How to Build Personal Relationships with Prospects in the Age of Remote Selling
The times when you had to meet your prospect in person and shake hands over a deal are long gone. The past two years have shown that it’s possible to make business while staying apart. In fact, 58% of sales reps agree that the way they do their job has changed forever.
Is it a good thing? It depends.
On the one hand, you are no longer limited to your location and can reach prospects anywhere in the world and scale your business without wasting time and money on business trips.
At the same time, remote selling makes it difficult for sales reps to really connect with the prospects on a personal level.
The fact is that remote selling is here to stay, like it or not. And we need to embrace this new order of things and learn to thrive in it.
The state of sales heading into 2022
It took a global pandemic and country-wide lockdown to prove that many things that have been traditionally handled in person could easily be moved online. These ranged from important business meetings to museum tours or even bar crawls with friends.
Now that things are slowly getting back to normal (or at least to what we can consider normal moving forward), not everyone seems to be rushing back to their offices. According to The State of Sales 2021 report, around 70% of buyers plan to continue working remotely at least part-time.
And it’s not just because they are worried about their safety. Half of those surveyed have stated that working remotely has made the buying process easier. This means the virtual selling trend isn’t going anywhere soon.
Namely, Gartner expects 80% of B2B sales interactions between buyers and sellers to take place across the digital channels by 2025. As a result, digital buying experience will be “key for B2B sales organizations to unlock growth in the next three years.”
Virtual selling: a forced measure or competitive benefit?
Virtual selling had been a matter of debate for years… up until 2020 when it became a necessity. No matter the circumstances, any business must keep the pipeline moving to survive. So, in a matter of days, every sales team out there had to become a virtual one.
Just a year later, the majority of sellers have come to realize the effectiveness of virtual sales (79% compared with 54% in May 2020). In fact, 63% of the sales leaders in the HubSpot survey believe that virtual sales meetings are just as effective or even more effective than face-to-face ones.
There are many benefits of digital, remote selling:
- Increased speed and frequency of customer interactions
- Higher cost-effectiveness of those interactions
- The ability to scale and reach more prospects
In addition to that, it offers more channels to engage with your prospects, including but not limited to email, phone, and video calls, social media, messengers, etc. These digital interactions as well as a ton of other sales tasks can be easily streamlined using various automation tools.
On the downside, remote sales teams often face a number of organizational difficulties, e.g. training and communication. Yet, those rarely have a direct business impact and can be solved with orderly processes and the right tech stack, as well as an employee engagement survey.
Far more important issues are the lack of engagement and difficulties in how to build personal relationships with the prospects. These are two of the top 3 virtual selling challenges highlighted in the RAIN Group research.
Building long-distance relationships with the prospects
The buyer behavior is constantly changing. Yet, one thing remains just as important as a decade ago. It’s engagement, i.e. how responsive your prospects are to your outreach and whether they are willing to interact with you.
The foundation of a genuine, lasting relationship in sales, engagement starts with rapport and trust. But how do you build those without any in-person interactions with the prospect?
3 ways to build rapport when selling remotely
It’s much easier to win the prospect’s favor in person. A confident smile, a firm handshake, eye contact, as well as your body language during the conversation can help you make a lasting impression.
However, most people unconsciously tend to be suspicious of something they can’t see or touch. This makes rapport building and trust some of the key challenges in the remote selling process. Luckily, there are some ways to go about it.
First, you should understand some specifics of buying behavior of your target audience as well as the psychology behind the sales process in general. With that in mind, here are some tactics you could implement to win the prospect’s trust:
- Connect across different channels. Omnichannel, immersive communication is the most powerful means of building rapport in remote sales. Make it clear that you’re there for the prospect, wherever they need you. This is also a great way to keep in touch with the prospects throughout their buying journey.
- Get face to face. Be it a live video call or recording, showing your face helps you convey your message in the most convincing way. For this reason, many sales reps even use personalized videos or images/GIFs in their prospecting.
- Offer value first. There’s an unwritten rule in sales: before you ask for anything, make sure to give something first. This could be some relevant content or simply sound advice. The key is to show that you don’t view your prospect as a walking dollar sign, but really care and want to help.
How to survive (and flourish) in the age of remote selling
Rapport building is an important aspect of an effective virtual sales process. Yet, this alone is not enough to make your virtual sales process effective. There are many more things you should keep in mind, from the processes to your stack and tactics you’re using.
Level up your internal processes
Orderly, clear-cut processes are vital to any team working remotely. This is how you stay in sync and keep your productivity consistently high. Talking about sales processes, there are two aspects team leaders should consider:
- Team management. Provide proper onboarding, ongoing coaching, and training for your team members. Adopt effective communication/collaboration practices within the department.
- Sales activities. From prospecting to negotiations and closing, define and document every step within your sales process. Consider building an internal knowledge base of workflows, playbooks, checklists, and make sure every one of your team members knows and follows these documents.
Enrich your sales stack
Some of the must-have sales tool categories are:
- Sales automation – to scale your sales efforts and boost your team’s productivity.
- Sales enablement – to provide your sales reps with the necessary tools and resources (e.g. sales documents or collateral) to do their job better.
- Sales intelligence – to improve processes and increase their effectiveness, e.g. by suggesting next-best actions or prioritizing leads in your pipeline. Virtual selling also allows you to record and analyze your conversations to source actionable insights.
- Communication – to work effectively within and outside of the team. This category also includes document sharing and eSignature tools as well as proposal software.
Adjust your sales tactics
Selling in a virtual environment requires a completely different approach compared to in-person interactions. On the other hand, it also offers a ton of unique tactics you can use to increase your sales effectiveness. Here are just some of them.
Virtual selling makes it tempting to automate as many processes as possible. Yet, doing so will make you seem generic and be less effective in your sales engagement efforts.
Personalization tactics come in handy when you want to appeal to each prospect individually without scaling down. For example, you can use custom variables, images, or even video to tailor your messages to each prospect and add a personal touch to your interactions.
- Visual prospecting
As mentioned above, putting a face on your sales message can help you build trust with your prospects. But there’s more! Using images, GIFs, or videos in your sales communications, especially at the earlier stages of engagement, is a great way to stand out from the crowd and engage them in a conversation (or re-engage if the prospects go dark).
- Social selling
An important part of multichannel engagement, social selling efforts should be top of mind for remote sales reps. After all, the prospects are more likely to engage with you if you have a strong personal brand and solid social media presence. Doing outreach with an empty profile is a waste of time.
- Intent-based engagement
The virtual sales process allows you to take advantage of the relevant intent data available online. Be it internal information (website visit) or data sourced externally (recent hires, acquisitions within the company, etc.), you can use the information to tailor your sales messaging accordingly for maximum impact.
Wrapping up, there’s one more virtual selling skill that doesn’t get enough attention — empathy.
It’s always important to treat your prospect the way they deserve, i.e. as a person, not a record in your CRM. Yet, in the age of remote selling, having limited means of communication, it’s even more important to strive for a real connection with the prospect on a personal level.
After all, empathy and emotional intelligence are some of the most important but often overlooked skills every salesperson should possess, especially when selling remotely. This is the key to winning trust and the best path on how to build personal relationships with your prospects.
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