Enterprise, Sales and marketing

What Virtual Selling Is – And Isn’t


I’ve been asked to participate in a podcast on virtual selling. I’m looking forward to it, it’s an important topic. When I was originally asked, I replied, “What do you mean by virtual selling?”

I think that’s a fundamental question, one that I’m not sure I know the answer to.

But I think I know what “virtual selling” isn’t.

What Virtual Selling Isn't

Author: David Brock, president, Partners in Excellence
Author: David Brock, president, Partners in Excellence

To too many, it’s about using tools like Zoom, Teams, and virtual meeting methods. To others, a major part is WFH. These may be components of virtual selling, but virtual selling is probably much more and much different.

Likewise, many think virtual selling is all about social channels and media.

As usual, when we talk about selling, and the focus is on technology and tools, we probably are missing the underlying principles and critical issues that impact our ability to engage customers in meaningful ways.

It’s hard to talk about selling, virtual or otherwise, without starting with the customer. I thought I’d search on “virtual buying.” As you might expect, virtually all of the articles, at least in the first 200 Google citations, were about retail shopping. There were a lot of articles about selling your house online. There was only one on virtual buying in the sense I meant–it was an article I wrote a couple of months ago. Hmm …

Why Customers Aren't Talking About Virtual Buying

It’s interesting, our customers aren’t talking about virtual buying. That’s the first clue that we may be missing the point when we discuss virtual selling.

Then, we have to try to discern what customers are talking about. As you might guess, there are a lot of things, but there is a huge amount of discussion about digital transformation. And when I drill down into this, most of the discussion is about new business models, rethinking their markets, products, services. Rethinking work within the organization. Rethinking collaboration within the organization and with partners. Of course a lot of it is about technology, but less about technology as a tool for efficiency, but more as an enabler to completely redefine their business and business model. To a large degree, it is about redefining work.

Our customers, our own companies, are struggling with what this means, and what the new business models become. They are seeking to discover how they succeed–how they create revenue, how they innovate, how they create value with their customers, with their people, with their suppliers, and in their communities (which are now global).

I don’t know what virtual selling is, but I think it must be more like helping our customers with their digital transformations than conducting meetings on Zoom.

I think virtual selling might require more skills than just learning how to unmute our microphones. I think skills around curiosity, innovation, creative thinking, experimentation, learning fast/failing fast, collaboration, problem solving, understanding complexity and how to help our customers make sense of the complexity they face.

I’m surprised to see the “Aha!” moments people are having around remote and Zoom selling. We’ve been selling remotely for decades! Our customers have been engaging us via indirect means for decades. So virtual selling, at least as the “popular” view would claim, is neither new or innovative.

But virtual selling is our future–or perhaps, learning how to engage our customers in thinking about and implementing their Digital Transformations is our future. And some of that may be face to face or over the phone.

Author David Brock is president, Partners in Excellence. Read more from David Brock here.