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May 9, 2020
Enterprise sales without face-to-face meetings?
How to find accounts that are shopping for software like yours
Congratulations for making it through the lockdowns to the gradual reopening of business.
Things seem to be looking up, though the recovery will be uneven.
Let’s be alert for reversals and false bottoms.
And let’s try to focus on the positive.
It’s spring. Sunday is Mother’s Day. And the world is beautiful.
In this week’s issue…
We look at these topics, in order:
- Is it time to cut back (permanently) on face-to-face meetings in enterprise sales?
- How to target accounts that are already shopping for a solution like yours
Your reading time this week is about 8 minutes if you read at 200 words per minute. It’ll take less time if you skim and scan. I urge you to skip anything that isn’t useful or interesting.
SALES | STRATEGY | EXECUTION | ADMINISTRATION
Is it time to cut back (permanently) on face-to face meetings for enterprise sales?
When companies shut down non-essential business travel in March, some enterprise SaaS sellers got a small taste of the future.
They saw what it’s like to sell complex solutions with fewer face-to-face meetings.
During a 6-week period, field sellers became inside sellers. They morphed from road warriors to desk jockeys.
As travel picks up again, what will happen to the daily routines of field sellers? And how will they adapt in doing business with enterprise accounts?
This article explores implications of selling to enterprise accounts when face-to-face meetings are harder to arrange.
It summarizes key ideas from a recent report by Jacco van der Kooij, founder of Winning by Design.
His firm provides training and consulting services related to what they call remote selling.
They’ve helped SaaS companies implement remote selling to the market of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).
The time may have come to extend the principles of remote selling to the enterprise market.
His report, the best I’ve seen on this topic, points to what he thinks is likely to be a very different future for enterprise sales.
Why it matters now
Companies are gradually lifting travel bans and are cautiously returning to their offices.
As they do so, it’s clear that well-established ways to conduct enterprise sales are likely to change.
Travel will come back slowly, with an unsteady start. Flying will become even more fraught as airlines and travelers try to limit contagion.
Air fares may increase as airlines try to recover from the financial beating they’ve taken.
Many customers are likely to be less willing to allow vendors to visit their offices. Some have already announced tough restrictions against on-site meetings with outsiders.
Together, these factors seem likely to lead to result less sales-related air travel. Sellers who work with enterprise accounts must adapt to their selling methods.
Recessions prompt changes
After the Great Recession of 2008-09, SaaS providers realized they could sell without face-to-face meetings.
For companies that sold to small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), inside sales (or remote selling) became the norm.
As the new Covid-induced recession takes hold, it’s also likely to spur changes in the way SaaS companies sell to enterprise accounts.
Differences between SMB and enterprise sales
SMB sales have these characteristics:
- Annual contract value (ACV) is relatively low.
- Sellers each close a relatively high number of deals to cover their compensation cost.
- Win rates are relatively low because reps work with a high proportion of tire kickers.
- Deals close after only a few scheduled meetings.
- Sales cycles are measured in days.
Enterprise sales are different in these respects:
- ACVs are relatively high.
- Each seller closes a relatively small number of deals in a year.
- Buying processes are more sophisticated. Win rates are typically 1:3.
- Sellers participate in many scheduled meetings. The number of meetings increases with the number of people involved in the buying decision.
- Sales cycles are typically 3 to 9 months. Sometimes they’re longer.
How will enterprise sales fare with fewer face-to-face meetings?
A future with fewer face-to-face meetings brings new challenges. Does sales effectiveness decline?
Selling will be harder in some ways. But new evidence suggests that it may also be better in other ways.
Companies are already seeing that the new selling environment presents big advantages.
Deals close faster, customer acquisition costs drop
Both buyers and sellers are seeing they can close deals with fewer meetings.
Contrary to expectation, customer decision processes often move faster and deals close earlier
Selling costs go down. Productivity improves for sellers.
And with less travel, sellers experience less wear and tear in their personal lives
Because the advantages of fewer meetings accrue to all parties—buyers, sellers, and software providers—at least some of these changes seem likely to stick.
Remote selling uses remote meetings and meetingless interactions
Effective remote selling involves 2 primary forms of interaction between buyers and sellers. They are remote meetings and meetingless interactions:
- Remote meetings. Buyers and sellers interact with each other in real time through a conference call or videoconferencing. They often combine this with the use of screenshare. Such meetings are synchronous, meaning that participants meet at the same time but in different locations.
