Sales teams are slow to digital transformation

It’s been about a year since the pandemic escalated from “This could be serious” to “Red Alert” status. By March 2020, the Sars-Cov-2 virus had crossed national borders and went from a regional epidemic in China into a full international pandemic. Everyone has had to adapt in some way. But one group have struggled according to some recent research. Some sales reps are finding they are way less effective working online.

Research from Gartner Inc, a major technology research consultancy, has found the just 23% of B2B sales reps think they are equally effective selling virtually as they are when face-to-face with a client.

Gartner’s researchers have some explanations for this around coaching and a lack of experience with virtual selling. And that’s probably all true. All online interactions are different to face-to-face. Whether that’s dating, selling, education, team meetings or workplace collaboration the way we work online is different to how we work in the physical world.

In the world of technology, the biggest buzzword of the last few years has been digital transformation – often abbreviated to DX. in the early days of DX businesses learned that taking an old analog process and simply translating it a digital system didn’t work. in fact, it often made things a lot worse.

For example, when you take a paper-based form and simply copy it into an interactive PDF or some other form, all you’ve done is taken what was easy to do with a pen and paper and made it harder as people have to tab, mouse and type to enter the information.

Or they add automation to a process only to discover the process was pretty inefficient and the automation has amplified the process problems.

When you shift from analog to digital, you need to actually start over.

In my experience, many businesses do things in particular ways simply because that’s what they’ve always done and they can’t (or refuse?) to see that there’s a different or better way.

Sales is no different. The heart of the sales process has been the creation of a bind between the seller and the buyer that’s founded on trust. In many cases, that trust has been created through personal interactions over lunches, meetings at cafes and social-business occasions.

In the course of my work, I interview a lot of people. Whether that’s for a publication, for corporate or sponsored content, or in media training, I always ask people the same question:

What makes your product or service special?

In my experience, fewer than 1% can answer this. And it’s Media-Wize, the media training and PR consultancy I co-founded, counsel clients to watch the Simon Sinek TED talk about his book “Start With Why”.

If you’re a salesperson struggling to get results when dealing virtually, ask yourself whether you are really engaging the prospect. Selling products and services in 2021 is not the same as selling them in 2019. Trying to take the same techniques that worked face-to-face pre-COVID and using them virtually is unlikely to work.

Perhaps those sales that were being won in 2019 owned more to the social culture and rapport building that in-person meetings allowed than the actual value of the product. And if that was the case, how will you get the customer to understand your product or service’s value? And why you exist as a business.

If you can really nail that, then you’ll be successful in any setting.