Almost every aspect of the economy has been scrutinized as COVID-19 has affected the way we do business. Often, the focus is on service delivery and how a company can continue to do business, deliver its product and, in many cases, deal with restrictions surrounding its supply chain, local guidelines and everything in between.
Though we think a lot about how to respond to trade shows and events being cancelled and work hard to communicate with colleagues and clients over Zoom and related technologies, one profession is particularly hindered by a world without meetings and travel—outside sales.
In B2B, we often have two primary categories within the sales realm. First, we have inside sales, which often generates leads or, in some cases, manages and executes the entire sales process. Second, we have outside sales, which has traditionally focused on larger ticket items with longer sales cycles or contractual complexities. Maybe there is a field or sales engineering component that requires the sales professional to be onsite, or perhaps it’s just an industry with a standard of in-person meetings. Often, outside sales leaders aren’t just working locally— they’re the road warriors we see on planes, traveling the world to close new business and maintain client relationships.
It’s important to recognize that few professions have seen such a massive shift as outside sales. In many ways, outside sales, in its current form, has essentially become inside sales.
With any disruption, the incumbent is challenged to innovate, move upmarket or move aside. And, since we know every good outside sales professional is a fighter, an innovator and a negotiator, we decided to list a few best practices that can help make the transition a little easier and, perhaps, even improve on long-standing (but often inefficient) practices.
Kevin O’Leary, known as “Mr. Wonderful” on Shark Tank, recently remarked on CNBC that, in his previous way of doing business via travel, he had to choose between “sending his kids to college or eating breakfast in New York.” Think of every meal, plane ticket, hotel room and more as dollars and cents you are saving. This is digital transformation at its best.
But don’t simply save the money. Redeploy the savings by investing in technology. It will increase your capabilities, make you stronger and offer long-term transformation.
Outside sales and hard work are synonymous. But that doesn’t mean that you should have to deliver every top-of-funnel pitch manually. From recorded webinars to video, you can build a library of sales material to send to prospects. By having your own library, you can reserve sales conversations for higher level discussions, because the “blocking and tackling” of the initial pitch will be covered from the recorded sales content they experienced on their own time.
Historically, many an outside sales professional has waited for marketing to deliver fresh sales content, marketing content and more. Company blogs, again, were managed by marketing. And, while outside sales professionals often spoke at events and industry roundtables, not enough are publishing that content. Start your own podcast. Invite prospects and customers as guests. Don’t just share other people’s content on LinkedIn—become your own media channel. Create a live broadcast or a live webinar. When you create premium content, your audience does the promotion for you.
We’ve all begun using Zoom and similar tools, and outside sales professionals who were already using these tools had a real head start. But ask yourself, “What are the next five innovative tools nobody is using yet?” Are you sending videos via email? Do you have your own chatbot? Could you launch eCommerce first in your market? What about Over the Top TV (OTT)? Imagine running your own TV channel for your company or your product line. Digital transformation makes these things more cost-effective than ever before, and they may outperform traditional outside sales in terms of lead generation, lead nurture and, ultimately, closing deals.
Think of your customers. Your prospects. Your colleagues. These industry professionals would be great speakers in your very own virtual event. With the power of remote video technology like Zoom, you can cost-effectively launch your own virtual event. Create some graphics, create a sign-up page, invite your prospects and host a great discussion on topics relevant in your industry. From speaking or exhibiting at an event to holding your own event, virtual events can deliver a higher-level events strategy and shift the focus on control from external (waiting for updates on 2021 events) to internal—control your destiny!
MarketScale is helping outside sales professionals looking to make this digital shift. And you can take the first steps toward embracing the challenges and opportunities of the present and transforming your job description.
If the time you invest in digital transformation to reinvent outside sales mirrors the performance of the tech-heavy NASDAQ stock exchange, you might very well get to say, also, that you are higher performing, more efficient and more profitable than ever before in the midst of these challenging times for business.