Some professions are more dependent on personal contact than others, and sales is one of those professions that relies on meeting with buyers. The pandemic put a serious damper on sales that relied on in-person meetings. Remote work has also negatively impacted the morale of sales reps.

According to a new report by Allego:

  • 62% of sales professionals say they've lost a sale because they couldn't personally meet with a buyer
  • 56% of sales leaders say remote work has negatively affected team culture, and 57% of sales reps say they've felt unmotivated working remotely during COVID-19

We spoke with George Donovan, chief revenue officer at Allego, about the report.

Why the inability to meet buyers in person has resulted in lost sales

“In the past, sales professionals used to embody the ‘business trip’ mentality where you could build trust by meeting with and entertaining prospective buyers face to face,” says Donovan. “However, when social distancing and work-from-home orders became our new normal, these typical sales strategies didn’t have much purpose.”

Some companies used remote coaching and virtual training strategies, but Donovan says that sales reps lost more sales last year because these strategies were ineffective. “Naturally, interacting virtually built walls and caused unease in signing large contracts based on relationships formed via email or video, resulting in lost sales.” And he explains that virtual selling requires a new set of skills, but this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to build relationships virtually.

Can virtual meetings be just as effective?

Donovan says that virtual meetings can be just as — if not more — effective than in-person meetings. And there’s another advantage to having virtual meetings. “It’s also easier to get all the right decision-makers in one place with virtual meetings, since no travel is required.”

One helpful tool in particular is asynchronous (pre-recorded, on-demand) video, and Donovan explains that sales reps can use this type of video to provide a fully personalized buying experience. “Asynchronous video can be a welcome break for buyers, as no one wants to endure another Zoom call.” And the ability to record and distribute introductory videos allows sellers to create messages that are tailored for prospects and lets them view the video at their convenience. “Recorded videos of demos can also be shared with key stakeholders and decision makers in follow-up, helping to shorten the sales cycle.”

Other challenges that sales teams face with virtual communication

The lack of human interaction affects sales teams in another way as well: they’ve lost their way to train and/or learn from each other. “Sales teams accustomed to swapping best practices and collaborating on the sales floor no longer have that informal method of learning,” Donovan says.

The Allego report also reveals the following:

  • 67% of sales leaders say it's harder to observe remote reps during calls to give them constructive feedback
  • 60% of sales leaders say it's hard to keep their remote team current on new products, features and pricing
  • On average, it takes two times longer for new hires to be productive during the pandemic compared to when they could train in-person
  • 49% of sales reps hired since COVID-19 say they haven't been coached well enough on virtual selling to succeed

However, Donovan warns that virtual coaching is here to stay, so remote teams must evolve and adopt new practices. “Managers and executives must work with their sales enablement team to figure out what is working and how to capitalize on it,” he says. “On top of teaching managers better coaching practices, you must give sellers the ability to directly teach and learn from each other to succeed in virtual selling.”

He recommends providing sales reps with a platform for sharing feedback, insights, and best practices. “This can help bridge communication gaps brought on by remote work and increase the effectiveness of collaboration,” Donovan explains. “In particular, we discovered that enabling top sellers to share their best practices with peers eased the burden of overwhelmed managers and accelerated the implementation of newer, more effective strategies.”

By implementing tech and AI-focused strategies, Donovan says teams can be poised for success. “Automated call recordings and AI analyses help equip managers with insights for effective coaching in a way that is both relevant and scalable,” he says. “The larger the sales team is, the more effective AI implementation will be.” And that's because he says managers are relieved from busy work and listening in on calls, and this gives them time to focus on leveling up their team. “Embracing new methods of sales enablement and coaching will set your company up for a successful post-pandemic sales strategy.”