Do we still need face-to-face salespeople for B2B sales?
I like big cuts and I cannot lie. And money that companies spend on face-to-face sales is a big tasty piece that can be cut with no harm for B2B sales results. The alternative is right next to you. Like literally. Heroes of today’s blog post are the laptop and the Internet. Kudos to them, because they’re your cost cutters.
Even though online communication is an essential part of business these days, many people are still biased about online negotiations and sales.
Recently I’ve been researching problems related to selling abroad that software houses based in Eastern Europe have. I’ve posted a question via the local field-related website and people commented that the main problem lies in high costs of hiring sales reps abroad. Because (in a nutshell) “face-to-face is the only effective way to sell, and online sales is total bullshit”.
I was pretty sure this must be some local thing. But just out of curiosity I’ve checked what people think about this on the English-speaking platform — Quora.com. And voila! To my surprise, it isn’t much different over there. People talk about:
- low chances for success when it comes to online sales:
- lack of personal interaction online:
hard to argue with this one
- having sales reps abroad to be able to sell:
- their doubts:
Reading something like this is shocking for me. At my previous workplace I was handling global partnerships without a single in-person meeting. Now I work at the company that closes 99% of deals online. We share this philosophy among our clients that now also close majority of their deals online. That’s the whole point of the Internet era — distance is no longer an obstacle. Not for communication at least.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t deny effectiveness of face-to-face sales. Nor I want to say that online sales is a cure-all. But obviously there are some biases against online sales, and I’d like to dispel them.
Online sales vs face-to-face sales: pros and cons
When it comes to costs, selling online is definitely cheaper. But have you ever wondered how much you can save with it?
Even if planned smartly (you use low-cost transport, make a one-day trip during which you meet with several potential clients) sending 1 salesperson to meet 1 potential client might cost from $50 (for a domestic trip) to $500 (for expensive destinations like London, Zurich, Hong-Kong etc. according tothis study).
Plus keep in mind that usually several persons from the client’s side want to be present at the meeting. In this case you’ll need to have 2–3 representatives too. So double or triple those sums above.
Let’s say you want to avoid travel costs and decide to hire/outsource sales reps abroad instead. It’s still more expensive than having a regular staffer locally. Think about recruitment costs, additional training needed for people new to your business and extra paper work to prevent your IP leak or stuff like that. And if you are based in the low living standard country but want to hire sales reps in the US, or the UK, or Australia — you’re totally screwed.
On the other hand, costs of selling online are pretty much equal to zero. A laptop and wi-fi access are basically all you need. Even office facilities are usually not needed. Coffeehouse nearby can substitute it easily. Many CEOs don’t hire salespeople in the beginning and do sales themselves just like that (which is a good things to do by the way, here is why).
Online sales allow you to reach a large number of people within a short period of time.
Think this through. No need to spend time for travelling. You can easily reach anyone via email or phone. In one day you can talk/chat with people from 10–15 countries. With properly organized process you will be able to talk to more people and eventually close more deals. This way you can scale up your business easier.
If you can provide your services/products remotely, why not to sell them remotely? With online sales you can reach new markets, countries and continents without an army of salespeople travelling (aka throwing cash) around. Check out in more details how to sell internationally.
Many people believe that online sales lack in-person signals and vibes necessary for building special trustworthy connection and better persuasion.
Maybe it’s hard to pass some physical vibes, feel and smell something online (why the hell you would need this during the business meeting at all?). But all the rest in-person things (gestures, tone of voice, facial expression) can be used online too. Thanks to video calls sales reps can give presentations, conduct demos and perform most of the traditional sales functions online.
So which strategy to choose?
The idea that face-to-face sales is the only effective strategy is a myth. And a very expensive myth. You can sell online without all those costs. And with no doubts online sales strategy is a must for:
- early stage businesses that want to scale up
- companies that want to start selling abroad
- companies that offer a ready-made cloud-based solution that doesn’t require customization
Although there are cases when face-to-face meeting is worth the trouble:
- if it’s a big stake: long-term contract/big sum of money
- if the deal is crucial for the business and can give you a comparative advantage on the market
- if the solution you sell is complicated, a sales cycle is long and the service/product costs are high
- when you simply cannot sell it via phone or email: f.e. solutions that need full customization, real estate, bespoken luxurious cloths etc.
But even in these cases you can save money by having face-to-face meetings after the opportunity has been pre-qualified via phone, Skype, emails or whatsoever.
How you can start selling online effectively
At RightHello only around 1% of deals are closed face-to-face. Overwhelming majority of our clients join online. Here are some tips from our experience that can help you start selling online:
1) Define your target
Check out your top clients and analyze what they have in common: industry, size, related products/technology they use.
This will be your search criteria for finding exactly whom you want to approach.
2) Find concrete companies that meet your search criteria
If you target other markets and countries — check your competitors over there and if it’s worth to fight for customers with them
3) Use the best channel to reach them
It’s makes sense to start from emailing. This way you can reach a broad audience easily and check out their interest in what you do.
4) To get more responses — make you messages personalized and follow up a lot.
When get a positive or ‚maybe’ response — try to arrange a call asap.
5) Negotiate and close deals using via phone or video call.
This is your chance to finally “meet” in person with your potential client. Use your charm and persuasion skills as you do during normal meetings. Make sure your internet connection works properly (at least from your side) and nothing will disturb you during the call.
With RightHello’s help you can optimize the first 3 steps (define target, find concrete companies, reach them) and get directly into talking to your potential clients with minimum efforts. Request a demo for the details.
To sum up…
Rejecting or not trusting online sales are probably caused by some psychological denial that people have. It’s always difficult to change our habits. Not long ago people didn’t believe planes would become a widely accessible mean of transport, but look at us now. We live in era of innovation and fast changes, and it’s better to use all opportunities we have now in the best possible way.
Selling online is an effective and low-cost strategy so many companies are taking an advantage of. Don’t let your biases slow down or ruin your business. Try selling online if you still haven’t!
P.S.: Credits for visual elements go to Freepik.
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I’m a Founder & CEO of a Polish B2B sales startup RightHello. We help businesses to boost and scale up their B2B sales by delivering contacts to decision makers of companies they want to reach, then outreach each of them with custom pitch via email and social media.