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Remote Selling: The Sales Process for Selling Remotely

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
13 min read

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.

Remote Selling: The Sales Process for Selling Remotely:

Full Transcript

I’m recording this on April 6th, 2020 about a month after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown started. Schools across the world have suddenly been shocked into adapting to an online education model from K through 12 to higher ed teachers are having to figure out how to deliver quality education in a remote setting. What they’re learning is that it’s not a direct one-to-one translation. You can’t simply take a regular class and expect everything to be the same online. The core issue at hand has to do with time and space, as in what happens when we’re not all in the same place at the same time? Online education can shift the same time, same place model to two separate types of education, synchronous and asynchronous. You can think of it like the difference between going to class and reading a book. In one Washington Post article, a college professor talks about how hard it is for his students to make it through a lecture that’s over 20 minutes. In person though most lectures are an hour or more.

So what’s going on? Distractions. Students admitted that other screens disrupt their attention and pull them away from lecture. Which is to say that students find it less difficult to stay engaged in person for long periods of time then in a remote setting. So what’s the answer? More engaging, shorter content. Students can learn the same things, but it needs a slightly different delivery method. The same is true for selling remotely. Your in person sales process won’t translate directly to your remote selling process. It’ll still have a lot in common, but there’s some nuance there. In this episode, I’ll point out the key differences between your remote selling and your in person sales process and what to do to make your remote selling as effective as possible.

Welcome to modern sales, a podcast that’ll help you sell more by understanding how people buy. I’m your host Liston Witherill, founder of serve don’t sell, and I dig through academic research, interview people inside and outside of sales and nerd out on psychology, economics and neuroscience to figure out how people make decisions. And I am on a mission to change the way 100 million people sell so that buying B2B services can feel like a stroll on a sunny winter day. Wouldn’t that be nice? If you’re listening on Spotify, hit the follow button so that you don’t miss a single episode. And if you’re listening on iTunes or Apple podcasts, please subscribe and leave an honest review as long as it’s a five star review. It helps me get the word out for the show so we can together change the way 100 million people sell. Thank you in advance for your help.

In the last week we got a new review and it’s from SF Alexander via Apple podcasts and the title says right on point. I’ve been doing sales, teaching sales and creating sales material for the past eight years and it was all focused around consultative selling. This podcast modern sales is so perfectly aligned with the right kind of consultative selling. On top of that Liston is easy to listen to and can explain everything in a way that is so easy to follow and even fun. I highly recommend it. Thank you so much SF Alexander, much appreciated. If you are getting something out of this podcast, I’d love it if you told someone and or gave us a review on iTunes.

Now to the show. This is the third episode in the remote selling series where I’m giving you an absolute crash course in selling your products and services online. I’ve been doing this now for six years myself operating my company and all of my work a hundred percent remotely so I know a thing or two about this. I’ve sold well over a million dollars in services during that time, so what you’re going to hear during this episode is based on my firsthand direct experience. Episode one in the series was all about the basics. Episode two was about video selling in particular and now I’m diving deep on the sales process. The reason I’m doing that is because selling remotely doesn’t translate directly from your in-person selling and the difference in space is the biggest factor. Now, remote selling isn’t the same as adapting a class to an online setting. It’s not education, but there is something that remote selling has to do with remote classrooms and students’ attention spans. What is it? I’ll tell you right after this short break.

Welcome back. The problem starting here is that translating your sales process from in-person to remote isn’t a direct transfer and the reason is that the way we interact and perceive information is slightly different in a remote setting than when we’re in person. And the key thing there is a difference in the amount of information we get. It’s just harder to build rapport and build trust in a remote setting. People are more likely to be distracted just like the students in the opening story of this episode. So what you’re going to have to do is adjust your inside sales process to match how buyers prefer to buy online. I’m going to give you four key ideas for how to do that, but first I want to start out with the standard sales process. Here’s the process I recommend and teach in my serve don’t sell method. It’s in my book, it’s on my website, it’s everywhere that I publish content and it’s really five key steps. Step one, determine fit. Step two, discovery. Step three, offer. Step four, agreement and step five transition. So in the first step, it’s all about determining client fit.

