It’s been almost a year since we, along with the rest of the world, were plunged into the Work From Home (WFH), all-virtual business environment. Whether in B2B or B2C sales, we’ve all had to grow and evolve continuously, re-learning to serve our customers and adapt to their changing needs. Salespeople, prospectors/hunters and account managers have made huge strides and progress.
But with virtual communication taking a more permanent place in our way of conducting sales, it’s vital to continue that progress.
Here are four of the “mistakes” that we are still seeing people (and even ourselves!) make in virtual meetings, and how to overcome them to improve your remote selling skills.
If you prefer to take this on the go and listen to our conversation on this topic, feel free to check out sALES with ASLAN podcast episode 90:
Mistake #1 – Repurposing Face-to-Face Presentations for Virtual Meetings
People aren’t changing their slides or tailoring their presentations to a more virtual friendly format; they are trying to present the same amount of content, the same exact slides, that they once used in person. This is a big mistake. A virtual meeting or presentation should not just be a “screen share session.”
Virtual presenting takes more time than when you are face-to-face with a customer. You need to cut down your content and be concise. Virtual meetings already have the bad rap of being boring. Zoom fatigue is real. Don’t be a contributing factor.
In person, people are more likely to stay with you, keep their eyes on you, be engaged. As salespeople or account managers, we know how to work a room. Face-to-face, it’s easier to read and command a room. But Zoom rooms are different.
With a virtual meeting, you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention. When you screen share, customers and prospects automatically shift their focus from listening to you, to reading the slides or worse, checking their phones.
Minimizing your slide content will help you deliver a punchier presentation. With fewer words on a slide, your customer will stay with you, not just your slides.
“The best content is sometimes no content.” – Marc Lamson
When you do need your customer/ prospect to consume content from your screen, pause to let them read, then continue speaking. (Most) people can’t read and listen at the same time. When you really want to make a point or cultivate a dialogue, stop sharing your screen and talk directly to your customer. Or better yet, learn to use a second camera with a whiteboard or flipchart. Movement is key for keeping your audience engaged.
Do not share your slides the entire time. Frankly, it’s boring. Moral of the story: minimize your slides and their content, and focus on keeping their attention on you.
This puts more of an emphasis on the preparation for your virtual presentation. Be thoughtful, concise, and intentional with what you put together. With less content to carry you, fewer slides to rely on, being prepared is key. Know what you are going to say – and practice.
Mistake #2 – Not Identifying the Decision Maker
This is exponentially more difficult when selling virtually. Basically, there are two ways to uncover the decision maker: clues and questions.
Clues are harder to see in a virtual environment. Body language, posture, reactions, and other non-verbal cues are almost obsolete in a zoom room. Everyone is looking at their camera or their screen… whereas in a meeting room (in person), people would be more inclined to give away levels of influence by their physical cues and orientation towards one another.
With less rapport and relational equity in a Zoom meeting room, it’s harder to ask the questions and observe the clues needed to discern the influencers and decision-makers. But it’s not impossible. Since clues are less reliable in a virtual sales setting, you need to be willing and prepared to ask the tough questions. For example, you might ask:
“Assuming we have the exact solution you’re looking for, based on our meeting today, what has to happen next?”
This question about process is a “softer ask” that will probably reveal the key players – who will be meeting afterwards to debrief, discuss, and decide.
What keeps us from asking these tough questions is not knowing how to position them. We need to position the question in a way that demonstrates why it benefits them to give us the answer. We call this “priming the question.” Why is it in their best interest to answer your question? Give them an OtherCentered(R) reason to respond.
“The reason I want to know ____ is so that I can make sure everyone is educated on ___.”
“Is there anyone else who will be involved in the process? If so, I can record this meeting if that would be helpful for them.”
Be prepared with questions you want to ask, and how you are going to prime them. You need to have the “why” behind each of the questions you want to ask. If you can say, “The reason I’m asking is…” in front of every question, you will get answers. And better yet, it will give you the confidence to ask those tough questions.
It’s about communicating your desire to serve, and making sure your customer knows that they are the priority.
Mistake #3 – Being Unprepared to Handle the “What ifs” of Presenting Virtually
There are many “what ifs” that come with the virtual meeting territory, and we are still seeing people unprepared to handle such challenges.
Here are some examples:
- Meeting leader/ your presenting partner doesn’t show up
- You can’t see anyone in the meeting
- Technical differences with a new platform (Zoom, Teams, Webex, etc.)
- Computer audio
- Decision-maker doesn’t show up
With face-to-face selling, you may have had some notice about a change of plans (if someone was sick, or missed a flight, or got stuck in traffic). But with virtual selling, you probably won’t know something has gone awry until you’re in the midst of it. You need to be prepared with a back-up plan if anything goes wrong.
Think through relevant scenarios for you, and come up with a contingency plan for each one.
- Have a back-up copy of the deck
- Be prepared to “fly blind” i.e. talk to a blank screen
- Have dial-in audio option ready to go
- Even without the decision-maker, hold the meeting and record it. Afterwards, edit down the video to key points and share with the decision-maker.
Mistake #4 – Skipping or Minimizing the Q&A
In virtual meetings, we have noticed many salespeople glazing over the Q&A portion of the session. They use the final minute to ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” It feels offhand, like a throwaway moment.
With face-to-face selling, the interaction naturally lent itself to more questions and dialogue. In a virtual environment, you have to make an effort. Leave 10-15 minutes towards the end of your presentation for questions. Build that time in – don’t just see if you have any time remaining. Stop screen sharing and open up the floor.
Without giving time and attention to Q&A, you run the risk of leaving objections uncovered and unresolved.
People are more uncomfortable in a virtual environment, so don’t just ask a general “Any questions?” You will probably hear crickets. But don’t put people on the spot either.
Be prepared with who you want to call on, what you want to ask them, and why you want to ask it. For example:
“Tom, I know we’ve been talking at length about the U.S. part of the business, but as the leader of the international division, what are we missing on how we would represent you?”
That’s a thoughtful, OtherCentered question that will likely start a good question and answer dialogue.
One benefit of selling virtually is that you can have notes with you, “cheat sheets” on the people you are presenting to, without them knowing. Jot down some notes. You can even sneak a peek at their LinkedIn profiles as people are entering the virtual meeting room. Check out where they’ve worked or where they went to school. You can use these notes or tidbits to break the ice and start conversations.
The Reality of Virtual Sales
Selling virtually is a new skill set. It will take practice and preparation. Regardless of the pandemic timeline, it is here to stay. So get comfortable with it. Practice “presenting into the abyss.” And above all, be prepared.
Hopefully many of the articles on our blog will help you continue to grow and evolve your virtual selling skills.