- Meetingless interactions. The seller shares content with the buyer through email. The seller also invites comments. The buyer can review the content at a convenient time. Communications are asynchronous.
How meetingless interactions save time
Meetingless interactions often occur when sellers submit proposals.
In the past, a seller might have scheduled a meeting to present and discuss the proposal.
Now the seller records an off-line video that walks the customer through the proposal, using screenshare.
The seller may share the proposal with the buyer in comment mode. The buyer can then provide instant feedback to the seller.
The buyer may also share the proposal instantly with other stakeholders.
The stakeholders can then watch the video and provide comments at their convenience.
Participants in meetingless interactions need not meet in the same place at the same time. Communication can be asynchronous.
Remote selling performs well in both SMB and enterprise deals
Winning By Design collected data from more than 500 SaaS companies between 2013 and 2020.
Here’s what they found:
- When sellers interact remotely outside of scheduled meetings, they can reduce the number of meetings overall. They can also improve win rates.
- Executed well, online meetings can have higher conversion rate per meeting than in-person meetings. This means they’re more likely to result in an advance to the next step in the buyer’s decision process.
- Sellers can improve their win rates through remote or online meetings. They can do so because of a more consistent sales process and better sales messaging. Online playbooks can guide sellers in real time during videoconferences.
- Companies can record remote meetings for use in coaching sellers. Companies can use the coaching to continuously improve sales processes and execution.
With improved sales efficiency, companies can close more deals with the same number of reps. Or they can close the same number of deals with fewer reps.
How remote selling shortens sales cycles
Remote selling can reduce sales cycles by as much as one-third, Jacco says.
How can it do that?
Sellers and customers burn less time coordinating calendars and getting clearances for in-person meetings. Sellers also spend less time lining up availability for other members of the extended sales team.
Many companies have travel policies that require sellers to book sales trips 14 days in advance. This means sellers have to schedule their meetings fairly far out.
Sellers can reduce the number of days between meetings. That’s because remote meetings are easier to schedule than in-person meetings.
With more meetingless interactions, sellers can also reduce the number of meetings needed to close a deal.
Early findings offer hope
Current evidence suggests these conclusions:
1. Remote selling increases sales effectiveness.
2. Remote selling increases sales efficiency.
3. Meetingless interactions outperform online selling.
4. Remote selling accelerates the sales cycle.
5. Remote selling can help companies gain market share both during and after a downturn.
6. To succeed at remote selling, sales reps need training in basic skills.
7. Remote selling will change the sales landscape.
8. Remote selling requires a dedicated playbook.
9. Enterprise sales will go through a transition similar to that of SMB sales after the recession of 2008-09.
Keep your eyes and ears open for more about what may well become a game-changing trend.
For ideas about how to adapt, see the resources listed below.
Today many enterprise sales organizations still rely heavily on in-person meetings to conduct business.
Over the past decade, many companies that sell to SMBs have seen that remote selling is a successful formula for fast and sustainable growth.
Now some bigger SaaS companies have begun to embrace remote selling to augment in-person meetings.
It’s likely that more companies will now experiment with remote selling to supplement their enterprise sales processes.
To the extent they succeed, remote selling may become as common for enterprise sales as it is now for SMBs.
“The Impact of Remote Selling in Enterprise Sales.” Jacco van der Kooij. April 24, 2020. Winning by Design blog.
“Meetingless Selling: How to Speed up the Enterprise Sales Process.” Jacco van der Kooij. Ken Meyer. Sam Jacobs. April __, 2020. [Webinar by the Revenue Collective. Run time 1:23. You can view it here without registration.]
SALES | MARKETING | BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT | STRATEGY | EXECUTION
How to target accounts that are already shopping for a solution like yours
Many companies have put new software purchases on hold. That means fewer deals are available compared to the months before March 2020.
So you must get better at finding the smaller number of opportunities that remain.
What if you could use the marketing equivalent of a metal detector to find the needles in hay stack?
What if you could get to those accounts before they prefer your competitors?
If you could target accounts that are getting ready to buy, what might it mean for your sales and marketing productivity?
That’s the topic of a new article that appears on the Driven website. It explains how one company uses customer intent data to gain a competitive edge.
This is an experiment. I want to see if you’ll click through to another site to read an in-depth article.
If so, I’ll continue placing shorter articles in the newsletter, and I’ll post longer articles to the blog.
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That’s it for this week.
Stay healthy and safe.
See you next week.
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