Selling Power Blog

News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

April 15, 2021

Debunking Myths About Selling Virtually

By Justin Zappulla, Managing Partner, Janek Performance Group

Historically, change can be difficult, especially after people devised and developed systems that work. That’s why many sales professionals were skeptical of selling virtually. As one of the oldest professions, selling has always been about meeting people, locking eyes, and shaking hands. It’s how buyers and sellers create trust, form relationships, and build partnerships. No doubt, you’ve heard the naysayers. “You can’t trust over the internet!” they say. “Virtual is impersonal.” Well, as change brings challenge, it also welcomes its troublemaking cousins, rumor and misinformation. Let’s examine and debunk several myths and misconceptions about selling virtually.

Selling Virtually is a Fad
Remember the earliest home computers, like the Commodore 64? While some saw potential, others dismissed the beeps and blips as a fancy calculator and passing fad. Though many think virtual was born of necessity, virtual selling was gaining momentum before the pandemic. A prepandemic study by Bain & Company showed half of all sales transactions were already taking place virtually. Now, in research by McKinsey & Company, more than three quarters of buyers and sellers prefer digital self-service and remote human interaction over face-to-face. Simply put, virtual isn’t going away.

Buyers Don’t Like It
Another myth is buyers do not like virtual. This is refuted by data. As shown in McKinsey research, buyers are still buying. In fact, 70% have no problem making large purchases virtually, even for transactions over $50,000. The same study goes further: almost 30% of buyers would spend over $500,000 virtually. Factor in the convenience, ease, and savings, and it’s easy to see how virtual will continue to grow as organizations switch to hybrid forms of engagement.

Complicated Technology
We all know some people are naturally inclined to resist technology and can take time getting comfortable using the latest tech routinely. The good news is, selling virtually has some simple tools to enable sellers to sell effectively. Though “web conferencing” and “virtual collaboration” may sound daunting, Zoom, Teams, Webex, and others are quite user friendly.

Selling Virtually Limits Interaction
After years shaking hands with clients, virtual is an adjustment. While the skills are like face-to-face, selling virtually requires adaptation to effectively interact and engage. Things we take for granted in-person, such as body language and expressing empathy, are different. Virtual sellers must be better active listeners and master eye contact and body language. They must learn key skills, like switching their eye line between the camera and the screen, and use their bodies to convey emotion, smiling, nodding, and leaning. Virtual interaction is different, but it does not have to be limited.

Selling Virtually Makes It Harder to Build Trust
Maybe because selling was face-to-face for so long, people didn’t consider alternatives, but trust is built on communication, honesty, and mutual respect, not physical proximity. It’s like having friends or family across the country. So long as sellers remember the keys to building trust, such as eye contact, comfortable body language, competence, empathy, it doesn’t matter whether buyers and sellers are feet or miles apart. True, as with interaction and engagement, building trust virtually requires effort, but once earned, it’s a bond that transcends distance.

Less Collaboration
Twenty years ago, virtual collaboration was almost an oxymoron. Phones, email, and texts have a place in selling, but people work better when they see each other. Whether collaborating with team members across town or clients across the world, today’s technology connects us no matter where we are. Now, multiple users can share and edit documents simultaneously.

Civilizations must topple primitive beliefs for societies to progress. Of course, this is not always easy. Beliefs can be sacred. They are passed through generations because they are productive or comfortable. However, technology often renders some old ways and practices ineffective or even obsolete. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced buyers and sellers to boost their virtual efforts, virtual has always been the future of selling. This is not to say it will replace face-to-face interaction, but with the savings on travel and time, more organizations will transition into hybrid models that combine in-person with selling virtually to provide the best of both worlds.

For more helpful advice on how to advance your selling and sales management skills, visit Janek’s resource library.

Headshot of Justin Zappulla

Today's blog post is by Justin Zappula, managing partner at Janek Performance Group.