by Austin Stevenson
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every one of us, transforming both personal interactions and business transactions. Not only is it heart-wrenching to worry about the safety of friends and family, but it can be incredibly difficult to watch your business suffer for months on end.
For sales teams, a shelter in place order presents its own set of unique challenges. With individual achievement often measured by number of meetings booked and client engagement scores, metrics for success have been upended. And it goes deeper. Many sales professionals thrive in the in-person meeting environment, which allows them to leverage their charm and feed off the energy of the room. The emotional connection between the sales professional and the prospect leads to an exchange of thoughts, ideas, and – if all goes to plan – money.
So what happens when that extrovert is trapped inside, with keys to the company vehicle returned? How can the outside sales professional create value while quarantined?
Simply put, now is the time not just to pivot, but to revitalize your sales operation in the virtual space. It’s the time to go back to basics – study what you have to offer, and reimagine how best to deliver it to clients, all while building flexibility and agility into the core of your sales structure. With the right perspective, shelter in place can become the catalyst that kicks your sales team off autopilot and gets you really thinking about your product, your client and the most effective ways to meet your goals, both now and well into the future.
How We Did It
As a wholesale ingredient provider, Vertosa has historically implemented a “consultative approach” to new client engagements. Consultative sales rely on fostering hands-on relationships with clients, tailoring offerings to their needs through dialogue and trust building. In the shift to remote work, the challenge was to maintain this impact without ever being in the same room. To do so, we built on an essential truth in sales: Every interaction with a prospect or client is an opportunity to build trust and create value.
To help guide this work, we asked ourselves the following questions:
- What is most valuable for our clients?
- Who needs to feel valued on our clients’ team?
- Where do our clients experience value in the sales process?
- How is value felt by our client?
- When is value most needed?
This exercise gave us the key to forming a coherent and highly personalized sales approach through virtual demos. First, we created a direct to consumer sample kit, giving us the ability to send our top three selling ingredients direct to prospects’ lab, office, or home. Then, we pooled our creativity and identified strengths and weaknesses to develop an experience-driven pandemic sales process:
- Revise messaging to focus on value creation.
- Integrate Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Google Hangouts and Automate meeting and demo scheduling with Calendly, YesWare, Hubspot, and SalesForce.
- Use Software Stack to optimize for lead capture, and automate many sales activities in consumer relationship management (CRM).
- Create and execute standard operating procedure for sample kit delivery and shipping with operations team
- Host fun and engaging virtual sample demos
The last step is the most important, tying together the guiding philosophy of the entire process: Every interaction with a prospect or client is an opportunity to build trust and create value. Harnessed in our virtual demos is the same kernel that sales professionals bring to every encounter, in-person or virtual – the ability to influence and generate value by creating experiences.
This pandemic is hard. It’s forcing sales teams to rethink operations and relationships that, just a few months ago, clicked like second nature. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Shelter in place is an opportunity to look at sales operations, client needs, and strengths and weaknesses with a fresh eye. It’s an opportunity to sit down as a team and confront the questions at the heart of your business. Finding the answers, and acting on them, will open a new chapter of ideas and innovation that can bear fruit long after the pandemic is over.
About the author
Austin Stevenson, Vertosa Chief Innovation Officer: As Chief Innovation Officer at infusion technology company Vertosa, Austin facilitates partnerships with leading brands to produce top quality cannabinoid-infused beverages, topicals and more, while providing ongoing strategic leadership for future innovation. Prior to joining Vertosa, Austin leveraged his bio-tech experience building the regulatory Hemp/CBD testing program for Eurofins, and worked to fund minority and women-owned businesses as a management associate for Citi.