We want to find at a high level is this a fit for us to work with someone or not? We’re obviously looking for things that we can’t find out on our own. So the specifics of what we’re looking for really depends on what you’re selling, but assuming that there is at least a conceptual level fit, we’ll move on to discovery where our goal is to understand what is motivating our client to change and what results are they after? If our clients have a problem that we can help them with and desire a result that we can actually deliver, we move on to making an offer, in that phase it’s all about showing our clients how what we do connects to the desired results that they’re after. If we move past that stage, we’re on to step four, agreement, where we iron out all the particulars of how we would work together and finally move into the transition where our prospect becomes a client.

Now you’re still going to run the sales process with the same steps. Just because we’re moving online doesn’t mean we need a radical shift or transformation in our sales process itself. But what it does mean is that the way we accomplish each step and how fast we go may change just a little bit. And there are four key changes that I want you to keep in mind. Number one, spend more time on trust-building. Number two, be more visual. Number three, emphasize participation and engagement. And number four, use more content. So first up, spend more time in trust-building. If you have a fast moving sale, you’re going to need to slow it down a little bit. And by fast what I mean is just one or two meetings. So if you’re selling something that’s under say $10,000 and only involves one buyer, typically the business owner or the head of a major functional department within a company, if that’s you, you could probably close your sale in one or two meetings. Once you move it online though that may not be possible, especially if you had a one meeting close.

What I personally find is anything over that $10,000 price point or even really near it, close to it, it depends on the buyer obviously, but near that $10,000 price point and we’re going to be looking at two or more meetings in order for people to feel comfortable enough with us to actually do business. Now the more educated the buyer is the more exposed they are, the more content that you have that they’ve consumed, the more likely you are to do this process a little bit faster. But speaking in terms of averages, it’s going to take more time to build trust with most buyers simply because it’s harder to build trust remotely. A lot of people aren’t used to working in a remote environment. There’s just less information that’s transmitted so they don’t get to see your full body language. They don’t get to see what you look like in person.

For example, one thing that always surprises me is when I meet people in person for the time, generally the first thing they say is, “Wow, you’re taller than I imagined.” And to that I always ask, “Well, how tall did you imagine I was?” And they don’t have an answer. But for whatever reason that throws them off a little bit. That information would have been readily available if I met them in person. Now, not to say that anyone’s going to buy anything from me or you because of our height, but it is to say way more information is transmitted in person and that can be very trust-building. And so in a remote selling environment, I recommend that you always have a quick introductory call in order to get comfortable with each other. Now, the goal of this call as I mentioned in step one is to determine fit.

But this is at a very high level and the more specific you are about your ideal buyer type, the faster you can do this. And I’m not saying you need an introductory call plus a fit call, plus a discovery call plus an offer call. Right? I’m not saying that necessarily, but what I am saying is if you’re used to doing this in a very short number of calls, you’re going to have to expand it a little bit, 50% a hundred percent. You’re going to have to slow down the process slightly. Again, depending on factors around education and their exposure to you and your leverage and your market position. But generally speaking, I recommend having a quick introductory call in order to get comfortable with each other. I believe that early in the sales process, repetition is really important. We tend to trust things that we see more often.

That includes people and there’s additional information transmitted every time you meet with someone. Did you show up on time? Do you seem fairly consistent? Are you helpful? Did you act the same as the last time we met? All of these things will start to build trust for your client that go unspoken and so early in the process repetition is important. Spend a little bit more time on trust-building. Next up I really recommend that you be more visual than maybe you’re used to in an in person setting. As with the example of students getting bored after 20 minutes, so will your clients. So if you can make your selling more engaging in visual do it. One thing that I like to do in the sales process is to use live visuals kind of like how I would use a whiteboard in person but doing it with a screen share. And one of the ways I do that is with an app called Mind Node Pro.

It is a Mac only app. There are plenty of other alternatives. I’m sure I could have recommended one that would maybe come with an affiliate link, but this is the one I use legitimately and so I’m just recommending what I really like and what I think is fast and expedient. If you’re not on Mac or you want a web app, there are plenty of other options. In one of the previous remote selling episodes I mentioned an app called Miro and that’s much more like a virtual white boarding experience. Mind Node Pro is a mind mapping tool and the thing I like about it is it’s extremely simple. I can go in, I can open a new document and in less than 10 seconds I can be building out connections between different ideas with the client right there on the screen within the sales process.

