Does virtual selling make for lonely salespeople?
Without the typical in-person social interaction, virtually selling tends to be transactional and lonely, not only impacting morale, but sales effectiveness.
That’s according to Valerie Good, a marketing professor at Michigan’s Seidman College of Business, and Lisa Earle McLeod, a consultant and author of “Selling with Noble Purpose,” in a column for Harvard Business Review.
Tapping into Ms. Good’s research into loneliness based on surveys of B2B and B2C salespeople, the two found virtual selling can lead to three “problematic behaviors”:
- Social awkwardness: “In an agenda-driven video sales call, the social elements (handshakes, shared coffee, etc.) that once humanized the sales interaction have been stripped away.” Salespeople are missing social cues that build trust due to rusty social skills from reduced in-person selling. Resetting after a rejection is also harder “without a bullpen of colleagues to buoy their spirits.”
- Loss of focus on customer needs: Sellers overeager for social connection “don’t listen deeply” during the needs assessment phase of the sales process and are “more likely to forget critical customer information.” The lack of visual cues in virtual selling also make the conversations less memorable.
- Conspicuous overspending on customers: Loneliness has a direct link to increased spending on clients for the “dopamine high of a positive social interaction,” but the gifts and meals don’t return additional revenue.
B2B virtual selling has accelerated amid the pandemic and work-from-home trend as store associates clientele via apps, but particularly due to the need for Zoom sessions that have replaced in-person interactions.
A Bain survey from early 2021 found 92 percent of B2B buyers prefer virtual sales interactions because of faster communication and cost effectiveness. Three-quarters of buyers and 54 percent of sellers agreed, or were neutral, that virtual was effective for complex products. Bain’s survey, however, also showed 55 percent of respondents at VP level or below would be demoralized or quit if their company moved to a primarily virtual model.
An Allego survey from around the same time found 48 percent of sales professionals indicating remote selling has made it harder to close deals and 56 percent of sales leaders believing remote work has negatively affected team culture.
- Are Lonely Salespeople Costing You Customers? – Harvard Business Review
- The Yin And Yang Of Salesperson Loneliness – Hof University
- Virtual Selling Has Become Simply Selling – Bain
- Virtual B2B Selling Is Here to Stay – Bain
- More Than Half of Sales Reps Lost a Sale Because They Couldn’t Meet Buyers in Person, Cites New Allego Report – Allego
DISCUSSION QUESTION: What’s your take on the pros, cons and hurdles around virtual selling? Do you think it’s accurate to characterize virtual selling as being lonely, un-motivating and morale-depleting?