A number of direct sellers have asked me questions regarding virtual sales presentations this year. It’s understandable, considering what we have gone through with the Corona Virus, but there is no magic pill that will convert your direct sales program into a virtual selling dynamo. It just doesn’t work that way. Some products and services require that in-person, relationship-building approach that you can’t pull off with a video, Facebook posts, or an expensive, impressive-looking website. This holds true for everything from home improvements to data center equipment. This even holds true for products or services that you normally wouldn’t think required a direct salesperson, but would probably have a higher conversion if a direct salesperson were involved. A high-quality, skilled, direct salesperson will almost always convert more prospects into customers, at a better margin, than advertising geared to drive people to purchase or telephone sales representatives.
As you are probably already aware, a virtual or online prospect can turn your virtual presentation off with the click of a mouse, or a tap of a finger. The prospect, in this situation, has to already want what you are selling in order to stick with you to the close. Objections must be mild, pricing has to be perfect, and the experience is really little more than selling from a static web page or YouTube video. The only minor difference is that the prospect feels that they were able to talk to a human before clicking Buy Now. But we have already been doing a version of that for years, haven’t we? Online chat, email, and sometimes picking up the phone. You shouldn’t start to think that online video and virtual presentations are the magic pill that we have been missing all of these years.
All, or nearly all of those virtual advantages, that you thought you gained due to the Corona Virus, will eventually evaporate more quickly than you received them. As soon as people start to become comfortable, regarding their health being secure while in the company of others, those advantages will be gone. And while I think that there are some things that will have more lasting effects, I don’t believe how we sell will be one of them. So, before you spend massive amounts of money transitioning your selling system I would suggest some patience.
Movement, Trend, or Fad
Here is a classic example of a fad that many business owners mistakenly thought was a movement:
Back in 1990, when GM started producing the first Saturn automobiles, The Saturn dealers launched with what became known as the no-dicker sticker. The vehicle’s sticker price was the price everyone paid. No one negotiated a better deal. Everyone paid the same price. For selling cars it was a novel idea. Within weeks, thousands of auto dealers across the country, representing most brands, were trying to replicate and implement the no-dicker sticker selling system. Newspapers heralded the “new” and “fairer” car buying experience. If the Internet had existed then as it does now the mass adoption of the no-dicker sticker selling system would have featured dozens of viral videos, and social media would have been buzzing during those early weeks.
If you were a young adult, or older, in 1990 you already know the punch line.
Within less than 24 months of GM starting a fad, instead of a movement, most auto dealers had abandoned the no-dicker sticker selling system and returned to the time-tested method of selling cars. By 1995 automotive reporters were writing articles about the death of the no-dicker sticker. It wasn’t even a story for traditional newspapers or broadcast media.
The experiment cost thousands of auto dealers substantial sums of money – twice. Marketing, advertising, printing, hiring, and training, etc. First to convert to the no-dicker sticker selling system, and again to convert back to their time-tested sales methods within a very short amount of time.
I know that a voluntary change, like the no-dicker sticker, is not the same thing as a pandemic. However, both events represent a drastic shift in the selling system, and in that way, they are the same type of structural change to the selling system. Fortunately, the Internet had matured enough in the 30 years between the two events, and most of the technology that became essential during the pandemic was already handy and useful. In fact, Internet marketing, advertising, and interacting with prospects online was already a trend. While fads are whimsical and short-lived, trends are more sustainable but lack the permanence of a movement.
But if you look at the trend of virtual selling, at the time of this writing (September 2020), it has already leveled off for some and started to decline for others, in market segments where direct selling sales systems were previously the norm. My opinion is that the buying patterns of recent months appear transitory, so be patient and don’t scrap your time-tested selling system just yet.
If you think about it, it doesn’t matter how many objections you foresee and resolve on your web pages. It doesn’t matter how many benefits that your testimonials praise on your YouTube channel. It doesn’t matter how many chat sessions your salespeople log, behaving with their best customer service demeanor. It doesn’t matter how many retweets your clever 120 characters earned. Likes, followers, and hashtags don’t matter either. It doesn’t matter how many prospects you Skype with. Conventional wisdom would like you to believe that these things are sales tools. They aren’t, they are marketing tools. And like any marketing, people can tune you out without you even knowing how many tuned you out. Ultimately, the only thing that does matter is closing sales. The only predictable, measurable way to do that, with a direct sales type of product or service, is through a quality direct sales selling system and skilled direct salespeople.
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