Jim Peduto

COVID-19's impact on society has been astounding and the effect on business-to-business (B2B) sales is transformational. Google the term "virtual selling" and a seemingly endless list is returned.

One question that I am repeatedly asked is whether the current focus on virtual selling will endure post-COVID, and the research is revealing:

- Nearly eight out of 10 B2B firms plan to maintain their shift to a virtual sales model post-COVID.

- Two out of three B2B decision makers believe new virtual selling models are more effective than traditional selling methods.

What Is Virtual Selling?

Let's begin by defining virtual selling. Sean Campbell, CEO of Cascade Insights, a Portland, Oregon-based B2B market research firm, offers a simple and to-the-point definition: How to get a purchase (PO) without being there.

The impact of the coronavirus on B2B sales is significant, substantial and permanent. COVID did not initiate the changes, but it did dramatically accelerate underlying trends. Think of it as a perfect storm as COVID collided with:

- The consumerization of B2B sales

-Shifting buyer preferences

- Declining buyer preference for face-to-face sales calls

- The transformation of sales forces

The result was a warp-speed shift to virtual selling. Let's be clear; we are not saying that virtual selling will eliminate the need for in-person meetings. But, it will forever change the way salespeople interact with their customers. As a result, 96 percent of sales teams have already adopted some form of virtual selling. The challenge is that virtual selling is more difficult than face-to-face selling, so salespeople struggle.

Determining Success

Leaders can quickly assess their team's likelihood of succeeding in the virtual selling world by answering four questions.

1. Can and will your sellers adapt to virtual selling?

Embracing a new selling model in a tough economy requires a lot of grit. Desire, commitment, outlook, personal responsibility, motivation all need to be strong. This is a threshold question that must be answered before you do anything else.

2. Do they have the "right stuff" to execute a virtual selling strategy?

Virtual selling requires a lot of positive Sales DNA. If your sellers have it, great. If not, the weaknesses will sabotage their virtual selling efforts unless you identify and fix them.

3. Do their selling skills support virtual sales?

Virtual selling favors consultative sellers who can address customers' business issues with insights that will improve their business. Relationship-centric sellers will struggle because virtual selling is not conducive to the slap-on-the-back selling style. Does your sales team embrace and practice consultative selling over relationship selling?

4. Are they suited for working remotely?

Some sellers are ideally suited for working remotely. Others are not. Three of the key attributes of working remotely are being a self-starter, the ability to work independently and being comfortable working without supervision.

The most successful business leaders begin by measuring their team's ability to sell virtually. Next, they train hard to close gaps and build on strengths. Finally, they coach relentlessly.

Albert Einstein summed up our present situation perfectly when he said, "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

The COVID-induced changes have certainly brought their share of challenges. But you also have a unique opportunity to begin the sales transformation process.

Jim Peduto is the managing partner and the cofounder of the Knowledgeworx, LLC and is certified in Sales Force Effectiveness. Knowledgeworx is dedicated to working with business owners and CEOs who want to grow revenue and increase profitability. He can be reached at jim@knowledegeworx.com.