a neon sign showing a handshake

PHOTO:
Charles Deluvio


The idea of working from home isn’t a new one. telecommuting as an option for certain job functions that could be performed away from the office has been talked about for a long time. The option wasn’t available for some jobs, such as assembly line work. In the 1990s and 2000s, as broadband expanded into more and more homes, a small number of employees began to work from home on a few days a week.

Corporations around the world started experimenting with large-scale and long-term work-at- home programs. They were surprised by the results, which showed that productivity and employee satisfaction were higher than ever, and real estate costs were down. In 2020 COVID-19 converted work-at- home from an interesting trial solution into an economic necessity. Millions of employees were forced to become television stars and broadcast from their home office studios, as work became virtual.

Work is evolving in terms of how it is done and in terms of the task. That is not true for some job titles. It is not a viable long-term option for the domain of professional sales.

Can You Build Trust and Credibility Remotely? 

When trust is involved, a sale is defined as the exchange of one thing of value for something of equal value. Trust is hard to come by. Professional credibility on the part of the salesperson is required for it to work. A vendor’s lowest price for a desired product or service doesn’t meanCredibility, from the Latin word “I believe”, doesn’t happen. The transaction leaves no long-term value. Every engagement between the customer and salesperson reinforces the value that the salesperson brings to the relationship

As we cautiously edge toward a post-pandemic world, businesses are rethinking what work looks like, what tools will be required to do it well, and how much of it can and should be done virtually. While we have learned that remote work can be very effective, that is not a universal truth.

The results are not always what executives expect when they embrace large-scale virtual work in their businesses, even though they do so for all the right reasons, such as lower operating costs, better use of employee time, flexibility, employee safety, satisfaction and retention. In a remote setting, certain types of work and employee activities have been less effective. Strategy, planning, brainstorming, collaboration, on-boarding of new hires, propagation of values and culture, and the development of new relationships are some of the things they include. The need for a deeper connection between people are what all of them have in common. They aren’t task- oriented. They need higher levels of interaction, trust and body language to be effective.

There is a minimum viable office that is the future.

Why High Risk Sales Requires the In Person Experience

There has always been a lot of selling done remotely. For a long time, telephone sales have been a success model. In situations where the product or service is relatively low cost and low risk, this technique can be very effective. The individual sales do not merit the time and attention required to create a lasting relationship with the buyer because the buyer has little in the way of large-scale decision-making authority for their organization. These types of sales are transactional and not based on relationship-building.

For more complex or potentially higher risk opportunities, a stronger personal relationship with the customer is necessary in order to make a buying decision. Scenarios where:

  • Your solution supports your customers’ goals. You need to demonstrate your understanding of their business.

  • Depending on your reputation and the level of confidence the customer has in you, some of the recommendations you make will be evaluated.

  • The customer isn’t fully understanding the solution. Their decision to buy is based on their confidence in you and your company.

  • Part of the customer’s decision to buy is based on their belief that the company will be fair and easy to work with if and when an issue arises.

  • You want to make a lasting impression on the person you are dealing with.

  • Your goal is to change the hostility between you and the client.

  • The product or service being sold is expensive and complex and requires some degree of handholding to ensure the customer is comfortable.

  • You want to demonstrate your commitment to and strengthen your relationship with the customer by meeting in-person to share insights with them and answer any questions they may have.

  • There is a need to rise above the competitive noise in other ways because of low product differentiation.

The most compelling reason to engage in-person with prospects and customers is that all buying decisions have an emotional component. The emotional connection between the buyer and seller is what allows business. Buyers will not engage in a non-commodity sale if they don’t have trust, credibility, and an in-place relationship.

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One mistake that organizations make is to semi-arbitrarily draw a line across their accounts base based on the number of employees, and declare that any company below that line will not be handled through telephone sales. This approach is a bad one for two reasons.

  • It doesn’t take into account the fact that many small businesses have deeper, more nuanced technology needs than they would indicate.

  • The seller is seen as a vendor instead of a thought-leader. If competitors take advantage of the silence left when a company abandons in-person customer contact, they are at a serious disadvantage.

Everyone predicted that remote work would be a culture killer.

The Choice Between In-Person and Virtual Is Clear

A new tool has been gained by sales professionals. Virtual sessions increase the number of calls per day. In some cases, these tools can accelerate sales, as customers are comfortable using them. Customers use them as a way to restrict access. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution in life. Virtual tools don’t replace in-person selling. It trades a more effective selling tool for a less effective one and that is a net-zero outcome.

Strategy, planning, value creation, differentiation, and helping customers achieve their goals are some of the things sales organizations must focus on. It will be obvious when customer engagements should be virtual or in-person when those tasks come first.