A virtual sales model can help companies maintain business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic – in fact, a virtual sales model may be a lifeline for many companies.
Since lockdowns have been imposed around the globe, many companies have been forced to operate remotely.
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Reduced operations certainly protect the health of customers and employees, but they can also endanger the bottom line.
Virtual sales models and online services offer one solution to these problems, which we will discuss in the article below.
E-Commerce vs. Virtual Sales vs. Offline Sales
To better understand how virtual sales models differ from traditional sales models, let’s examine a few related concepts:
- Offline sales. Offline sales models are the in-person sales tactics that most of us are familiar with, such as retail sales or door-to-door sales. Due to widespread lockdowns and public health measures, offline sales models and online-to-offline models are either prohibited or severely limited.
- Telemarketing. Telemarketing, as most of us know, refers to telephone-based sales strategies. Naturally, telemarketing offers a viable alternative to offline sales, though they are only useful for certain types of businesses, such as those that offer relatively high-priced products or services.
- Ecommerce. Ecommerce and virtual sales refer to completely online sales strategies. An ecommerce approach refers to the use of online mediums, such as the web and social media, to provide online shopping. To survive in a remote world, ecommerce may be the only solution for many companies.
- Virtual sales. Door-to-door sales and in-person sales is no longer an option for companies that relied on these methods before the pandemic. Fortunately, virtual technology allows sales professionals to connect with customers online – not only is this approach safer for both parties, it is also cheaper and more convenient.
- Multi-channel sales and marketing. Virtual sales is only one step in an online sales funnel. When designing a complete customer journey map, therefore, it is important to design a funnel that incorporates multiple channels, integrates well with marketing, and delivers a seamless customer experience.
Below, we’ll look at the key components of a virtual sales model.
How to Design a Virtual Sales Model During COVID-19
One of the most important points to understand about virtual sales is the concept of multi-channel marketing, as mentioned.
Once that is understood, it will be easier to create integrated marketing funnels and seamless customer experiences – and, just as importantly, it will make online sellers’ jobs that much easier.
Here are a few concepts to understand when it comes to virtual sales:
Create a Multi-Channel Marketing and Sales Funnel
Before sales professionals ever talk to a prospect, those prospective customers have already passed through several stages of the marketing funnel.
They have often performed their own research, reviewed marketing materials, seen ads, and so forth.
To deliver qualified leads to prospects, marketing departments must create programs that include multiple channels, such as:
- Social media
These touchpoints comprise the customer’s journey up to the point where they meet a salesperson, either in real life or virtually, so it is important to properly qualify and prepare leads before they contact salespeople.
Design Online Sales Funnels
Different sales professionals model the pathway to purchase differently.
One of the oldest and most fundamental models is the AIDA formula, consisting of four stages:
- Attention (or attraction). Brands gain customers’ attention and make them aware of a solution to their problem, which represents the top of the marketing funnel.
- Interest. Customers then become interested in a product or solution as they research it and engage with, for instance, a brand’s marketing content.
- Desire. At this point, customers then actually want to purchase the brand’s product or service.
- Action. Those customers finally take action, by purchasing the product, signing up for a free trial, and so forth.
Typically, marketing departments will handle the top and middle of the funnel, while sales staff will only become involved towards the end.
Though many businesses have applied variants of this formula to their own marketing, many of those companies must redesign their approaches when engaging customers virtually.
Putting the Pieces Together Into a Virtual Sales Model
Online marketing is cheaper, more convenient, faster, and more efficient than many legacy marketing techniques, such as print marketing. Most companies, therefore, have at least some digital marketing strategy.
To effectively create a virtual sales model, however, it is necessary to “virtualize” the bottom of the marketing funnel.
Here are a few ways to do just that:
- Scale up digital marketing efforts, such as web, email, and paid advertising
- Implement a CRM platform, such as Salesforce
- Adopt telecommunications platforms in the sales department
- Ensure that sales professionals are trained in their virtual sales tools
- Transition traditionally offline sales calls to these online platforms
- Test other online sales methods as well, such as social selling
- Test these new sales models, track their performance, continually experiment, and optimize
The last point is perhaps the most important, since new ideas rarely work perfectly right out of the gate. Instead, managers should continually test, retest, and refine their efforts over time in order to get the best results.