Remote Selling has become an important focus for every sales organization. Digital sales technologies, by default, are what enables remote selling. In this interview series, we ask executives at leading salestech companies to describe how their customers are leveraging technology, what metrics are now possible, and more.
Q: What are your customers doing to adapt to - or leverage - the trend towards distributed sales teams and remote selling?
Many StorySlab customers rely heavily on outside sales and suddenly had to adapt to a remote selling world. Many are in complex industries like manufacturing, machinery, chemicals, and healthcare where reps are accustomed to in-person meetings where they can engage in the dialog necessary for effective consultative selling. That has all been upended now.
StorySlab is helping these customers preserve the interactive and collaborative nature of remote meetings by equipping reps to fully engage in a sales conversation. Of course there’s technology and sales process and selling expertise involved, but it’s more about how you bring those together into an easy, bulletproof, and comfortable platform so reps have the confidence to engage in the types of dialog they would normally be having in-person.
Remote selling is clearly less personal and less engaging, and as some things about the sales process become more asynchronous and self-service from a buyer viewpoint, it means the pressure to make the most of a live interaction with a customer is immense.
StorySlab helps sales reps maintain the real-time, personal nature of a face-to-face conversation even when they’re remote. Removing friction and awkwardness is key. Reps that are uncomfortable or unprepared are not representing themselves or the company well during this most critical time. The goal is effortless conversation, and any self-inflicted headwinds are painful for the customer and detrimental to the selling effort.
Think of the key elements needed: Ease of use, as fast as the conversation itself, flexible, integrated, and intended to make the reps as knowledgeable as the collective organization. That’s StorySlab. We talk about building to a spec called “automagical” and that’s how we want reps to see it. They don’t need to know why it works so well, just that it does and they can take better care of customers and close more business as a result. StorySlab is the convergence of UI/UX design, platform, technology, digital media (that typically already exists), and the ability to capture data and provide analytics from what is usually a pretty dark corner of the sales cycle. The platform integrates with video conferencing software so the remote conversation replicates all of the good things about in-person meetings.
And StorySlab is an end-to-end solution for outside selling. Successful reps use it pre-, post-, and during the conversation and doing so automagically provides insights regarding buying intent and customer engagement to both the rep and to sales leaders.
Q: What metrics should customers of Sales Enablement solutions use to measure the impact or progress of their activities?
Measuring what’s going on during live customer meetings is the last frontier in instrumenting the sales process and monitoring it the way most other business processes are tracked now. There are some tools out there suited to industries that don’t rely on face-to-face selling (think of a conversation tool like Gong for a company selling software), but those are typically not practical during in-person meetings or for consultative sales conversations, like capital equipment or highly engineered solutions.
Those sales teams will always have a real-time, collaborative element and they need tools that are suited to the flexibility and unpredictability of those kinds of sales calls whether in-person or remote.
Sales processes that were easy to instrument were already trending toward being more data-driven. Industries where collecting data was more problematic (i.e. reliant on outside sales roles) have been thrust into a remote work environment where their activities could be more trackable and measurable. Will they make the most of this opportunity? Some of these industries seem to be waiting for things to return to “normal” and will miss the opportunity to become more data- and revenue operations-driven. Others plan to resume an in-person element with the new expectation that they will collect data and use it to measure and improve sales effectiveness and efficiency.
Q: What steps can Sales Enablement solutions users take to best facilitate their prospects’ decision-making given that interactions are likely remote?
It’s well known that by the time a prospect engages a salesperson, they’ve already done 70-80% of their research on their own. Does a remote selling world mean that more of that process is completed without engaging a salesperson?
Regardless, 20% or 30% of the process requires a salesperson’s involvement. And it’s the part that a prospect cannot do on their own… the close.
Remote world or not, any live customer meeting is critically important. Preparation is important but also infinitely more difficult. Why? Because the prospect has become an expert without yet having interacted with anyone at the seller’s company. Will the salesperson have the luxury of guiding a prospect through a sales process that suits the rep? Likely not.
The customer starts the dialog where they want to start it, drawing on whatever research they were able to do on their own (which varies dramatically from customer to customer).
How to prepare? The only option is to be ready for anything. Another decision-making dynamic that has emerged in an era of remote buying and selling is a particularly difficult one to plan for: who will be on a remote sales call.
