Remote Selling – sharing best practice

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Boyd Cushing & Mark Blackwell, Arkaro

94% of survey respondents stated that remote selling can make their businesses more competitive – but current readiness is likely to be less mature than imagined. Boyd and Mark share some proven best practices to help you deliver results.

Remote selling, as opposed to the more traditional face-to-face selling, usually at the customer premises, has been attracting a lot of attention in the B2B world.  Industry surveys[1] have provided insights…

  • 96% of B2B sales teams have fully, or partially shifted to remote selling
  • 65% of B2B decision makers say the remote model is equally, or even more effective, than what they were doing before the pandemic.
  • 79% of B2B companies said they are very, or somewhat likely, to sustain these shifts for 12+ months post-COVID.

But will it deliver on the sales quotas businesses so desperately need? Arkaro wanted to understand more about how companies were thinking about Remote Selling. Does remote selling offer.

  • Opportunity for more integrated commercial approach of sales, marketing, and technical expertise
  • Faster decision making
  • Better & deeper customer service
  • Broader customer coverage & access to new markets
  • Time and money efficiencies?

94% of respondents saw that remote selling could make their business more competitive. With such an overwhelming view follow up interviews probed for what had been done and why – and what benefits were seen.

Remote selling - Best Practice Arkaro

Reasons for shifting to remote selling

In follow up discussion’s respondent cited the drivers for change

  • “Our current customers demanded this approach as COVID did not allow for traditional approaches”.
  • …”and we know our competitors were doing the same” – with fear of being left behind
  • lower sales with existing customers
  • “and the pipeline of new customers was beginning to dry up”

Best practices observed in the remote selling transition

The vast majority of respondents believed they were ready, but often doubts were raised in follow up discussion. Best practices in preparedness were found to be

  • Review of sales process to understand customer touchpoints and adapt to a remote approach. One interesting approach was a stronger lead qualification process designed to “give salespeople more confidence when making initial customer contact remotely”.
  • Understanding customer maturity in the face-to-face to virtual contact in segmentation plans
  • Listening carefully to colleagues concerns and challenges whilst working through the transition and providing appropriate coaching.
  • Providing tools with enhancements such as company branded backdrops for videoconferencing delivering a more professional look.
  • Building and circulating a playbook to share re-designed sales processes.

Commercial benefits of remote selling

Within a few months of the transition, demonstrated benefits included

  • More customer interactions per day
    • “Traditional face-to-face meetings allowed for 2-3 customer visits per day per salesperson on average”
    • “Remote selling saw an increase to 5, 6 and sometimes 7 customer engagements per day being achieved”
    • “more diligent and efficient with time, (30 mins calls)” thanks to better preparation and limitation set on virtual meeting.
  • Faster decision making
    • Several business leaders shared that it was easier to get all the needed buyer and seller decision makers together for a virtual meeting accelerating decision making.
  • Reduced travel costs
    • “expect travel budget to be reduced by 50% next year”

Improvement opportunities

Going forward, respondents saw opportunities for further improvement with the following raised in discussion

  • “We are 100% focused on making our external engagements using video where possible and are committed to a hybrid selling model”
  • “Clearly customer needs are changing requiring a review of our segmentation”.
  • Beyond segmenting customers, in account plans the importance of stakeholder management is recognised to be key. Some individuals will prefer virtual interactions, whilst others prefer face-to-face interaction should the possibility arise.
  • Territory management needs review as geography is no longer so important in assigning the right sales profession to the account. “Indeed, we can look at our addressable market in new ways without the constraint of time spent travelling”.
  • “A more integrated process for commercial functions with sales, marketing, business development and technical support working more closely together”.
  • And finally, “it is even more important to survey customers regularly to understand what is working well in communications – and what is not”. In this way the transition to more remote interactions may be synchronised.

Key challenges for readiness

Nevertheless, a significant number felt that they were not yet ready.

  • Perhaps the most common area reported is in change management. Whilst many business leaders are seeing the benefits of remote selling, and want this to stay, often older, more mature sales professionals are simply waiting for a return to the more traditional model of face-to-face exhibitions and customer interactions. Clearly there needs to be alignment on how far the shift will be over what time – and provide support to make that happen.
  • Conversely, whilst younger sales professionals have no fear of the technology or virtual interaction, there may be a need to accelerate their sales training to serve more important accounts.
  • Application development is important for many B2B businesses. Whilst many had found innovative solutions, application development and testing challenges remained, in some businesses slowing down the sales conversion process.

One final point- It is fully recognised that digital tools can enhance the customer experience. Nevertheless, in discussion it is also clear that there is much groundwork to be done in establishing more effective processes and enabling change with the team.

                                 [1] How B2B sales have changed during COVID-19 (McKinsey)

How Arkaro can help you

Arkaro’s experience of implementing Commercial Excellence change in B2B organisations ensures the appropriate balance is given to people, process, and tools. Please contact Arkaro to discuss how we might accelerate your transition to remote sales and deliver results. 

Boyd Cushing - Arkaro consultant
Boyd Cushing

Boyd Cushing – Working with clients to build commercial capability and improve business performance through practical, results-oriented solutions. Over 30 years industry experience including 12 years in DuPont Marketing and Sales, consulting & coaching teams on Commercial Excellence projects, go-to-market strategies, marketing and sales execution, market driven innovation and new product launch initiatives. B2B industry experience includes Agriculture, Animal Nutrition, Automotive, Chemicals, Construction Food & Beverage, Oil & Gas production, Packaging & Printing & Retail.

Mark Blackwell - independent consultant Arkaro
Mark Blackwell

Mark Blackwell
founded Arkaro in 2016 following a career in organisations both large and small, covering a wide range of industries including animal health, speciality chemicals, advanced materials, food, and feed ingredients.  13 years at DuPont included 8 years in internal consulting roles across multiple businesses. 
Focus areas included Innovation, Top Line Growth, Product Line Management, Business Productivity, and Integrated Business Planning.