How to Get Your Field Reps Selling Virtually

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Nine, six, and three months ago no fewer than 10 field sales VP’s told me they and their teams were “waiting to get back to normal.” I heard things like…

“Some markets are already back face-to-face.” 

“My prospects aren’t in their offices anyway.”

“My team is too tenured to be compared to virtual or inside sellers.”

Well, we’re going on month 12, and things have changed – by not changing. We’re still not business as usual, and it looks like the industry hit hardest will be corporate Real Estate as more and more industries realize that virtual will always be a part of their ongoing strategy.

In fact, only a few of us still have our heads planted in the sand by saying we don’t have to adapt how we sell. I’m hearing the most grizzly, bag-carrying, face-to-face veterans embracing virtual tools and methodologies now and calling it a competitive edge. That means there’s still some time left to get out in front of your competition, and the smart money is on adaption (I’ll credit that one to Darwin.)

So if you’re with me, dear field sales leader, but still struggling with the resistors on your team, here are a few ideas from a reformed field to virtual seller to help get some buy-in:

1. Virtual does NOT mean telesales

(also known as “Telemarketing, inside sales, call centers, virtual sellers, or those 20-something flunkies wearing ball caps and baggy jeans to work”).

Instead, liken the change to the adoption of the internet. We used to send letters. We still do, but we call them emails. Sales calls used to mean face-to-face, now it means cell phones. Face-to-face used to mean over lunch, now it’s suit on top and sweats on the bottom because it\’s a video conference. In other words, all that has changed is the technology folks. Don’t be a grandma.

2. The efficiency is undeniable.

What seller wouldn’t like more time in his or her day? Same quota but triple the potential daily meetings = higher earnings. A great field seller could meet with 2-3 (MAYBE 4) clients or prospects a day. Yeah, that’s with a tight geographical area, lots of advanced planning, and all green lights. Put that same effort into digital scheduling and outbound calling, and we can double it – MAYBE triple it. It’s like buying them a jet plane instead of a bicycle. They can literally be in any place in the WORLD at any time during the day. This is freedom! This is a bigger commission check.

3. Their competition stinks.

Last month I met virtually with my financial planner. Those 75 minutes were in my top ten most painful should-have-been-an-hour-meeting-but-ran-long-due-to-poor-planning experiences of my life. I experienced:

  1. Bumpy camera (think broadcasting from a mountain bike)
  2. Microphone interference and knocking
  3. “Can you see this?” at least 20 times
  4. Him trying to hold up a paper copy and point to it
  5. Clear lack of confidence as he routinely explained what he “usually does”
  6. Elementary PowerPoints being explained as if he had a Ph.D. and I was a preschooler
  7. An obvious sales script and process that railroaded the entire conversation
  8. A tour of their portal that included every SINGLE corner and square inch
  9. A follow-up email that read like the first chapter of “War and Peace”
  10. Zero action items, agreements, or follow-ups set (lucky me)

I really want to go on just so I can paint this picture for you, but I’ve probably conjured enough of your own painful experiences that you get it. Yeah, your highest-paid sellers probably resemble about half of this list right now. It’s how I look when trying to play Fortnite with my kids. (“What button do I push to walk again? Oh, that’s me in a corner, I thought I was over there!”)

Most enterprise sellers, field sellers, or experienced sellers use relationships, charm, swag, and deep knowledge to close deals. They look good, they sound good, they’re respected and polished, they know the industry and their product/service better than anyone and it’s WHY you put them on the big-money deals.

And this all means bupkis if they make the mistakes above. And they’ll still fail if we don’t teach them how often to call, how to get people’s attention on unexpected phone calls, how to get the follow-up meeting, how to really engage without face-to-face environments.

The message is this: 

They aren’t changing how they sell, they\’re adding tools, technology, and techniques to make their existing gifts outshine their competitors virtually. Because some of their base will always prefer virtual thanks to this pandemic, and if they get there first they will not only beat their external competition but perhaps even the internal reps who don’t adapt. No reason Joe in Idaho can’t cover Susan’s accounts in Michigan anymore.

Once we get some buy-in, I suggest we start building some new baselines. Can you and your team answer these questions:

  1. What percent of your book (or lead list) were you able to connect with last quarter?
  2. How many calls does it take to get someone on the phone?
  3. How long is your average phone call?
  4. How many calls does it take to close a deal?
  5. What trends do you see in the customers/prospects who closed?

These questions subtly set the expectation that they need to get to know their business in a different way. We can’t just count the wins anymore, we’re going to have to get to know the process because the process has changed.

Finally, I’ll leave you with good news. The skills they’re missing aren’t terribly hard. Good voicemails aren’t rocket science, nor is call bridging and pre-call planning, even online demos. If a 20-year old punk telemarketer can do it, so can your team. 😉

Get more insights by watching a recent webinar I did with a few hundred traditional sellers where we covered key techniques for a digital advantage. And consider helping your team adapt by subscribing them to The Sales Bar where we have over 100 digital selling skills on tap.

Want more tips on how field reps can sell virtually? Read these articles:
How Do I Sell If I Can’t Meet My Customers?
How Do You Transition From Field Sales To Virtual Engagement?


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