TECHNOLOGY – By Noël Theodosiou and Nicole McCullough
Selling Without Seeing
Field sales can learn a lot from inbound, outbound and multi-channel customer interactions.
These days sales teams are faced with an enormous challenge for which they are not all equipped: how to build and nurture customer relationships remotely.
Like online dating, virtual selling is not the same as meeting in person. While many people doubted it was possible, today couples all over the world build meaningful relationships online before meeting face-to-face, resulting in three out of five marriages.
Whether virtual/remote or in-person, good relationships are based on the same, key fundamentals. Indeed, remote relationships are more difficult to start and sustain because it is harder to authentically connect and build trust.
Key Points of Contact
When it comes to building customer relationships, the “traditional” healthcare approach emphasizes face-to-face outbound customer engagement through visits with healthcare providers and communication and education for patients. Inbound and outbound customer interactions via contact centers and inside sales functions, often managed separately, are focused on responding to access requests, providing medical information questions and addressing patient support needs.
Inbound contact centers and inside sales functions provide valuable data and insight into customer needs and concerns. Many of these interactions represent one of the most valuable kinds of touch points: unsolicited, customer initiated interactions that are meaningful and memorable to customers.
Due to changes in access, contact centers and inside sales teams are emerging as a key point of contact between brands and their customers. Field sales can learn a lot from these inbound, outbound and multi-channel customer interactions, as well as the skills that contact centers and inside sales teams have mastered.
The sales capabilities that will help field sales teams succeed in this environment combine the processes and skills of contact centers and inside sales teams with the fundamentals of relationship-building.
Training and process changes may be needed to help your sales professionals:
- Be consistently and authentically omnipresent. Relationships are built through both multiple touch points and multiple channels. Not all channels are created equally, and what works for one won’t work for others. This means mixing it up and reaching out to customers via phone, video, text, email, social media, etc.
- Use CRM to create continuity with customers. With less direct contact, we lose the memory of impressions and the sense of continuity in relationship building. A well designed and implemented customer relationship management (CRM) tool helps sales teams keep track of every interaction and enables them to build continuity across touch points to progress relationships.
- Know the customer, digitally. While “know your customer” is an age-old, fundamental sales skill, in the virtual/remote world, social listening is a key to knowing our customers. Sales teams must take the initiative to research the digital persona of their customers and engage with them to enhance their relationships.
- Deliver targeted content across touch points. Healthcare companies provide a lot of educational content to customers. In the world of digital relationships, we must be able to identify the relevant content to serve up in any interaction, based on where the customer is in their journey. This involves adapting content to help customers make decisions.
- Make proactive, personalized interactions meaningful. It’s easy to get lazy in a virtual relationship. Technology helps, but we cannot rely on automation alone. Sales teams must choose key moments in which to jump in and personalize customer interactions.
Ease & Convenience
As customers, especially patients, become more active in treatment decisions (including both medications and medical devices), they expect to interact with healthcare companies with the same ease and convenience they experience in other areas (e.g., retail). Sales teams must learn to become facilitators of a new, multichannel, digital customer journey, where face-to-face is only one component of the relationship.
While the basics of relationship building have not changed, sales trainers and leaders have a job to do in supporting sales professionals to deliver in this new, more virtual world.
Noël Theodosiou is principal and CEO of Luminous. Nicole McCullough is a consultant with Luminous. Email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.