A Trip Back in Time: How People Talked About Remote Selling 20 Years Ago

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Remote selling isn’t a new concept. In fact, we can look back to more than 20 years ago to see its origins. However, remote selling in 2021 is much different than it was decades ago. Back then, remote selling meant a salesperson hopped in their car or on a plane to meet directly across the table with clients.

They may have plugged in their laptop, fired up a PowerPoint presentation, and passed around paper brochures. There was no way to show video or dynamic content. Everything was one-dimensional. Phrases such as “digital transformation” and “rich media” weren’t on anyone’s radar. 

That’s how everybody looked at sales 20 years ago. And then, of course, technology exploded. The internet became strong and viable, where it was once slow and unreliable. 

Everyone carries a small computer in their pocket; everyone is connected. Virtual meetings are second nature. That was how things looked before the pandemic—although salespeople still visited customers and traveled to trade shows. 

Then the world had to take a pause, and technology became even more critical for everyday communication and collaboration. Remote selling is the future, and it’s happening screen-to-screen but with the feeling of meeting in person.

The transition is ongoing, and salespeople are learning how to approach the process differently, leaning on technology, content, and new ways to build relationships and trust with buyers.

Remote selling is welcomed by B2B buyers.

B2B sales were traditionally in-person affairs for many segments. For those industries that are highly complex, include physical products, or require lots of decision makers, it made sense for the salesperson to present at the company’s location. However, B2B buyers were already welcoming virtualization of the buying process.

B2B buyers are gravitating more toward virtual interactions. They do a lot of research before even engaging with salespeople. A McKinsey report found that 70-80 percent of those making B2B purchasing decisions prefer remote or self-service interactions over traditional in-person ones.

Even if the pandemic had not made the move to remote selling necessary, the preferences of the buyer were already evident. Salespeople need to shift with their buyers. They also need to understand that the avenues they had to pitch customers aren’t coming back. Many companies are saying goodbye to corporate offices or embracing a hybrid work model. 

Employees don’t want to return to the office either. A poll from April 2021 found that 54 percent of workers want to be remote full time, while only 4 percent want to go back to the office full time.

Making connections with the modern B2B audience will be virtual. The best way to meet those needs is for sales teams to recalibrate their efforts with technology.

How is remote selling different from in-person selling?

Besides the obvious, communication between sales and buyers is different across the screen versus across the table. In some ways, videoconferencing can be more intimate and create greater engagement.

Here are some things that can help you master remote selling and transition:

  • Turn your camera on! Being able to see facial expressions is a big part of nonverbal communication. It can also build trust, according to a study by Zoom, which found that 82 percent of users said it did.
  • Create structure with an agenda. This sets expectations and prepares attendees for the upcoming discussion. 
  • Keep the meetings to less than an hour; otherwise, people begin to lose interest.
  • Ask your customers to send questions before the meeting so you can address them there.
  • Use multimedia, including rich media, when you’re presenting because slides can be tedious. This type of content is beneficial when showing product demonstrations or demonstrating use cases.
  • Personalize sales decks to that customer. If they’re generic, your message may not resonate. 

How does sales enablement software play a critical role in selling remotely?

To achieve success in remote selling, you’ll need technology tools that can support you. One of the most important is a sales enablement platform.

Sales enablement software can do this by:

  • Being a central location for proposals, collateral, product information, and presentations created by marketing. This ensures that salespeople share accurate, up-to-date information with customers.
  • Allowing you to use animation, video, and HTML 5 in your presentations, so they bring the content to life and wow customers.
  • Personalizing presentations in a few clicks, so your salespeople aren’t doing it themselves minutes before the meeting. 
  • Providing fillable forms that you can use to take orders and conduct surveys post-meeting. That makes it easy to capture all the details in the moment.

In addition to the benefits these tools provide during actual interactions, there are others.

If you send them content post-meeting to address any last queries before they make the decision, you can track the engagement. Doing so helps your marketing team know which content delivers closed won business.

Integrations with Salesforce also allow for automation of administrative tasks, so you’re not wasting time with data entry.

Finally, you can leverage advanced technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning. These tools can assist you in determining what content follow-up to send that could help close the deal. Maybe that’s a case study or a comparison tool—you’ll have a much better response than guessing what may interest them. 

Remote selling’s evolution is continuing.

Remote selling 20 years ago was certainly low-tech, but some things still translate: communication, connection, and empathy. Technology doesn’t change those fundamental dynamics, but it does create a more technologically advanced ecosystem to see it play out.

For sales teams that want to continue to thrive, sales enablement software allows you to do that no matter where you sell. That’s how we designed vablet. 

Learn more about the role of sales enablement and content by reading our e-book, Equipping Your Sales Team with the Right Content to Close the Sale.

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