The distance selling opportunity: Richard M. Rothman

This is great opportunity that many businesses can seize not only to increase productivity, but also to grow into new markets writes Richard M. Rothman, Managing Director, Open Mind Opportunity Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.


Conducting business during the Covid Crisis has been a tough slog for many companies. Only a lucky few have truly benefited, by being in the right place at the right time. The best example is Zoom, which has seen its user base balloon from 10 million to over 300 million virtually overnight.

If your business model wasn’t ideally designed for social distancing, you’re certainly not alone. However, for many firms, distance can actually be a huge opportunity. That’s because the crisis has eliminated the need for in-person selling and demonstrated the efficiency and effectiveness of distance selling and servicing. This is great opportunity that many businesses can seize not only to increase productivity, but also to grow into new markets.

Why Adapt to Distance Selling?

My own consulting business is a good example of the benefits you can obtain by adapting your business model to distance selling and servicing. Prior to Covid, my sales team had to travel widely each day to meet with prospects. Most of their time was wasted in trains or languishing in waiting rooms. I also wasted plenty of time in the car traveling to outside meetings.

Now nobody wants to meet me in person. Better yet, commuting is now only a memory. All my meetings are conducted over phone or Zoom from the comfort of my home. All my client servicing is being done remotely, without any loss of quality. My team’s productivity level has soared, and clients are happy as well.

Distance Selling Increases Your Range

Better yet, distance selling can greatly increase the potential range and scope of the markets you can pursue. For example, prior to Covid, because I needed to personally visit clients, I restricted my sales activities to Mumbai. With distance selling, I have now expanded my sales activities not only pan-India, but also to the U.S. Why not? Clients no longer care where I’m located.

Of course, video conferencing technology is not new. Distance selling and servicing was possible before the lockdown, yet few people pursued it. It now seems clear that an adaptation that might have taken ten years to take hold is being embraced on a global basis in just a few short months. I’m quite certain that within a year or two, when Covid finally disappears, distance selling and servicing with be the new normal.

Distance Selling Cuts Costs

The experience of one of my clients demonstrates how distance selling can dramatically cut costs. His company sells products to doctors and hospitals. Prior to Covid his large sales team wasted most of their time either in transit or in waiting rooms.

All that unproductive time and effort is becoming a thing of the past. He can now trim the dead weight from his team, and dramatically cut costs, while also increasing the range and scope of their sales efforts.

How to Get Started

Successfully adapting to distance selling will require a journey up the learning curve for many companies. Yet if you keep your mind wide open to learning, the journey can be enjoyable. I had never given a webinar before Covid, but within a few weeks I’d become an old pro at it. I’m also learning how to do virtual events, which also happen to be much lower cost than the old-fashioned kind.

It’s important for every organization to assess the lessons it has learned over the past months of lockdown and consider the skills and tools they will require in order to adapt to distance selling. Most businesses will need to quickly acquire the digital infrastructure and skills and processes required to sell at a distance.

Fortunately, most of the tools required are available as low cost SaaS applications. You don’t have to write the software yourself. Like most people, I initially wasn’t eager to shell out $150 for a paid Zoom subscription, but as I was soon using it every day, it quickly paid for itself many times over.

Adapt Now or Fall Behind

As we are all likely to be in a state of at least semi-lockdown for up to two years, your most competent competitors will no doubt use the opportunity to greatly improve their distance sales and servicing capabilities. If you fail to take advantage of the opportunity to adapt to distance, you will certainly risk losing sales and customers, and become less cost competitive. Therefore, for many businesses, adapting to distance is not an option, it is a requirement.

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