The virtual sales model

How to rethink customer engagement and transform your sales organisation

15 April 2020

Virtual meetings, workshops and conferences are quickly becoming the norm, as we adapt to new ways of engaging with each other. What initially felt like an obstacle to be endured has fast become a normal we are starting to thrive in. The benefits of collaborating and interacting digitally – the speed and immediacy certainly, but also the time and cost savings as travel is eliminated – mean much of this new normal is likely here to stay.

Adjusting to and succeeding in this increasingly digitalised business world requires us to radically rethink how we work and organise ourselves. This includes reconsidering the sales function and reimagining how we might interact with customers.

What is virtual selling?

The traditional sales model is built on face-to-face meetings at low frequency intervals. These meetings often have long agendas, involving lengthy preparation, multiple people and significant transport time.

In contrast, the virtual sales model is based on bite-sized remote interactions, conducted digitally and usually at high frequency intervals. With only a few topics on the agenda of each meeting, the information is specifically targeted to participants and easily digestible in its digital format.

Virtual selling involves spending significantly less time on preparation and travel – and enables more face time with stakeholders with the same or fewer assets, making it a resource-efficient sales solution.

Due to more frequent touchpoints with multiple stakeholders, you’re likely to achieve higher customer satisfaction and closer customer relations. Converting your sales organisation to a more sustainable and robust sales model embeds more resilience in your business, which means that should we face another crisis like the one we are experiencing right now, you will be better equipped to handle it from a commercial perspective.

Of course, converting to a virtual sales model is not a new phenomenon. As COVID-19 has catalysed the digitalisation process, we now have a window of opportunity to accelerate the introduction of current and new digital tools.

The long-term benefits of going virtual include:

Facilitating virtual meetings

Conducting online meetings and keeping everyone’s attention through a screen is challenging. As you can see from the figure below, the majority of meeting participants multitask during digital interactions.

The level of trust in virtual meetings is likely to drop by up to 83%, meaning digital meetings are less productive than face-to-face meetings. Overcoming this requires more than the latest teleconferencing solution; it takes rigorous upskilling of the entire sales force, as employees need to acquire online facilitation skills that ensure engagement and focus.

Survey by West Unified Communications Services in 2014 on 500 Americans.

Reshaping a virtual sales engine

1. Build virtual capabilities

The journey to a virtual sales model starts with investing in professional web conferencing solutions. And most organisations are currently stuck at this stage. They have the technology in place to hold virtual meetings but still struggle to make the meetings efficient. Upskilling Sales and Marketing is essential, so employees understand the tools, how to interact with customers and how to make virtual meetings into something beyond two people using their computers to speak to each other.

2. Reinvent Marketing

Normal content pieces are simply not fit for virtual interactions. It’s vital that you tailor your content for digital meetings and that Marketing is empowered to support the virtual interaction. You may have been able to keep participants’ attention with lengthy PowerPoint slides in face-to-face meetings, but in the digital world, reducing your presentation to just a handful of slides is essential to maintaining engagement and focus virtually. Designing bite-sized insight snippets such as videos or small webinars that are fit for a virtual delivery model will also help inspire customers and keep them engaged.

3. Reshape key sales activities

There are a multitude of different customer interactions, such as prospect meetings, solution demos, concluding the sales process, key account management, problem solving, value capturing and renegotiation meetings to name just a few. Each meeting calls for a small playbook or formula on how to conduct a winning interaction virtually.

However, change won’t happen unless leaders make it happen. Virtual sales coaching and sales management is key to a successful sales model transformation. Sales and commercial managers need to master virtual interactions so they can take the virtual medium into their sales management operation model and support their employees. Management support is crucial to driving the change on the commercial front-line.

4. Reinvent the commercial operating model

Sales organisations will experience that virtual interaction is fit for many kinds of meetings and that we can carry this new way of communicating into the future. In fact, many customers may want to keep certain meetings virtual, meaning that some of the benefits of going digital should be embedded in a new operation model.

Transform your sales organisation

Creating a virtual sales model will not only equip your organisation to deal with current challenges, it will also make you fit for a future where a digital operating model is an integral part of sales.

This new way of interacting improves our ability to showcase our expertise, as we’re no longer constrained by travelling and calendar logistics. Instead, sales meetings can be focused solely on who is best equipped to provide value and solve the challenge at hand.



1) Travelport, 2018

2) Captio, 2019

3) Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2019

4) Raconteur, 2018

5) Medium, 2019

6) ICAO, 2016

7) SalesTrip, 2019

8) Statista, 2018 (based on US business trips)

Figure 1 - sources

* Due to the effect on general health (incl. diet and sleep), there is less free time and time for family.

** Compared to employees who travel for work 1-6 nights over the same period.

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