Another tool that I think is really, really useful is just a regular doc, a Google doc, a word doc, totally valuable. It’s a good way to write things down so you can emphasize what you’re talking about just make sure everybody’s on the same page. And another one is just a regular slide app. So whether you like PowerPoint or I prefer to use Google slides, it’s a great way to start to build out notes with your client right there on the spot during the sales process. And the way I do that with my program is when I’m talking to prospects, we’ll start to build out their priorities, what they say are their stated problems and issues and the results that they’re after. That will be built out during the sales process and we will reference that document after they become clients. So no part of this process is lost.

It all feeds right into the offer that I make them, which feeds ultimately into the agreement and the transition of becoming a client and working together. So I really recommend doing this. Clients really love it. You’re going to have to be proficient with whatever app you choose and hopefully one thing you’ll take away from this is it doesn’t really matter which app you choose. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t need a ton of bells and whistles. What you do need is proficiency so that you can operate in nearly real time and help your clients understand their own problems better than they did before they started the call. And if you can do that visually, you’re going to notice. That’s going to be a huge help to you during the remote sales process. The next thing I recommend is to emphasize participation and engagement.

Now, during steps one and two of your sales process fit and discovery this won’t be hard because you’re largely collecting information from your client. During that time. You’ll be asking them lots of questions. You’ll be verifying that you understand what you heard. You’ll be using active listening. You’ll be summarizing everything you collected. It’s all about them really in the early stages, but once you get to the offer stage, it’s tempting to just go in with a canned presentation, read off of it and then ask your client for a decision. I don’t recommend doing that. What I recommend is building in points of participation and engagement all throughout the entire process. Constant feedback, think of it kind of like a health check. As you’re going through your offer presentation, you should be recounting to your client what their major challenges are, how those challenges pose a threat to them, what results they are after and how you can connect your offer to those results.

Well, when you’re going over the problems that they’re experiencing, just stop and ask, did I get this right? Is there anything I should change? Is there anything I should add? Make sure there’s total alignment all the way throughout. Because if you’re going to sell in a remote environment and if you’re going to deliver in a remote environment, your client needs to trust that your communication is up to the task. Surely you’ve heard that you should over communicate whenever you’re operating in a remote setting, that is true. That’s also true in a sales environment. And I think the key thing to emphasize there is participation and engagement. And this brings us to change number four that you might have to make to your in-person sales process if you want to transition to an inside sales process. And that is use more content.

There’s informational content that you can give people. So articles, other pieces of small form content, podcast episodes like this one. Then there’s more process oriented content, kind of like how to stuff, how to do this, how to plan your strategy, how to make your sales process, how to whatever the case, right? This becomes more about your client focusing on the solution and the execution of the solution. And then there’s credibility content, which should answer the question why you. So case studies, thought leadership, other stories that you can tell through content about you and or your company. How you’ve succeeded in the past, how you’re going to mitigate risk for your client, how everything really came together and worked for other clients that you’ve had.

So here are the key takeaways. You can’t try to just throw your in person sales process into a remote setting. I mean, you can do it, but you should make some changes along the way because it’s not going to be a direct translation. Do still follow your basic sales process, but make sure you’re tweaking individual parts about it in order to fit into the remote selling setting. Spend more time on trust-building. Have a dedicated introductory call to establish rapport and increase trust through repetition. Be more visual in the process. Consider using visual aides like slides or visual apps to build solutions and make sense of the information you’re gathering from your clients right there on the spot. It does have a wow factor and they will love it I promise. Emphasize participation as much as you can. Stay away from this idea that you’re going to be giving a lecture or a speech that’s not what we want to do.

In the online setting a lot of time without participation is just boring for the other party. So emphasize participation, ask for feedback, ask for their involvement and finally use more content, whether that’s informational, educational, how to content or just credibility building. Using more content will help educate and inform your buyers and give them a better overall feeling about you and your company.

That’s it for this episode of modern sales. Thank you for taking the time to listen and this episode does wrap up the series on remote selling. If you want to go back and listen to the first two episodes just go to back in your feed and you can see the other episodes all about remote selling. If you aren’t already subscribed to this podcast, please do so by clicking the subscribe or follow button. You can also get notified of all podcast episodes by visiting Thanks to everyone who makes this podcast possible. Juan Perez is our editor and Mary Ann Nocum is our show assistant. Our show theme and add music is produced by me Liston Witherill and show music is by Logan Nicholson at music for makers as well as epidemic sound. Thanks so much for listening. I’m Liston Witherill, founder of serve don’t sell and I hope you have a fantastic day.

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