It may be just a lone contact on the other side but remember how the organization is already 70-80% of the way to a decision? Remote meetings make it easier than ever for a larger team to get involved early in the process. Notice how your calendar gets booked back-to-back with meetings?
Buyers can easily invite anyone and everyone whose input they need—even if it’s still early in the process. Is your rep ready to address questions from the CEO during what was supposed to be a minor call? Be ready for it or be ready to suffer a big setback.
It’s virtually impossible to predict and script every possible combination and level of customer self-education and approval process dynamics. The increased importance of any live customer interaction and a compounding of unknowns about what kind of selling situation a rep may be walking into reminds us of why we need smart, seasoned reps in the first place: Fast and flexible on their feet, able to read the situation, collaborative and consultative, and always focused on moving toward a close. StorySlab is the tool for that kind of rep and that kind of sale.
Q: What are one or two examples of how a customer is using your solution in surprising ways.
Mind Share: For companies that rely on third-party resellers, agents, and partners, StorySlab has been a way for our client companies to extend their reach. An industrial controls company became a resource by providing a virtual selling platform and training so their partners could adapt and remain effective and engaged with customers.
It had a pronounced benefit of winning mind share for our client companies by earning the attention and respect of their partners and by simply making it easier for them to sell (vs. the other lines they might otherwise spend their time selling).
New Customer Discovery: Our clients tell us that maintaining existing relationships is manageable in a remote world but that engaging new customers is especially difficult. StorySlab has worked with a client in the apparel industry to configure and train specifically for remote new customer discovery. Reps can guide prospects through an interesting and value-adding conversation that helps both sides determine need and fit and establish the rep as a valuable resource.
Q: What is the impact on organizations that adopt virtual training?
Even if you remove the word “virtual” from the question, the answer is the same: Companies need to train on product, service, sales process, sales technique, and sales tools—period. We’ve noticed many of our clients are stepping up their training efforts, taking advantage of the fact that their sales teams are in their offices and sitting still long enough to do some extra training. If we require that most training be done in-person, then the frequency of training is going to be inadequate. In-person training is highly disruptive and removes reps from the field for long periods of time, so it’s clear that virtual training is more efficient. And to be honest, most in-person training is borderline virtual anyway: A product manager presenting slides to a roomful of reps who follow along on their PCs. That should have been done virtually all along.
However, there is a BIG opportunity related to sales coaching and process optimization that comes from the insights that modern sales enablement tools provide. What are the habits and techniques of your successful reps and how should we be coaching our lower performers to sell like the best? StorySlab tells you this without any extra data entry and without having to alter or re-engineer the sales process.
Reps use StorySlab during training and for everyday selling and StorySlab automagically provides insights (both to the reps themselves and to sales managers) on how to be better. If you think of StorySlab as the ultimate digital playbook (with measurement), you’ll begin to see how it fits into onboarding, ongoing training, and daily selling activities. The same tool can be configured for reps at any stage and any experience level.
StorySlab can be used as a crash course at onboarding, ongoing training, and new product launches for experienced reps, and then as part of the feedback loop to continuously improve sales efficiency and effectiveness.
Q: How will selling be forever changed – will remote selling be the new norm?
The pandemic did not alter the course of selling, it just accelerated it. Every company and every industry will have to figure out the remote vs. in-person mix that is most effective for them. Effective remote selling was a differentiator before the pandemic and will continue to be one going forward. Similarly, in-person selling is a differentiator and will continue to be one as well.
A key change, however, is the opportunity to take a data-driven approach to deciding the most effective remote and in-person sales practices. Anecdotes will not be enough to justify sending people back into the field at previous levels. The numbers will have to tell us it’s the right thing to do. Forward-thinking sales leaders will use tools like StorySlab to prepare reps for anything and everything, and to track, analyze, and act what’s most effective.
Founder & CEO, StorySlab
Hans Fuller has dedicated 25+ years to B2B strategy, marketing, and selling in manufacturing, service, and technology companies ranging from family-owned to Fortune 500. In 2012, Hans glimpsed the future of selling and founded StorySlab, a platform focused on helping companies have better sales conversations from anywhere.
Whether selling from a tablet in the field or remotely from the home office, StorySlab equips sales reps with everything they need to progress the deal and equips sales leaders with the insights they need to refine the sales process, improve forecasting, and retain and grow revenue.