When shelter-in-place restrictions began, many headquarters employees were forced to work from home for the first time in their careers. Unlike their Silicon Valley partners that had telecommuting policies and technology in place to foster collaboration and communication, it was a new way of life for many retailers.
Because Retail Zipline is a fully remote company, we watched our customers and prospects adapt to a new way of working and were pleasantly surprised to see how quickly it felt normal to ‘jump on a zoom’ instead of waiting a week or two for an in-person meeting.
Nick Coughlan, a sales director at Zipline, was in the middle of a deal with a large grocery chain when shelter in place orders were issued and non-essential workers began working from home. He explains his experience working with retailers during the pandemic in the following interview:
Question: How has Covid-19 changed the way you engage with your prospects?
Answer: In some ways, nothing has changed. We continue to be incredibly responsive to our prospects’ needs and use the sales process as a time to uncover retailers’ challenges and ensure that our solution can solve their pain. But, in other ways, a lot has changed. As sales people, we love the face-to-face interaction and greatly miss the opportunity to go on site and really get to know the people we will be working with. While it’s possible to do that over video, nothing beats an in-person meeting. We also know that retailers are going through an incredibly difficult time now, and more than anything, we want to help, not put added pressure on them. We know they’re likely working with fewer resources so we try to fill in gaps to help them see around corners and understand how their peers are approaching similar situations.
Question: Are you seeing any advantages to a fully virtual sales cycle?
Answer: While I, personally, still prefer a mix of in-person and virtual meetings, I do see some strong benefits to a fully virtual sales cycle. It’s obviously easier to schedule meetings when you’re not also putting travel plans in place. We can have smaller meetings with smaller teams, such as the security team, or the legal team, versus trying to get them into the same room as everyone else. And, because we can record each call, folks that aren’t able to attend can easily come up to speed quickly. I also love how Zoom’s chat feature works during our calls because it gives everyone a voice. In big meetings, more junior or quieter team members might be too shy to speak up. But with Zoom, they can type questions or comments in as we go, so we can more easily engage everyone, which is important.
Question: Why is Zipline uniquely positioned to help retailers during SIP?
Answer: Unlike other technologies that retailers might use, (e.g. POS, scheduling, etc) Zipline is all about improving communication with store teams. In order to successfully sell the product, we must also be communication experts. We bring these principles of great communication into the sales cycle. We listen. We provide context and explain why we have built our product in a certain way. We collect feedback. We track tasks and lay out a clear calendar of events. All this helps the process flow smoothly, regardless of whether we are meeting people face-to-face or over Zoom.
And, because we are used to rolling out our solution to tens of thousands of remote workers, we know how to make messages stick through remote meetings. Our standard implementation process involves on-line demos and change management training in a combination of live and recorded events. We have done these now with hundreds of thousands of end-users and leverage that experience for our own sales cycles.
Question: Can you point to any success stories around this new way of purchasing technology?
Answer: Yes. We had the best quarter ever last quarter! Also, our sales cycle is getting shorter, which tells me a couple of things. First, the process is working. We can get paperwork done and pilots set up in just a couple of weeks without any face-to-face meetings. Second, our solution is more important than ever as retailers realize that they have to ensure that important health and safety information makes it out to the fleet. Even retailers that aren’t used to remote work are making it work in order to ensure the safety of their customers and staff.
Question: When fears over the pandemic subside, do you see foresee returning to travel and on-site meetings?
Answer: I hope so! I would love to see a hybrid model, where we’re still doing some on-site meetings but using Zoom for the more transactional parts of the sales cycle. For example, I love to go on-site to have deep discovery conversations because that involves a lot of nuance, probing and engaging different people across the organization. But technology reviews or security reviews are easily accomplished on calls.
Ready to engage with our sales team and get a demo of Zipline? Reach out today.