The COVID economy has forced many manufacturers in Minnesota to re-think how they deploy their sales teams in a culture that discourages personal contact. Suddenly the concept of virtual selling has become critically important to many companies and sales expert Jeb Blount is convinced that the efficiencies of virtual selling are here to stay.
Jeb is the bestselling author of ten books on sales, leadership, and customer experience. His most recent, appropriately, is called Virtual Selling. An in-demand speaker, he spends more than 250 days each year delivering speeches, workshops, and training programs to high-performing sales teams and leaders. We are more than thrilled that Jeb agreed to sit (virtually!) for an in-depth Q&A for the summer issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine. This is a big deal for us.
“Virtual selling is here to stay,” he says. Many manufacturers have learned that tactics used to ride out past economic downturns haven’t worked as well in the COVID economy. “Early in the pandemic, many manufacturers shut everything down, cut costs as fast as they could and just hunkered down to ride it out. That might have worked in other manufacturing cycles, but this recession isn’t like any we’ve ever had.
“Buyers have changed,” he says. “They expect more and they expect different. My pitch for manufacturers is that if you don’t start learning how to sell in a virtual environment, you’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage to those businesses that do. A recent McKinsey report on B2B sales found that 77% of buyers prefer dealing with existing vendors in a virtual environment. Manufacturers who are selling to existing customers should know that those buyers would much prefer a virtual interaction than an in-person interaction.”
This massive shift doesn’t mean that manufacturers should abandon in-person sales, he says. “It just means that manufacturers and buyers see the same efficiencies in virtual relationships. Salespeople can have a greater impact; they can make more calls, have more conversations. My elevator pitch is this: if you don’t start learning how to master virtual selling, you are going to be at a disadvantage in the next iteration of the economy.”
The interview will reveal tips on how to prepare emotionally for the transition as well as tips about the technical aspects of affordably setting up your operation. He talks about how to maintain eye contact and read body language during a call. And, of course, he has a few words for the folks who think a virtual sales call is a ticket to wear sweatpants and a hoodie. (Spoiler alert: It isn’t!).
Our next magazine is due to publish on May 18th.
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