Face-to-face sales (perhaps without the handshakes) will return. Just probably not for a year or two. As one of our strategic partners Predictable Revenue's Aaron Ross puts it: “Every company — and salesperson — needs to restructure and retrain their teams to prospect and sell virtually.”
At Sales Force Europe, we’ve been an inherently distributed team for going on 18 years now. We have about a hundred sales representatives stationed in hubs across the continent that share a love of pairing technological solutions with customers. We’d never want one big European headquarter, we'd always want to stay connected to local markets. Our value-added is our European management with on-the-ground, in-the-culture, localized coverage.
That’s why we asked our own distributed network of sales experts — both our team and our partners — to share their tips for closing deals when you just can’t get there.
2020, not going to go down in history as the happiest of years. But it has been one to see a lot of positive changes in the future of work. An accelerated shift towards a remote first culture — collaboration tools, asynchronous communication, cameras on — has created an even playing field across organizations. It has allowed you to save money on office rent and your teams to cut their commutes out. And it lets you hire and partner with the best people for each project, wherever they are, wherever your customers and prospects are.
This is one more reason that, no matter if you’re down the road or halfway around the world, you and your sales representatives will benefit from embracing a remote-first culture. Don’t plan for back-to-office what-ifs, but just accept the distributed lifestyle for the foreseeable future. It allows your team to settle into a work-from-home cadence and to master excellent remote communication, which will then help you close more deals. Bonus, not being co-located means less distractions including from us infamously loud salespeople.
One of our partners SparkLabs' Scott Sorochak says we should build best practices for permanently working from home. Working remotely is proven to increase productivity as well as time commitment. But this can only happen within a structured working-at-home environment.
Scott says this “requires both management and employee discipline but, at the end of the day, your team and your company will be more productive and the cost savings on rent and miscellaneous office expenses can save your company up to 25 percent of overall expenses.”
He continues that this discipline includes all teams doing daily stand-ups and weekly one-to-ones. Plus, weekly all-hands meetings. You must have a lot of intentional conversations about objectives and key results. Leveraging these calls to share roadmaps and revenue status not only makes people feel more connected across divisions and distances but it sparks a bit of competition among teams and players.
It may surprise you to learn that our partner Hubspot has been a remote-first team from Day One. With this in mind, the Hubspot team reminds us to not forget sales training, mentorship and information sharing. Encourage and even pair up newer with older sales representatives. And make sure you foster knowledge sharing with your teammates on new products, processes and techniques.
This remote first approach is one of the drivers that enable us to help our clients get up and running faster as they expand around the globe. Our broad international distributed team has allowed us to recruit the best sales representatives, regardless of location, who know their tech domain, know their local markets, and know how to build lasting customer relationships.
Once you’ve mastered remote-first, look for partners who have the same mindset.
As another of our strategic partners Intralink's Alan Mockridge puts it: “As many companies are finding out, deals can most certainly be sealed from a distance – as long as you have skilled, well-connected people on the ground to represent you by opening doors, attending trade shows, building relationships and negotiating contracts on your behalf.”
His team offers international business development consultation like we do but in Asia. And we’ve both found more demand in 2020 than in all of 2019. Opportunity in Europe and Asia is real. Just because there are travel restrictions doesn’t mean you need to hold back on your global expansion plans.
In some parts of Asia and Europe, particularly in essential services like telecommunications, logistics and energy, it is back to business including face-to-face meetings. But since most borders are closed, you won’t be the one elbow-knocking on those doors anytime soon. Even if borders open up, you may have to cancel at the last minute due to evolving lockdowns. Whether you’re traveling from the west coast or Western Europe, this isn’t an easy do-over and you’ll be leaving your prospect hanging.
It’s a wiser move to leverage locals. These tech-savvy lead generation and sales outsourcing specialists represent you on the ground, navigating conversations with enterprise decision makers on your behalf. This can be in person or virtually, but in the same language and cultural context. We take your great product and learn from your existing customer knowledge. Then we adapt it to new markets and present it to our existing local buyer networks.
It’s less risky because, while you’re testing new waters, you aren’t committing long-term capital investment into permanent contracts and local real estate. And, skipping lengthy recruitment cycles and long onboarding processes, we get you on the ground, in a new international market, in under a month.
Everyone has virtual fatigue. Make the most of your prospect’s time with efficient calls and replace e-meetings with emails whenever possible. Or maybe they prefer WeChat, WhatsApp or Slack? LinkedIn or Twitter DMs? Go wherever they are happiest and quickest to engage. And be respectful of timeboxes and even pleasantly end meetings a few minutes early. It gives them time to grab a cuppa and mull over your conversation.
Ask a lot of clarifying questions so you are only focused on selling the benefits they actually want. Take good notes, and respond as soon as possible. You don’t have time for Maybes — you need to ask questions to get these virtual leads qualified or disqualified quickly.
While the market is promising, buyers are a bit jumpy right now. Even those without an excuse to delay a buying decision may be nervous to commit. It’s more important than ever to have breadth in your sales pipeline. Our CRO Gavin Page says it’s critical to intentionally block out regular time to spend filling your lead funnel, especially in these uncertain times.
He recommends adding extra dedicated prospecting time into your week to add to your top of funnel – this will give you the confidence to qualify harder, move real deals through the stages and really determine those opportunities that could close. Score your deals to help you spend time where the rewards can be realized.
Gavin points out: “In my experience, when the pipeline is thin, increased prospecting isn’t always the natural tendency – many entrepreneurs and salespeople end up holding on desperately to influence deals that could delay or just not happen instead of widening the net and finding those that can.”
Widen your net and be studious about scoring your prospects.
VP of sales at our client RichRelevance Robb Miller agrees: “In this time, deal velocity — the speed at which you are able to make a convincing argument through to acceptance and closure — is critical. Don't wait a day to send that email. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage with your client, and where possible, define a mutual close plan."
Leverage tools to define, as a team, the different stages of your funnel. You need to streamline your pipeline to make it as easy as possible to move across the qualification process. Plus a clear dashboard will give you a bird’s eye view of the performance of your distributed sales team.
“If a prospect is not a good fit for your solution, qualify it out fast and don't lose time. This gives you extra time to focus on the winners. In times of crisis, we must be extra disciplined,” says our CEO Rick Pizzoli.
Now that you’ve heard how we make the most of remote sales, why not share your sales tips with us on our Twitter!
Want to learn more about this? Join our CEO Rick Pizzoli and Intralink’s Alan Mockridge for a free webinar: “Remote Sales: How to reach your customers when planes are grounded”
Join us live Thursday 12 November at 5pmUK/9amPST or listen to the recording soon after. Sign Up Now.