The pandemic forced financial institutions to shift immediately to a virtual sales strategy. Customers have embraced virtual interactions over the last year and they are expected to increase their use of virtual channels after the pandemic subsides. Virtual selling should remain a complementary strategy to in-person selling. But to build a robust virtual sales process that meets customer needs and supplements the frontline, you need to decide where you should compete and where you should not.
Virtual Selling Hurt Frontline Effectiveness
Gartner’s data shows that frontline sales staff were noticeably less effective than other remote banking employees. Sales staff reported lower levels of output per hour, quality of work, on-time task completion, and skill sharing with colleagues. And remote sales staff were significantly worse at meeting new client and revenue targets than their in-person counterparts.
It’s not surprising that the frontline is struggling. Virtual sales strategies were set up practically overnight. And they were built to serve a critical role during a global emergency. These strategies were largely low-scale, self-taught, and high-effort. Virtual selling can and should be a part of your long-term strategy, but you need a new approach that sets your staff up for success.
Decide Where to Invest in Virtual Sales
The million (or even billion) dollar question that industry leaders should be asking is: “Which sales channel is optimal for the product I am trying to sell and for the client I’m trying to reach?”
Four key factors will influence where and when your firm should use virtual selling:
- The type of product you’re selling
- The market you’re selling into
- The segment or characteristics of your target customer
- The complexity of the needs of your customer
- Product: Customers probably expect virtual selling for products that serve a variety of customers, like a digital demand deposit account. But for a niche product, like life insurance, the sensitivities of those sales conversations are often better in person.
- Market: Virtual sales is a low-cost and low-risk strategy for expanding into new markets. While it may still be effective in more mature markets, your bank likely will face more intense competition, which could reduce the advantage.
- Segment: Customers who prefer self-service and prioritize convenience (i.e. mass affluent retail customers) will be a better fit for virtual selling than customers who put more stock into personal relationships (i.e. ultra HNW wealth management clients).
- Complexity: One advantage of virtual selling is that it can be done from nearly anywhere and at a moment’s notice if need be. Virtual selling is a practical approach for complex customer interactions that may require multiple subject matter experts. On the other hand, simpler sales might be better and more effective face-to-face.
Moving forward, your firm will need to use both virtual and in-person selling as part of your overall sales strategy, and also for specific customer interactions where some of the above factors overlap. Using a core framework helps clarify and visualize where, and where not, to compete and invest in virtual capabilities. And understanding where your bank can be successful will better support your frontline sales team and drive revenue growth.