It’s 4 months into 2021 but the world is far from back to normal in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual sales calls are now becoming the norm, whether you like it or not.
During a virtual sales meeting, selling requires different skills, and more planning than a meeting in person. If you’re trying to sell over the phone or Zoom the same way you’ve been selling when you’ve been able to get in your car and meet your customers in person, it won’t go well for you. Remote selling is different from selling in person. It is tougher. It calls for more planning. You need to be better prepared. And that’s just for starters.
With all this in mind, here is a look at some of the most important dos and don’ts of remote selling.
DON’T TRY TO WING IT
Successful sales reps are small talk geniuses. Whether the person is a stranger, or they have known the client for years, they can chat with anyone. They’re excellent storytellers who are conversationally confident, and they know how to get the customer thinking about buying.
That means they spend a very limited amount of time organizing and preparing for that part of a personal sales call. They chat, find common ground and make their first impression nice from the moment they shake hands with the client or potential customer. They’re so good at selling and closing sales that, in short, they can wing it. But that doesn’t work on a Facetime or Zoom call, or even a phone call.
When prospects log onto a Zoom call, they are there to get to work. They aren’t there to spend the first ten minutes of the call shooting the breeze, even though they would have been happy to if you were sitting across a desk in an office. In this environment, though they almost certainly expect you to get right down to business, make your pitch, and then disappear.
That’s a terrible way to sell if you’re hoping for an ongoing relationship with the client, though. To achieve that you need to get a proper read on your clients. You need to get to know each other a little. You need to find out who they are, what they like, and THEN what they need.
How else will you know if what you’re selling is a good fit for the client? How else will you establish the trust and credibility that will lead the client to feel comfortable with and confident in you?
Virtual small talk is a whole new skill to be mastered right now by even the friendliest, most successful sales reps. You can’t just move the normal discussions you’d have in-person to an online forum. Just they don’t translate.
BRING VIRTUAL GOODIES
No one goes empty-handed for an in-person sales call. Smart salespeople offer something because the easiest way to get something. They bring coffee and doughnuts, or bagels or cakes. They invite the customer out for a free lunch.
The salesperson makes small talk between bites, asks questions, collects information, and sets the meeting’s tempo. Both parties are then on good terms and ready to do business together by the time everybody has finished eating.
Sharing a meal or enjoying a cup of coffee together is like an icebreaker that fuses into a degree of comfort and acts as a bridge from the handshake to the meeting’s business portion. In person, a sales pro wouldn’t have thought of saying, “Hello, here’s my pitch.” Instead, it’s “Hello, let’s eat; let’s chat; let’s ease into it.”
That’s not easy to recreate virtually, but it can be done. Find a way to take virtual doughnuts to your next Zoom sales call. For example, have lunch delivered to your client and yourself, so you can start your meeting together by enjoying a meal. The lunch makes it hard to plunge straight into the day’s heavy business and lets you engage in the small talk you’re so good at.
You can also send out pre-meeting emails telling the customer how excited you are about the meeting. Start an email thread that starts a conversation. Ask a question and wait for an answer. Feel the client out to learn whether they are the sole decision-maker, or you should invite others to join the call. Offer a meeting agenda and drop hints about what you two might be doing during the call.
All this can be done to create a kind of virtual bear hug ahead of meeting. You cannot touch or maybe even see the person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know each other a little.
PREPARE TO MEET SEVERAL TIMES TO GET A SALE
A misconception many veteran sales pros have is that a Zoom-based sales call will be a one-and-done virtual meeting – that the “hello,” the presentation, and the deal will all wrap up in a single call. Don’t count on that.
Firstly, people tend to expect virtual conferences and telephone calls to be much briefer than meetings held in person. They may have only planned an hour for the call, and your virtual doughnuts may have taken up 15 minutes. Their idea of how the call will go might be different from yours.
During an hour-long face-to-face meeting, before digging into the client’s dilemma, a sales pro may spend some time on small talk. The discussion might then shift to the services and products provided by the salesperson’s company and how they could benefit the consumer. Then, there’s often still question-and-answer time before the potential client brings a supervisor or colleague in. The aim of that first meeting is often not an on-the-spot sale; it is to get a second meeting on the books, at least.
Actual sales aren’t always fast, particularly for big-ticket items. Clients need time to consider, evaluate and even seek permission. They have to figure out if the money’s working. They are also not usually prepared at the first meeting to sign a contract. But salespeople willing to spend this extra time with consumers in-person prefer to plan to wrap things up with a client after their initial virtual call. It is harder to gauge the duration of the sales cycle when you can’t interact in person.
In an artificial ‘physical’ environment like Zoom, you need to prepare for every part of the meeting and be ready to move at the client’s pace. If your prospect needs to get approvals from a slew of middle managers, think about sending virtual doughnuts to all of them – and to spend a bit of online time with them too. Don’t go for the jugular – and scare off your prospect – by making your pitch or asking for the sale too soon.
BE FRIENDLY, BUT STAY FORMAL AND PROFESSIONAL
The friendliest sales pros usually seem to close the most sales. But virtual, online meetings can rob their sales pitch of personality. There’s a formality online that doesn’t exist in person. This means it is even more important to have a plan for each virtual interaction than it is for face-to-face meetings.
First, present yourself in a businesslike manner. Months into the COVID-19 pandemic everyone seems to be getting a little too comfortable working at home – growing straggly beards, throwing their hair up into a ponytail, relaxing on the couch, and dressing in T-shirts and sweats.
That’s no way to look during a business meeting. Lock your kids, roommates, and pets out of the room where you will be talking to your clients. Never, ever make the call while sitting or reclining on a bed. In fact, your bed should not be visible on the screen, because that’s just weird.
Head into the virtual meeting with clear goals. Will you get to know the client and talk about your products and services? Will you ask for a second meeting or ask for the sale during the first one? Jot down a list of questions to ask the client during the meeting so you will gather the information you need to determine if your product is a good fit. Pay attention to not only the client’s answers but also their body language, tone of voice, attitude, pauses, and eye contact – all observations that a sales pro would instinctively make during an in-person meeting.
LEARN HOW TO WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT
This new normal stuff is STILL taking time to get used to, but the disruptions are going to continue, all over the world, for months yet. The hopes some had in March that things would be ‘back to normal’ by Christmas are fading fast. So, everyone must get a lot better at working with what they’ve got, and that includes sales professionals.
Experiment with alternatives. Try Zoom, Facetime, Google Meetings or another video conferencing platform for your next sales meeting. If you’re selling to young buyers who prefer texting or Whatsapping, give that a shot – although much is lost during a meeting with no video.
For those who want to talk by phone and skip the video, do your best to convince them that you don’t care if they haven’t washed their hair for weeks, so they’ll agree to turn on the camera, just so you can get that extra insight that can only come from eye contact (although don’t tell them that.) However, in the end even a text or telephone meeting is better than no meeting at all. Let your client pick the platform and adjust your pitch to it.
The fact is that it’s easy to meet online, and some people are finding they really like virtual meetings. When the health crisis is over, you may find that without personal visits you and your customers will get more work done – as long as you are able to build a new way of doing business that does not require in person interactions with people.
And speaking of that, as a team the Pearl Lemon Leads sales crew have always worked virtually. So when you work with, or consult, with us you will not only boost your lead gen efforts so you can book more of these virtual sales calls but also benefit from our years of experience when it comes to the art of making genuine connections without in person meetings.
Ready to discuss your lead generation needs? Or just to ask questions about how to adjust to a virtual sales environment? We’re happy to help, so book a call here, and we’ll get started (and no, we don’t care if you haven’t shaved or washed your hair in weeks.