Experiences in successful adaptation of B2B service selling during these exceptional times
The spread of COVID-19 has reshaped business operations on various fronts, not least in sales. Even in our field of business – B2B selling of experts services for customers of the pharma and health technology industry – most of the selling was previously carried out in face-to-face contact with the customers. Suddenly, most of the market’s natural networking events – such as fairs and expert forums – vanished. As the Chief Operating Officer, proud of my skillful sales team and magnificent experts, I can say that, during the past 1.5 years, we have worked hard at DRA to achieve the more than 20% growth with the wind behind us – despite COVID-19. How did we do this?
Remote selling success requires that the basics are in place
First of all, this was not a trick. Growth has been created through long-term work which has led to a good reputation and close customer relationships. This has carried us through the major changes. In this laying of the foundation, our sales teams naturally plays an important role. Selling is a form of serving in which, at its best, the sales person is genuinely capable of assisting the customer by offering a solution to the customer’s problem. It requires expertise to reveal this need and the buying motives, adapt the service offering to provide a good overall solution package to meet the need and negotiate conditions that satisfy both parties. These basics have not changed during the COVID-19 period – this process now needs to be performed online or by phone, not seated around the same table.
One of the basic issues in both remote selling and personal selling is that the sales person must talk less and listen more. In online sales, this is essential. Moments of silence must also be tolerated without filling all the silence with speech. A sales person operating with open cards will succeed also online! Nevertheless, the most important thing is that the sold product or service is good, as this creates the demand and the customer’s willingness to continue discussions. Our experts are hard-core professionals and, therefore, it is rewarding to tell about these services to new and existing customers. Sales is about genuine assistance instead of enforced selling, which is often mentioned in connection with selling.
Remote selling skills must be practiced
This transition has challenged us, but our desire to learn the specifics of remote selling was strong. I organised training about this for the sales and supervisor teams and we immediately started to pilot the learning in practice: how the camera should be aimed, whether to stand or sit, how to maintain the customer’s interest, how to ensure natural roles inside the company and between different participants and what kind of presentation is suitable for each situation.
Brisk testing culture has always been at the core of DRA, and we utilised this bold attitude also in this case. We practiced smooth use of the technology in internal meetings and shared the best practices. One realisation was that you can feel free to be your charming self also online – there is no need to be unnoticeable, but you can show your personality similarly as in face-to-face meetings. We started to perceive the positive sides of remote selling – we can meet with several customers during one day and no time is lost by travelling from one place to another.
The hybrid model is the new normal
This autumn, we are again faced with a new situation when we will hopefully be able to gradually return to the offices and get together with our colleagues and clients. This new normal called the hybrid model poses yet again new challenges to remote selling when some of the meetings continue to be arranged online and some are face-to-face meetings. And we do miss you and our encounters! I’m sure that we will all have a new appreciation for these face-to-face encounters. Whether online or remote, our top experts are now full of energy after the summer holiday season and are eagerly waiting for new interesting assignments and opportunities to help our customers!