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Is This The Demise Of The Outside Salesperson?

Outside sales and inside sales have traditionally played in their own arenas. Outside salespeople regularly meet with clients or prospects in the field. Inside salespeople typically sell over the phone and web. But in today's "new norm," outside salespeople have had to stop meeting with clients face-to-face. They have now started to invade the turf of the inside salespeople. So, is this the end of the outside salesperson?

Importance of face-to-face meetings

Talking in person is extremely powerful. You can perceive another person’s behavior. It is easier to read their body language and reactions. You gain company insights from their location, facility layout, or other potential needs. Many salespeople will tell you that they are able to “spot opportunities” and “meet more decision-makers and influencers” just by being onsite and knowing what to look for. Those opportunities are not as obvious through phone calls or video conferences. Here are a few statistics on the power of face-to-face interactions:

  • According to Great Business Schools, "77% agree that a big benefit of face-to-face meetings is the ability to read others’ body language and expressions.”
  • HubSpot states, "Nearly 100% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships."
  • CWT states, "Companies earn $12.50 for every dollar invested in face-to-face meetings."

Leveraging Technology

With the pandemic causing many companies to work remotely, the outside salesperson has had to adapt. That means organizations have had to rely more heavily on technology. A few of the way's salespeople have done this is by:

Social Selling

Ideally, social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their target audience. Ultimately the goal of this tactic is to build trust and awareness with prospects. According to Social Media Today, "74% of people now follow brands on social media - and 96% of those who do follow brands also interact with them on social platforms."

Virtual Selling

When you cannot meet face-to-face, this is the next best thing, and your insides salespeople have probably mastered it already. Virtual selling is the practice of selling from a remote location over the phone or video meetings. According to one study by Zoom Communications, "video created 82% more trust." More and more outside salespeople are selling virtually. Not only do you save travel time, but you get to watch facial expressions and body language to better understand where the customer’s interests and resistance may appear.

The Impact on the Outside Salesperson

For many companies, travel and meeting budgets were the first discretionary expenses to get cut when the pandemic took hold. But by using technology to their advantage, outside salespeople have still been able to build personal connections and present their products in an immediate, professional way. Outside salespeople have also been able to gain more time throughout their day.

As companies and leaders adapt to full-time remote work, more leaders use virtual channels to connect employees and customers on a large-scale basis. Large conferences and events are also moving online. In fact, according to Forbes, "Virtual events are up 1,000% since Coronavirus, says a virtual events platform. This particular platform (6Connex) has seen more than 52,000 events and subevents since COVID-19." Salespeople and customers are getting used to virtual meetings.

Some companies are even taking advantage of the ability to record Teams meetings—such as a teacher recording a lesson for students, or a worker recording a meeting for an invited colleague to view later. That same recording ability allows outside salespeople to record a demo and use them in their communications.

Now that your outside salespeople are not driving to meet with clients or prospects, they can do back-to-back meetings all online. According to Skill Scouter, "94% of businesses who use video conferencing state that the company benefits from greater productivity."

Greater reach

Because online tools do not limit you to a specific location or reach, you can now invite the whole world. The adaption of online tools has allowed salespeople to expand their territories and reach more decision-makers. This could even push your company to greater heights, potentially national or global with the ability to reach different time zones.

Post-Pandemic Salespeople 

Nothing is constant. The current pandemic will eventually be a thing of the past, and hopefully, normalcy will return. However, things won't be the same after this pandemic. It's essential to plan accordingly.

Outside salespeople will most likely continue to leverage technology. They will also continue to utilize hybrid meetings, connect socially with prospects, and sell virtually. However, with more and more companies allowing their employees to return to the office, more face-to-face meetings will take place. It will be crucial to carry business as usual within the social distancing norms and policies.

If you want to know more about salespeople returning to work, check out our blog on, "Should My Sales Team Continue Working Remotely?"

Outside sales teams are a big driver when it comes to hitting sales goals. While technology gives us the ability to "be" anywhere in the world at any time, there is no substitute for live interactions. Inside and outside sales teams can, and in most cases, should work together. Outside sales aren't gone; they have just adapted and changed for the better.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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