Virtual selling is here to stay, but F2F encounters still bring value for both customer and seller



Before the pandemic, many of us dreamt about virtual meetings and working from the comfort of our home. This tempting thought turned into reality at the blink of an eye. And we learned that dreams do not always come true as we expected them to. B2B sales is in many ways about PR work where real-life encounters are crucially important to both customer and seller. Face-to-face meetings continue to provide so much more than even the best virtual coffee has to offer.

When the COVID-19 pandemic drove us all to work from home and meetings were moved to Teams and Zooms, my reaction after the initial shock was a sense of joy that almost made me feel a bit guilty. Why in the world did we previously drive long distances to meet people, when we can just as well handle things from home?

The time we could save and the trouble that we could spare ourselves seemed amazing. But my bubble was burst soon enough. There were many challenges with virtual sales and demos, and when those were all I had in my calendar, I started seeing the problems.

Although the future of B2B sales (as that of many other lines of work as well) is a hybrid type of working, I as a millennial consider it my duty to fight back and find justifications for why I am still happy to jump in my (electric) car full of enthusiasm to drive our sales.

Face-to-face vs virtual meetings

Today’s sales work is about utilizing many types of digital ​​tools, such as email, social media, and video presentations. Traditional meetings have become rare. Face-to-face and virtual meetings are very different by nature. Strengths and weakness can be found in both.

Virtual sales has two distinct strengths. It increases efficiency and saves costs, when demos and meetings are efficient in both their use of time and required logistics. Virtual connections are also a better way to reach people around the world. And it makes it easier to agree on schedules with the key persons who will be attending.

However, face-to-face meetings do have their significant upsides; the most important one being a true sense of being present. Even though Teams, Zoom or Meet will portray us in a real-time interaction setting, the interpretation of emotions, body language, and non-verbal communication via video connections is much more challenging. Real-life communicating is almost always more natural, and it has been established that face familiarization makes us feel closer to one another. A genuine presence brings many benefits that are still difficult to achieve in virtual meetings.

Why schedule face-to-face meetings?

1. Know who you are doing business with

Buying and selling are both PR efforts. A genuine feeling of being present is good for building relationships and forming a more realistic picture of the other party on an organizational level. Perhaps the most important phase in sales, the identifying and understanding of customer needs, is significantly easier when face to face. The customer is able to describe their challenges and hopes in a bolder way when meeting live, and the salesperson is able to ask more detailed questions about the customer’s situation and their needs.

And don’t underestimate the significance of having coffee or lunch together. Such moments often provide the best results and a relaxed atmosphere for the meeting. Unlike having coffee over a Teams meeting which is still not a very functional concept.

2. Avoid misunderstandings and technical issues

Who of us has not been in a situation where we have found it difficult to interpret the other party behind the screen. Small nuances are not conveyed via the screen as they are face to face. And potential misunderstandings may be more challenging to clarify. Technical problems, such as network connections, are also still part of our everyday life. Poor audio quality or a freezing display can ruin even the best of demos.

3. Get a better picture of available services with a hands-on approach

Demonstrating a concrete product, service or software via a screen is extremely difficult. A good demo can accomplish a lot, but would you still buy a car without a test drive? A product demo offering the possibility to test and try out a product provides the customer a more accurate image of the product and enables immediate feedback and questions. When I demo our services live, the customer will almost invariably get a good understanding of how our solutions could function in their facilities. This also results in the benefits becoming more real in an easier way.

4. Meeting people is fun and it adds to our wellbeing

I am a salesperson and we are typically people persons. And when you like people, meeting with them is also nice. Working from home has robbed many people of the chance to experience natural encounters and a relaxed work atmosphere. At its worst, we may now have eight one-hour virtual meetings in a row, and more and more people of working age are on their way toward burnout. Live meetings bring a well-earned pause in our workdays and enable a chance for our eyes and the brain to rest instead of constantly staring at the screen and being busy multitasking. And the best thing is that they are important for our mental health, even if we are meeting with people we haven’t met before.

Towards a balanced hybrid work

The model for working remotely as introduced by the pandemic is not something that we should just automatically accept as the norm. A functioning model for hybrid work can be found somewhere in the middle. The process phases in buying and selling are different depending on the product or service being sold. In some cases and work phases, a virtual demo can be completely sufficient and an excellent option. The important thing is to identify the best method for every situation so that it would serve all those involved. Often it can be a genuine encounter as long as we keep our minds focused on all the good things they bring.

Ready to sit down and have a cup?

Want to discuss things further or hear a bit about our solutions for smarter workplaces, for example in visitor management? It makes managing visits effortless and ensures a great first impression when meeting face-to-face. Our showrooms serve you in Tampere and Vantaa, but we are also happy to come and see you (our mental health will even love it), to meet with new people and experience new places.

However, if you feel that virtual communications are best at this time, don’t worry, as demos or initial chats are easy to arrange via Teams, if that is your preference. Appointments are easy to make in our booking calendar.

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