It wasn't all that long ago that selling was almost 100% face-to-face, or over the phone. For most salespeople, the meat of the selling process took place during live, in-person discussions—even if some meetings took place via screen-share and in-between communications were largely via email.
In 2020, the limitations on travel and face-to-face meetings have brought about the switch to virtual-only selling.
But the change hasn't altered the fundamentals of needs discovery. In some ways, needs discovery has become more difficult, but the shift to virtual selling actually gives organized sellers a greater advantage.
The Advantage for Sellers in a Virtual World
In our recent study on virtual selling, 71% of buyers said a seller's ability to lead a thorough discovery of concerns, wants, and needs in their virtual interactions has a high level of influence on purchase decisions. But only 26% think that sellers do so effectively. That points to a great opportunity for nearly three-quarters of sellers. The shift to virtual can differentiate those who are prepared, skilled, and thorough.
Virtual selling does not mean merely adding video to meetings, because virtual selling significantly alters the dynamics of how buyers want, and are willing, to interact with sellers.
One buyer recently said, "One of the things I can't stand is when I get on a meeting with a seller, after we had their initial qualification meeting, which I had to tolerate, and they ask me a bunch of questions that I could have answered more accurately, more thoroughly, and more quickly via email or a standard survey."
If you know you need answers to background questions, and you know you need to identify preferences, wants, and needs, consider sending an email in advance. Here's what happens when you do:
- You get more answers than you could gather in a call, so when you actually have the call, you can use live meeting time more fruitfully.
- The sales cycle can be shortened because you reduce the need for more follow-up meetings. You will have gotten your answers before meetings.
- Buyers answer via survey or email, and if it's their preference, sometimes engage in discussions via email—which will speed up the process even more.
- Buyers say, "I don't have time to answer these questions right now, but thanks for sending them along. Let's cover them in the meeting." But they often still read the questions and think about them, which makes the actual meeting more productive.
In other words, you can move the sales process along more quickly, get more and better information, and impress buyers.
Also, to the extent that you can customize your questions for that specific buyer, you build trust and help other buyers see that you're a cut above the rest. So prep the buyer and send questions only when rapport and trust have been established.
Sample Needs-Discovery Email
As soon as you know your buyer and initial discovery has taken place, consider the following example as an email you might send.
You could also send a shorter email and link the buyer to a survey with questions.
By using email to support your needs-discovery process, you will have more productive sales meetings, move sales along faster, and impress buyers.
Use the virtual world to your advantage, and try out this approach for an upcoming sales discussion.
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