Not too long ago, most people believed in-person meetings were how important business was conducted regarding business-to-business sales. Face-to-face was the name of the game. And then what happened?
The B2B Sales Game changed.
The pandemic came along, and every B2B sales professional suddenly went into shock. Buyers wouldn't schedule face-to-face meetings and we were all forced into the virtual world, someplace many of us weren't comfortable with and needed to learn how to navigate. A lot of us botched that assignment. How? We pretended that a website and an avatar could do the job. We imagined that everything could be automated -- that a simple talking box, some technological fix that relied on simple data exchange, could cover all the bases regarding B-to-B selling. That is incorrect. Those efforts failed. The truth in B2B, as in so many other realms of life, is that true success lies in striking the right balance between complementary forces. Hybrid selling – selling that operates flexibly and comfortably on multiple platforms, some of which operate in real-time and some that don't – is now state of the art in business-to-business settings. Hybrid selling is selling that acknowledges the importance of multiple tactics and multiple communication channels. It also acknowledges the reality that organizations still need, and will pay for, the expertise they don't have when making important purchase decisions. Below are five proven keys to success in the world of hybrid selling – a world we will all be operating in for some time.
Hybrid Selling Key to Success #1: Find the Platform they Prefer …. and Be Ready to Use it.
You're likely to be talking to multiple people within the organization because today's purchasing decisions are much more likely to require feedback from more internal sources than yesterday's. (Side note: If you, as the seller, only have one point of contact on the buying side, that's not enough!) Remember: Not everyone uses the same primary communication platform. It's your job to adapt to their preferences, not theirs, to adjust to yours. Baby Boomers are likely to reach for the phone for important discussions; Millennials and Generation Y people, on the other hand, are likely to be comfortable with text messaging, even for long and complicated conversations. Even these broad guidelines are generalizations, however. The point is that each individual within the buying organization will have a preferred means of communication. Your job is to ask questions and experiment until you discover each person's preference. Once you find out, use that platform!
Hybrid Selling Key to Success #2: Once You Get Voice-to-Voice or Face-to-Face:
Set a clear up-front contract for the meeting and create a mutually acceptable agenda at the beginning of each real-time discussion. Learn to set an up-front contract that establishes the ground rules for everything to follow. This best practice dramatically impacts your ability to identify priorities and deliver value during meetings. Up-front contracts are just as crucial in phone and video exchanges as they are in in-person meetings. See this video for a primer on how to set an effective up-front contract.
Hybrid Selling Key to Success #3: In Zoom Mode? Engage People Early and Often.
Consider: Every time you're on a video call, you're not a performer in the spotlight. You're more of a talk show host – one who doesn't get to deliver a monologue at the opening of the show. So: Don't throw up a PowerPoint and make a long speech. Instead, ask a question. Wait for the response. Ask another question. If you're leading a conversation with a group, ask people to respond to a poll – and then lead a conversation about the results of that poll. Engagement is the key when it comes to successful video discussions. And the engagement must be constant! In comparison to an in-person meeting, you have far less information at your disposal in a video discussion to help determine whether you have someone's attention. That problem worsens the more people you talk to on the call. Work from two core assumptions: First, that your aim is to lead a conversation, not impart information, and second, that there is always at least one person thinking about starting to play Wordle instead of listening to what you have to say. (There is.) We want to focus on the two E's regarding video meetings. There has to be engagement early and often, and that engagement has to produce a relatable experience. Our job is to create meaningful interactions during these meetings.
Hybrid Selling Key to Success #4: Keep Video Meetings Brief If Possible
You might feel comfortable leading an in-person meeting that lasts 60 or 90 minutes, but for most people, that's far too long for a video session. Trim the agenda. Aim for 30-45 minutes in one-on-one settings and 15-30 minutes for group gatherings. Schedule multiple meetings if necessary. Be respectful of the time and attention of your prospective buyers!
Hybrid Selling Key to Success #5: Become an Online Resource
We may not (yet) know as much as we would like to know about the buying organization, its key players, the challenges its people face, or the platforms they are likely to use, either internally or externally. One thing we do know, though, or can at least predict with relative certainty, is that, sooner or later, they will be logging on to LinkedIn. That means we want to look closely at the language that appears on both our personal and organizational LinkedIn profiles. That language needs to spotlight the problems experienced most frequently by our ideal prospect … and our experience in dealing with those problems. We also want to use our LinkedIn presence to share content and resources that will instantly establish us as leaders and problem-solvers within our field of expertise. Whether decision makers stumble across our information on LinkedIn or consult it carefully when they're considering working with us, we need to be sure all of that information positions us as an effective online resource for the decision-makers and influencers in our target market. LinkedIn may be where they encounter us first or where they may go to evaluate whether to agree to the next step we've asked them to take. It's our job to make sure they like what they see. No, we can't give away the store on LinkedIn. But yes, we want what shows up on LinkedIn to make it easy for people to start or continue a conversation with us. Of course, the five keys I've just shared aren't all you need to do to sell effectively in a hybrid environment. They are, however, the core best practices that our experience shows that you and your team cannot afford to ignore – regardless of the industry in which you work.