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The Virtual Selling Mindset

By Richard Barkey, Founder and CEO, Imparta
A brain inside a lightbulb next to a laptop, smart phone, and a tablet.

Success in virtual selling starts with your mindset.

To defend revenue and even grow throughout the current pandemic, sales professionals have had to develop a specific set of virtual selling skills. These range from setting up their camera, background, and lighting, to engaging customers through the online medium.

However, developing this new skill set does not address the whole picture. To achieve success when selling virtually, salespeople must adapt not only their approach, but their outlook.

In this article, we explore the three characteristics salespeople need to drive success in virtual sales: resilience, responsibility, and rigor.

Responsibility

The first characteristic of the virtual mindset is responsibility – the extent to which the individual takes accountability for the outcome of a given situation.

In every sales process, many events take place at each stage of the buying cycle that will determine whether the sale is successful.

The extent to which we take responsibility for these events can be plotted on the “locus of control,” developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954.

A graphic showing The Locus of Control

Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe that events result primarily from their own behavior and actions. This belief means they are more likely to attempt to influence the outcome than those with a high external locus of control.

While there is no perfect position to take, an Imparta study discovered that top sales performers shared a strongly internal locus of control. They believed that their performance was under their own control – not driven by purely external factors. As a result, they were bold in their approach, more likely to be proactive in managing their time, and better at working with their own colleagues.

Imparta’s advice:

  • Recognize your own locus of control. Listen to your internal dialogue to identify when you’re blaming the customer, your team, the technology, or even the pandemic itself.
  • Ask yourself what you could do to anticipate, reduce, or work around any issues.
  • Equally, don’t try to fix those things that are genuinely outside your control.

Resilience

A second part of the virtual mindset is resilience – the ability to bounce back from setbacks.

Virtual selling – whether it’s a group pitch, a one-to-one meeting, or large workshop to a group of stakeholders – is a journey filled with rejection, failure, and setbacks, but also triumphs.

Resilience is what lets you succeed despite these setbacks.

It comes from breaking the links in the vicious cycle that can happen when things go wrong:

A graph showing the cycle of a loss of resilience.

Identify your own cycle, and anticipate the things that can undermine your resilience. Then you can spot when it’s happening, and take steps to break the links in the cycle.

Research shows that having a clear sense of purpose helps you deal with panic and loss of self-esteem.

Imparta’s advice:

  • Reduce the impact of setbacks simply by expecting they’ll happen. Be mentally prepared to make contingency plans.
  • To prevent loss of focus because of feelings of panic and loss, concentrate on what you can learn from the loss. If you’re surrounded by positive, resilient people, they’ll also help you retain your focus.
  • Rebuild your self-esteem through your inner dialogue. Tell yourself that you can win the next one – don’t let your subconscious get in the way of your success.

Rigor

The final element of the virtual selling mindset is rigor – the drive to go the extra mile to achieve your goals.

As a salesperson or sales leader, you are always competing against something – whether the status quo, another use for budget, or competitors.

If your level of skill and effort falls below a certain threshold, more often than not you lose. Above that threshold, more often than not you win.

A graph showing how sales results are affected by skill and effort.

Dave Brailsford, the coach behind the highly successful British cycling team, put it this way: “If you break down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”  This can be described as “the aggregation of marginal gains.”

There is a sharp jump in the performance of virtual selling (and commission) as your skills and effort pass that threshold. And during the pandemic and its economic fallout, the threshold of skill and effort you have to pass in order to succeed has become significantly higher.

The threshold varies from industry to industry (and even from situation to situation), but going the extra mile – and being rigorous – can have a dramatic effect on your outcomes.

In sales, as in so many aspects of life, you make much of your own luck.

Be curious, be persistent, and always go the extra mile.

Imparta’s advice:

  • Encourage the extra mile in yourself and those supporting your virtual engagement.
  • Understand what rigor means for you. It could be working hard, not taking things for granted, following the process, applying the tools, or checking the presentation one more time.
  • Make time to prepare and practice. Focus on the aggregation of marginal gains.

This article has been adapted from Imparta’s Mastering Virtual Presence Training Curriculum, and scratches the surface of the behavioral science, research, and leading techniques we deliver to our clients.

To take the next step in virtual selling, download Imparta’s Virtual Selling Mindset PDF, or get in touch.