Written by Henry DeVries and originally posted on Forbes.com on 11.05.20

Sure, the pandemic is forcing many to embrace that new-fangled virtual selling and long for the days of face-to-face sales. But is virtual selling really new?

“Many companies would have you believe virtual selling is new and constitutes a huge paradigm shift for them. But does it really?” says author Craig Lowder. “Virtual selling has been around for over a hundred years; think catalogs, newspapers, direct mail offers, late-night TV infomercials, telemarketers, and ecommerce.”

What is different is the way that traditional outside sales teams interact with their buyers due to the pandemic and the need for social distancing.

Lowder, author of Smooth Selling Forever, is a sales-effectiveness expert with a thirty-year track record of helping owners of small and mid-size companies achieve their sales goals. I met him five years ago as a speaker and he asked me to help edit his book. I found out as the president of MainSpring Sales Group, Lowder has worked with over fifty companies and increased first-year annual sales from 22 to 142 percent.

“Virtual selling is here to stay,” says Lowder. “Expect it to grow exponentially over the coming years and decades. Both buyers and sellers are realizing unexpected benefits of virtual selling and buying.”

According to Lowder, to become an effective virtual seller, sellers must consider six key building blocks:

  1. Buyer Journey. “Everything starts with this. Changes in the buyer decision process will necessitate that sellers adjust their selling processes to accommodate the new buyer journey.”
  2. Messaging. “New digital sales support and marketing communication tools need to be created in order to gain the attention of, fully engage and develop buyer relationships. Short and highly visual messages, including video, will be a must.”
  3. Meeting Cadence. “Virtual meetings in terms of their length (less than 45 minutes), frequency (more often) and pace (fast) must be thoroughly grasped by sellers in order to connect with buyers.”
  4. Sales KPIs/Scorecards. “Sales key performance indicators, both activities and results, need to be attuned to a virtual selling environment.”
  5. Technology. “Virtual selling is reliant on a working knowledge of audio, visual, and lighting communications systems and tools in order engage and build a relationship with buyers.”
  6. People. “The very people and communication skills they need to master are essential to effective virtual selling and require thorough scrutiny.”

Here is why virtual selling is here to stay. Buyers are benefiting from the ease in scheduling virtual meetings, shorter duration meetings, and a greater number of buying influences participating in virtual meetings. That results in both productivity gains and better decisions. Sellers are realizing similar benefits in the form of productivity gains, reduced selling costs and in many cases, shorter sales cycles.