SalesAdapting Field Sales To Our Remote Selling Reality

December 15, 2021by Christina Cherry
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Amongst B2B sales organizations, remote selling has become the cornerstone of modern sales strategy – maximizing SDR productivity and closely aligning with modern buyer habits.

In fact, inside sales reps are hired over field sales reps by a ratio of 10:1 according to one SalesLoft study.

The truth is, connectivity presents a far greater challenge in the sales pipeline than ever before. The modern buyer no longer anticipates the formal ‘travelling salesman’, wine-and-dine experience. A more sustainable, digital-first approach to selling has become second nature in the B2B world just as e-commerce has boomed amongst B2C.

That’s not to say that the days of the field seller are numbered, the reality is that everyone involved in the sales pipeline has to change their approach to meet modern demands and new expectations – not just our outside sellers. There’s no reigning champion between inside and outside salespeople in this scenario.

Everybody in the pipeline has key responsibilities, from our marketers to our field sellers; a healthy pipeline simply cannot sustain without these schools of thought. It’s valuable to recognize that we can’t live without any of them, but we can learn from each in our understanding of the B2B sales pipeline.

It’s time to face this new reality and reap the rewards! In this blog, we’ll explore the expectations of adapting to the modern sales environment and the learnings we can take from different sales practices to boost modern sales success – let’s dive in!

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What Happened to Field Sales?

You’ll be forgiven for believing that the Covid-19 pandemic initiated the decline of the field sales approach; it’s true – to an extent.

Covid-19 removed the option for field selling and forced us to utilize inside sales teams’ skills and experience, expediting the existing shift from 6% transition to 33% for 2020.

We now see organizations that have heavily relied on outside sales approaches for decades begin to lean towards 50/50 hybrid models, with many anticipating a switch to complete remote selling in the next few years. But, while it’s easy to point fingers at Covid-19, it isn’t the sole perpetrator here. It’s more responsible for accelerating the decline of field sales rather than starting it off.

The change in buyer behaviors isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s been drawing out over the last decade as new technologies, digital communications, and sales innovation continue to evolve.

In Fact, Recent Studies Suggest:

0123456789001234567890                     %Of buyers and sellers prefer remote engagement over face-to-face interactions.
0123456789001234567890                     %Of B2B buyers want to see a return to in-person, field sales.
0123456789001234567890                                         -                     0123456789001234567890                     %                     Reduced Cost of Customer Acquisition.

1. Change Behaviors, Not Character

The value of charisma has long been understood in the field sales space. Big personalities go a long way in the face-to-face selling environment, influencing everything from client relations to the number of deals closed. However, the transition to remote selling shouldn’t be about trying to eliminate this character, charisma, or personality; it should focus more closely on changing the behaviors of the salesperson.

Remote sales success isn’t directly linked to trying to change the way a seller has been able to grow their career and become a respected professional in the field. On the surface, the fundamental goals of the salesperson are essentially unchanged: identify new markets, pitch to prospective customers, and nurture incoming leads – and effective transition should center around adjusting strategy, approach and behaviors in line with our modern buyer reality.

To breed confidence amongst those making the switch, they need to first understand the value in modifying their typical field selling behaviors to a new approach. Personality isn’t entirely wasted with remote selling, it just requires a different execution, using other forms of media and outreach.

The enthusiastic field selling characters shouldn’t be made to feel worthless in this transition. Individuals should use personality to communicate to their prospects in the same way as they would face-to-face. The importance of empowering a prospect to feel engaged, interacted and valued as a buyer will always be relevant – it doesn’t just disappear.

On the Flip Side

Equally, there are learnings that inside sellers can take from their outside counterparts here. Buyers have always been able to sense apathy a mile off, and top-level field sellers have historically modelled their practice around this idea.

A common hurdle inside sellers need to overcome is just gaining those empowering, conversational engagement qualities. Often inside sellers can be so blinded by acute data research and pipeline theory that they sacrifice the value in just being personable and selling on a human-level. Think: video, video conferencing, virtual demonstrations, virtual whiteboarding. There’s undeniable value in that traditional charismatic salesperson approach for each of these modes of internal engagement.

If sellers aren’t enthusiastic and charismatic in their prospecting, how can they expect their buyers to be? For this reason, inside sellers shouldn’t look at field selling as a ‘dead duck’, but instead reengineer these human-first qualities in their own practice. Buyers will always cherish human authenticity – that’s a given.

2. Understanding the Tools

The biggest mistake sales leaders make is assuming too often that their field sales team knows how to use inside sales tools and technology. Sure, they probably understand the basics of a CRM like Salesforce and they’re likely using PowerPoint to create demos – but do they really understand all the features and functionalities that are used in the engaged, live environment?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to aligning field sales to modern buyer habits, it’s all about understanding how to stand out above the noise and tailoring outreach to suit each prospective buyer – and this begins with understanding the tools that are readily available to the modern salesman.

We know what you’re thinking: ‘surely you can just use Zoom to apply field selling skills directly to remote selling?!’ There’s almost an expectation for video conferencing software like Zoom and Google Meet to adapt seamlessly for new remote sellers. Of course, you can try – but there’s no guarantee it’ll make for an easy win each time.

While valuable in the remote selling sales funnel, video conferencing tools alone have already lost their sparkle in the market. Buyers simply expect to be sold to over Zoom and are invited to these calls on a daily basis – making it difficult to engage with prospects with that extra creativity and flair. Field sellers should instead be encouraged to use tools that enable them to sell their message with a more targeted approach, one that speaks to the decision-maker in a personalized, engaging, and greatly captivating way.

