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Overcoming the challenges of reduced business travel

By Iain Masson RVP UK & Nordics at Showpad

While the UK is opening up and we’re eagerly awaiting the resumption of international travel, the decision to travel or not to travel may not be as clear cut for businesses. In fact, a new survey from YouGov has found UK business travellers will still fly less often when travel restrictions are lifted. Virtual working and selling will persist, and businesses will be expected to keep up the momentum, to be demonstrating value to customers and offering them a great experience – even if they cannot do so face-to-face.

However,  many of those in customer-facing roles are still struggling to create the same impact virtually as they did in face-to-face meetings. In fact, almost half (46%) of global business travellers expect new business and sales to drop in 2021 due to the decline in travel. Not being able to sell in person is still hard, as many fail to create the same deep impressions and influence while virtual. It’s important that businesses are finding ways to make their virtual meetings as impactful and engaging as face-to-face sessions, but what is needed to achieve this and what are the obstacles in the way?

Difficulties in adapting to remote selling

More than a year has passed since the beginning of the pandemic and it’s time to ask the question: have companies been able to reorganise their sales to match pre-pandemic efficiency rates? Even though many companies have been able to develop digitally, it’s clear that not all have succeeded in adapting to the new conditions. 

Companies’ willingness to invest has fallen sharply during the crisis and the economic outlook is generally more negative and this certainly plays a role here. Some companies are finding it difficult to digitally reproduce the experience of personal meetings and to demonstrate the added value of their products and services. In fact, a recent survey from Showpad has revealed that engaging prospects during calls was one of the biggest obstacles in the way of selling. 

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Effective virtual customer interactions through technology and training

While the Global Business Travel Association’s monthly surveys show that companies believe their employees are more willing to resume business travel than they were a few months ago, 66% have still cancelled most or all domestic trips and 92% of international trips. Despite this, a recent poll has revealed that 70% of British workers agree travelling for work and meeting face-to-face strengthens relationships. However, for the time being, there are still major uncertainties associated with business travel and the pandemic isn’t yet over.

All of these factors highlight the importance for companies to find long-term ways to make virtual meetings as effective and engaging as on-site client meetings. The money companies save by eliminating business travel should be invested in the customer experience, if financially possible. Remote selling technologies can go a long way in building relationships and expanding sales pipelines. Businesses need to use video and to create more interactive experiences to help build that human relationship – this is still a key part of this new era of ‘modern selling.’ 

But technology alone is not enough. Salespeople need continuous training and coaching to operate confidently in a fully virtual sales world – because not all meetings are the same. Beyond having the right tools and training, there must be a focus on human skills too. It has been reported that customers are fed up of hearing businesses use Covid as an excuse for bad service. Buyer behaviour and expectations across both B2B and B2C are changing and after 18 months in their own homes, they expect more. Selling with empathy and understanding, and remembering that you are talking to another human, not just a potential prospect, will go far. 

Despite the UK set to open up, the end of the pandemic is not as clear as it may seem and for salespeople, the new world of online selling is likely here to stay. Many feel that even after restrictions are lifted, seeing clients face to face will become a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. The old way to sell is over, we’ve entered a new era of ‘modern selling’ and it is here to stay. There may be potential fatigue with this virtual selling but if sales teams continue to develop, use the tools at their disposal and constantly brush up on their skills they will be able to succeed in this virtual  future ahead of us. 


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