But my prospects were spread out all across the country. I had limited startup funds. Therefore, I could not afford to the risk of buying a plane ticket, only to lose the deal. If I wanted to grow my business (and I did), my only choice was virtual selling—face-to-face was not an option for me.
My Mindset Shift
It required a massive mindset shift. I had to change my belief system about selling. It required me to get past my fear and just do it. Out of pure necessity, and many mistakes later, I eventually mastered virtual selling.
Today, Sales Gravy has grown into one of the most successful training and consulting firms in the world. We have customers on every continent except Antarctica. Virtual selling is how we go to market because it is the most practical and cost-effective means of engaging prospects across the globe. We regularly close six- and seven-figure deals within a completely virtual sales process.
Blending Face to Face Sales Calls into a Virtual Selling Process
This, of course, begs the question: Do we ever make face-to-face sales calls?
The answer is yes. When we have big, company-changing deals on the line, and it is practical, we visit face-to-face—usually late in the sales process when it matters most. Likewise, in cities like San Francisco, where we have salespeople in the market, we make face-to-face calls.
When we are onsite with our clients, delivering training or providing professional services, we leverage those in-person engagements to interact with our stakeholders to anchor relationships and expand our business inside those accounts—often displacing competitors who are not engaging face-to-face.
When our trainers and consultants are already in a city for a client engagement, we set up face-to-face meetings with prospects in the same city. Since we are already there and the cost to schedule an additional face-to-face meeting is low, it makes sense to meet in person because those face-to-face meetings almost always give us a leg up over our competitors.
The two early enterprise-level deals that made my company what it is today were closed on face-to-face calls. At the final presentation stage, I took the risk, purchased the plane ticket, and delivered my closing presentation in person. These deals were game changers and were so important that the cost of the face-to-face engagement to seal the deal in person was well worth it.
Most of the hang-up about getting customer to accept virtual selling is with you, not them.
It’s Easier to Blame the Customer Than to Look in the Mirror
When I’m teaching inside sales professionals virtual selling skills, the biggest fear is engaging stakeholders by phone (weird but true) and on video calls.
Jeb, you don’t understand. I hear those same words every week, in every Virtual Selling Training session. They say, “Our customers prefer to communicate through email.” Or, “It’s really hard to get our customers on video calls.” Or, “Our customers prefer to meet face-to-face.”
I’ve heard it all. There are a thousand excuses and justifications for why salespeople can’t do something.
“Our buyers are different.”
“It doesn’t work like that in our industry (company, culture, country).”
“The buyers we deal with won’t get on a video call.”
“My customers only meet face-to-face.”
“The buyers in our industry just commoditize us.”
It’s mostly BS. Just lies, excuses, and delusions that sales professionals throw out to justify their fear of a particular tool or technique. It’s easier to blame it on their customers than to look in the mirror.
The Real Secret to Getting Customers to Accept Virtual Selling is Asking
So, let’s just cut to the chase. The people you call on will happily schedule and jump on virtual calls with you. You just have to ask.
How do I know? Because, there are real stories everywhere, about how customers quickly adapted to virtual selling.
Think about it: During the coronavirus pandemic, no one had a choice and we quickly adapted to virtual sales calls. Or, how many times has a customer demanded that you visit them right at that moment? Yet, when you explained that it was impossible for you to get there, they managed to work it out with you on a virtual call.
Make Virtual Selling a Great Experience For Your Customer
One of my sales training clients sells used commercial trucks over the phone, sight unseen. These deals run from $20,000 to $200,000. Its customers can only see a picture of the truck. No test drive, no kicking the tires, no making a deal belly-to-belly. This group sells 25,000 trucks a year this way.
Is this a weird way for people to buy used commercial trucks? You bet. Do customers push back and say they have to see the truck before they buy? Absolutely. But this is the only option, and therefore thousands of buyers accept it. Once they experience how easy and painless virtual can be, they become loyal customers and buy more trucks.
Delivering a great experience is another important key to getting customers to accept virtual selling. When you make it a great experience for your stakeholders, they’ll trust the virtual sales process.
The one thing you can take to the bank, though, is that prospects and customers won’t accept virtual sales calls if you never ask for them.