There are no limits to the way in which we engage prospects on a remote-level, it ultimately comes down to audience understanding and tailoring an approach on a case by case basis. It’s important therefore, to instil confidence in the basics. To breed sales success amongst field sellers looking to sell remotely, there’s value in smart resourcing to identify and engage with prospects on a more responsive level. Social selling, instant messaging & video prospecting. Think: how can these be leveraged to hit targets and generate new leads using the skills and qualities associated with the typical field seller.

3. Changing for Better Engaging

With remote selling, personality will only get the salesperson part of the way; it’s the initial preparation that’s the key to closing the deal.

Where once, field sellers would develop the ability to engage with prospects spontaneously and off-the-cuff, inside selling requires a far more prepared, in-depth research and development stage to understand the decision-maker; how to strike a conversation with them and then consequently engage with them using an approach that’s tailored to their personality, needs, and business pain points.

Remote sales success is built in an actionable process. Before engaging with prospective buyers, field sellers need to have a plan of action, know what questions need to be asked, and anticipate the objections they may encounter. But that’s not to say that the confidence to handle a conversation off-the-cuff is entirely irrelevant. This quality can be found within top-ranking salespeople in both inside and outside selling organizations.

Due to the nature of their work, top field sellers develop a rich, innate understanding for handling objections on the fly, using their conversational confidence to flip the script and transform these unexpected hurdles into a reason to take an interest. There’s undeniable value in this human-approach to engagement, buyers will always appreciate the personal sell rather than the hard sell. There’s always potential for unexpected objections to stop a salesperson dead in their tracks, no matter how well prepared they are.

While a data-driven approach to objection handling is a powerful way to put an SDR in good stead, there’s no 100% guaranteed formula for objection success. It’s called an unexpected objection for a reason. A confident, conversational approach to handling random objections will add an extra edge to any sales person, no matter the setting, product or industry.

4. Adjusting to a Change in Demand

According to a recent study, inside sales reps spend 35% of their week selling, compared to the 22% of outside sales representatives – and there are growing pains that come with adjusting to this newer demand.

Transitioning to remote sales is about changing the tracks and setting targets for the salesperson based on a new set of goals. Where once these targets would be based on the amount of physical visits and appointments attended, this is no longer relevant – there’s a whole new set of metrics for goal-setting here. Remote selling is incredibly results-driven. Internal sales teams aren’t required to travel to attend appointments or visit offices – sales leaders expect 60% more activity out of the salesperson because they’re no longer competing for 60% of their time.

Consequently, field sellers need to understand that the goalposts have shifted. The model is no longer inherently focused on travelling three hours to meet two prospects a day – it’s more about meeting the demands and expectations that come with the greater time spent actually selling.

Think: How many calls have you made today? How many meetings have you had today? How many deals have you closed today? Rather than closing that one massive deal a month, remote sales success is measured on a daily basis, NOT a quarterly one.

5. Prepare for Emotional Challenges

It’s easy to overlook the fact that field salespeople may not be entirely comfortable with the switch to the remote, four-wall environment – and as a business, responding to these emotional challenges is vital.

Many field sellers are apprehensive to switch to remote selling because they feel like they simply can’t change, not that they won’t change. Often, salespeople just feel alienated by a redirection in methodology, and this is entirely understandable. For a 50+ year old salesperson with 20+ years experience selling in the field, switching from something that’s become completely ingrained in their day-to-day working life will undoubtedly come with natural anxiety.

So how do we manage this?

Field salespeople should be made to feel confident in their ability to transition to a new selling reality. As an organization, you need to build confidence by first proving the value in the method, without making these individuals feel demoted, graded, or demoralized.

Equally, managers need to take the time to understand how this switch can affect motivation level, mannerisms and engagement level – overnight success shouldn’t be expected. This transition takes time to reap the full rewards.

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Final Thoughts

In this blog, we’ve explored five key considerations that sales teams need to have when transitioning to a new process, though it’s important to establish that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to engineering this transition. It should be carried out with the individual always in mind.

Rushing a transition to a new process can lead to B2B sales nightmares; internal pitfalls and unprepared salespeople desperately grappling to meet new metrics, quotas and targets. Companies need to be aware of the adjustment timescale and personal teething realities that go into reengineering their sales practice – developing a culture of learning between inside and outside sellers, rather than conflict or rivalry.

At InsideOut, our internal sales experts are experienced in delivering first-rate inside sales training. We can reduce the time, cost, and emotional hazards associated with the switch to internal sales with confidence and ease – helping your business to deliver results from the get-go.

Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, which she will proudly tell you is near where the Queen lives, Christina moved to the U.S.A. in the early 2010s before founding InsideOut in 2015. Fast forward 12 months to 2016 and InsideOut had 150+ employees and a 7,500 square-foot facility based in Florida! With 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level, those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working to develop the individuals at InsideOut and help them unlock their full potential.

Christina Cherry

Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, which she will proudly tell you is near where the Queen lives, Christina moved to the U.S.A. in the early 2010s before founding InsideOut in 2015. Fast forward 12 months to 2016 and InsideOut had 150+ employees and a 7,500 square-foot facility based in Florida! With 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level, those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working to develop the individuals at InsideOut and help them unlock their full potential.

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Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, which she will proudly tell you is near where the Queen lives, Christina moved to the U.S.A. in the early 2010s before founding InsideOut in 2015. Fast forward 12 months to 2016 and InsideOut had 150+ employees and a 7,500 square-foot facility based in Florida! With 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level, those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working to develop the individuals at InsideOut and help them unlock their full potential.