reevaluate your target market and value proposition. Has the shift to virtual selling opened up new potential audiences that your organization may want to tap into? Or, perhaps other demographics are becoming less critical in today’s world? Well-qualified digital leads result in more digital sales, and, with the abundance of advertising data available today, getting well-qualified leads has never been easier. A great first step is to ask yourself, “Why should I do business with *insert your company here*?” Then, see where that takes you and how it informs your digital marketing strategy.
Update Your Website
It should go without saying, but updating your company website is also critical to succeeding in the virtual world. This goes beyond simply keeping company information accurate and up to date. Businesses are increasingly finding that well-written, search engine optimized (SEO) content through a company blog can be a powerful force in driving traffic to your site. Finally, hosting educational content on the topic of your company’s specialty is a great way to not only boost traffic and web presence but also increase your authority in the field.
It's Time to Integrate Virtual Selling into Your Business Plan!
Virtual selling is here to stay and provides countless opportunities for businesses. To learn more about how to integrate virtual selling into your business plan, contact CMTC. CMTC provides free sales operation audits in which we review your business and provide actionable insights that you can use moving forward. Transform your organization for the future today!
About the Author
Gregg Profozich is a manufacturing, operations and technology executive who believes that manufacturing is the key creator of wealth in the economy and that a strong manufacturing sector is critical to our nation’s prosperity and security now, and for future generations. Across his 20-year plus career in manufacturing, operations and technology consulting, Mr. Profozich helped manufacturing companies from the Fortune 500 to the small, independents significantly improve their productivity and competitiveness.