More than a year now has passed since sales professionals flocked en masse to the safety of their home office and the sanctuary of virtual sales. Though we can hope that recent vaccine approvals will allow for in-person interaction during the second half of 2021, digital deal-making will likely be the preferred method of buyer engagement for some time to come.
In a recent study, McKinsey found that 70% to 80% of business-to-business (B2B) decision-makers now prefer remote sales — a statistic that debunks the prevailing belief that a return to face-to-face selling is a foregone conclusion. In fact, almost 90% of decision-makers said that their new sales practices are here to stay.
The New Salesperson
But there’s a vast difference between virtual selling out of necessity and commanding the virtual sales landscape, and a new type of selling profile has risen, like a phoenix, from the ashes of the pandemic.
An article accompanying the McKinsey research reported that the twin trends of remote meeting tools and advancements in digital self-service have been the driving forces behind the broad acceptance of virtual sales and, by extension, the need for a new type of sales profile.
It’s quite a departure, given that the five profiles used to define the sales professional have been fairly consistent for the past 40 years. Those profiles included the Timid, known for a fearful approach to the marketplace and lack of product knowledge; the Buddy, who back-slaps their way into deals over a round of golf or a big steak; the Servicer, who loves to overdeliver to existing clients but is not up for the hunt; the Commando, a pushy type who leaves chaos in their wake; and the Optimizer, an agile professional dedicated to collaborative solutions and building trust.
While many sales professionals struggled to adapt their steeped-in-tradition selling skills during the pandemic, the Virtualizer made the transition with ease. The Virtualizer is always dressed appropriately; their camera is pointed straight ahead; their lighting is balanced; and their presentation materials are at their side, ready to display with just a click.
- Effectively replicate the energy of the on-site visit using virtual tools.
- Conduct extensive research on the buyer to relate to their particular challenge.
- Understand their role as the face of the company and that failure to command a virtual presence can put the opportunity at risk.
- Prioritize form and functional equally, so they care as much about the aesthetic of their video image as they do about what they are saying.
Like the Optimizer who forms the foundation of this new profile, the Virtualizer brings a healthy dose of empathy for what their buyer is feeling or experiencing as a result of the pandemic. They use that connective tissue to create a relationship born of trust and focused on real problem-solving.
Becoming a Virtualizer
The good news? Most of the preexisting seller types can adopt the more relevant aspects of the Virtualizer — with one exception. The Timid salespeople likely found themselves furloughed during the early days of the pandemic, since their success required more time and resources than most managers could spare.
For Buddy sellers to gain virtual acuity, they will need to find a way to offer value to the buyer, since the rounds of golf and three-martini dinners have gone by the wayside. They can’t count on their charm, personality and friendships to see them through anymore.
The Servicers will have to pivot from reactive to proactive selling in order to be relevant. They will need to prepare for a reality in which the existing offering is no longer adequate and will need to offer alternatives that are more on target with buyers’ needs.
The Commandos will need to dig deep to find a new standard of empathy and sensitivity to their clients’ circumstances and demonstrate patience.
The Optimizer may be the best suited to make the transition to the Virtualizer profile. For this profiles, now is the time to shine. If Optimizers can add virtual selling skills to their portfolio, they can quickly upgrade to a new tier of relevancy in the marketplace.
For organizations looking to succeed in the current reality, upskilling each member of the sales team to embody the Virtualizer attributes should be a top priority.