As developers push the envelope of virtual reality in games and entertainment, there is a quiet revolution taking place that has been spurred and accelerated by the pandemic. That revolution is in sales enablement. The days of traveling, coordinating, and bringing your team to meet a client have irrevocably changed. Technology is transforming how organizations and businesses find, pitch, and close deals in the 21st century.
This is a series of insights from: Dr. Christopher David Kaufman, doctoral researcher in organizational learning science. Dr. Kaufman is a certified social behavioral investigator, author, patented software developer, Fortune 100 strategist, learning design consultant, and is finishing his EdD doctoral thesis at the esteemed Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University.
And even with modern cures and fairly reliable availability of more connecting flights post-pandemic, the impact has made its way past marketing funnels and into the field of virtual reality. Despite the ubiquity of today’s sophisticated media rich marketing funnels, AI powered talking bots, video quizzes, and sophisticated animated overlays, companies are finding that the metaverse provides 3 critical advantages to sales enablement. With VR, sales pipeline reach, sales motion acceleration, and technical sales education enablement is altered dramatically. Depending on your industry, your market position, and your sales flow, utilizing virtual reality as a modern sales enablement tool can be a revolution.
Service Obtainable Market Turn-around
The first of three game changers for sales enablement with VR is the expansion of SOM or your service obtainable market. In classic sales design, you have your total available market or TAM. This is the category market for the products or services that fit the category market definition. So, let’s say you are in the business of selling used farm equipment. For example, people who need farm equipment, is your TAM. Then there is your segment addressable market or SAM. This is the portion/segments of the TAM within your geographic or legal reach or defined by product and service offerings, typically broken down via a channel map vs field map. You offer a variety of used tractors, cutter-shredders, and baling equipment on the mid-west area.
Then comes your service obtainable market (SOM). This is the % of the SAM that you can capture with available resources of your company aka Target Market–field sales mappings. For instance, selling used tractors segment market via your 3 Columbus Ohio area located dealerships. Now, with VR you don’t have to allow the constraints of the obtainable market to limit you. Because you send the head mounted display (HMD)to the potential customer, you don’t need them to visit your store. You can send the tractor to them via nothing larger than a breadbox!
This expansion of SOM creates three new opportunities: a) enabling hands on experiences regardless of location b) enabling sales training regardless of location and c) reducing technical sales support through in-depth immersive technical knowledge presentations.
Extending reach, reducing resource load
So, let’s break down these a little further. The sales location issue should be fairly transparent to most B2B sales teams. Particularly companies in heavy industry sales who must begin to utilize VR or lose sales. Getting customers hands on in show rooms, waiting for industry conferences, or building remote centers is costly and often ineffective as customers are remote, their staff is mobile, and trying to triangulate the right place to move your technical, mechanical, integrated or heavy machinery or technology to the right area at the right time is insanely difficult if not impossible. And getting them to a showroom or warehouse limits your SOM; you are putting constraints on the distance a customer must go to just see the product and interact with it.
Additionally, if you design your VR sales experience correctly, enabling win-stories, feature – benefit – impact – sensation by persona, and objection or question handling, you will automatically be training your sales force to understand and focus on the value your product or service provides. Most sales training is subpar, but when you use advanced interactive sequences, you can toggle the user into scenarios. This training has upstream benefits as well that I will detail further down. But let’s break down these with a few examples. In terms of win-stories, these are VR scenes that incorporate video, 3-D product animation, and atmospheric manipulation, to name just a few VR elements.
For instance, say you are selling the satellite guided tractor? Bob Mullins’ farm works around the clock and needs to make sure to place their seeds in straighter lines and use weather and moisture data to ensure more optimal farming of his land. There are tons of challenges to farming, such as early mornings with low fog? These are issues. But with the Jack Doe satellite powered Tractor? You can see the seed alignment on your dashboard. This hypothetical is real technology, and by enabling your salesperson to toggle each sequence forward and back you can animate and articulate, a customer win that moves from customer persona, challenge, goal, capability, outcome, to future impact (VR scene to VR scene). Not with slides but via immersive sights, sounds, interactive touch, and vibration feedback that put the prospect in the driver seat. But structuring the sales flow, the sales agent learns the story and by having access to several interactive ‘Win-Stories’ your sale agent learns the story inside and out.
The same goes for what are called means-end value chains or feature-benefit-impact-sensation sessions. Jack Doe’s Tractor has fog piercing adjustable LED headlights(feature), the adjustable beam can angle up or wide for areas to scan low branched trees or sunken trunks(benefit), that saves on the wear and tear of the machine(impact), here try adjusting the beam (sensation). Again practicing the sequences enables the sales agent to make meaningful connections to all the features of complex machinery and technology, that reviewing brochures, decks, or assembly manuals just won’t do. If your sales agent works and practices on all the feature-benefit-impact-sensations, all the win-stories, and handles and masters the objection or questions sequences, then your sales engineer support staff needs are reduced or better yet focused on hairy wicked problems and not ordinary sales calls. That is a game changer for many technical sales teams in resource and team management.
Accelerate the Sales Cycle
The second VR sales enablement opportunity is consolidating and accelerating the sales process. Most sales cycles have six stages with various titles for each stage; Query, Validate, Develop, Resolve and Close. Each stage requires the sales agent to find and confirm various levels of information. Query or first stage is typically qualifying BANT or Budget, Authority, Needs and Timetable. Validate is identify compelling event and particular features that move the prospect.
Develop stage assemble the sales package with experts to solve or answer technical questions. Prove is present the solution and demonstrate value to the customer’s particular challenge. Resolve handles scope of package and Close deals with contracts and terms. With VR sales enablement you send the experience to the prospect, therefore the manipulation or conniving time to get the customer to commit to a demonstration is reduced to clicking a button and sending the headset via FedEx.
The Validate, Develop, and Prove stages are wrapped into the VR experience. The experience of the prospect interacting in real-time in a virtual space enables the sales agent to validate their needs, identify solutions based on their immersive interactions with the product, and as a result demonstrate the value of the solution. Thus, a six-stage sales process is VR condensed into 3.5 stages without negotiation of itineraries, coordinating travel time, and allocating travel expenses.
Simulation of Sales Scenarios
The third and most powerful yet subtle advantage is VR sales training lowers stress and speeds knowledge attainment. I have shown how utilizing structured sales motions and interactive sequences can train sales agents and influence prospects.
Too often and especially in a world of 3.5% unemployment, retention and turn-over are a real threats to sales operation stability. Along with turn-over comes sales readiness and execution. Getting sales agents up to speed on technical products and solutions can take years. I know, I have trained hundreds of account executives and account managers. It takes 6 months to get a sales agent up to speed to pitch and manage many complex sales deals. With VR sales enablement that can be reduced dramatically, via simulation. Repeated simulation, is the best way to get anyone including sales agents up to speed, trained, quizzed, and tested in real world scenarios without flying them out to training centers, buying them plane tickets, or taking them off the field and away from their accounts. They just slip on their headset and go.
What this does is get the sales agent out what I call the “Persuader” phase of confused/conniving/cajoling, and into the knowledge broker phase of investigator/consultant/specialist. And that is no easy move. Many sales agents are nervous and stressed when beginning a new job with complex technology. The armed forces train via simulation, every jumbo jet pilot has trained via simulation, surgeons around the world are being trained via VR simulation. If you are not simulating sales scenarios, when offering complex technology products or solutions, you are saying you just don’t want to train your team in the 21st century.
VR Sales training is not the future, it’s happening right now and can transform your sales motions by getting around objections, coordination issues, tricky logistics, and complex understanding of elaborate and interdependent solutions.