The global pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in virtual sales, but there seems to be a continuous divide when it comes to developing sales strategies for the future. Can we return to the classic method of face-to-face direct sales as soon as circumstances allow, or joining the revolution of going full virtual. What should we plan for in the “new normal”?
This time last year, I was waking up at the crack of dawn to brace the Johannesburg morning rush to get to my first client meeting in Pretoria. Today, I am working virtually for an American company. My first Zoom meeting is at 3 p.m., which is 8 a.m. Central Time Zone in Tennessee. I have gone from meeting clients in person every day, to calling and emailing them. Building virtual relationships with the time difference has been quite an adjustment, but I am enjoying not having to sit in traffic for hours. As someone with experience on both sides, this is my take on the two strategies.
The way I distinguish virtual from direct sales would be, quality versus quantity.
Direct Sales – Quality
Direct sales would be the quality approach. The focus is on face-to-face interactions. The value of the relationship between business and client is heightened because of the personal bond created. The client’s trust is built on meetings where informal conversations can lead to a higher chance of client retention. Even if the number of clients reached is considerably lower, because of the time taken to build the relationship.
Virtual Sales – Quantity
Virtual sales would be the quantity approach due to the access to a larger spectrum of potential clients from various industries, and the ease of contact via electronic platforms i.e. email. It is a great way to determine which industries to target and eliminate the ones that do not bring in positive metrics or sales. However, maintaining good relationships with clients can be difficult because of not having the face-to-face factor, and managing a concentrated customer base can create a lower chance of client retention.
To further differentiate the two sales strategies, I will use the 4 A’s model: Acceptability, Accessibility, Affordability, Awareness, and the selling of sweaters as an example for each.
4 A’s Model
- Acceptability – Why should customers buy our sweaters? Are they priced according to the quality we are offering? This component can be used in the sales pitch to potential customers.
- Accessibility – Ensuring the store is stocked up with sweaters and positioned where customers can easily see and reach them.
- Affordability – Are our sweaters priced to attract our target markets? How are the sweaters priced against competitors at stores nearby?
- Awareness – Can customers see that we sell sweaters in our store? Are they visible on mannequins in the display window? Do we have a sign?
- Acceptability – Why should customers buy our sweaters? Are they priced according to the quality we are offering? This component can be used in the product title and description on the website.
- Accessibility – Having a website that is easy to navigate, and mobile phone optimised, so customers can effortlessly buy sweaters from any device.
- Affordability – Are our sweaters priced to attract the desired target markets? How are sweaters on competitors’ websites priced?
- Awareness – An email campaign, targeted at a group of potential customers to inform them about our brand of sweaters.
We can see from this, that the mechanisms of the 4 A’s in both approaches often coincide and have similarities.
Adapting to the current climate and adopting a sales process that not only protects your team, but also grows your business, is essential.
A combined approach of both sales strategies based on your company’s goals and objectives, would, in my view, be the most beneficial in these uncertain times.