We spend a great deal of time thinking about and talking about how this new virtual reality has affected us as salespeople: how we prospect, how we conduct meetings, how we sell. But the truth is, the shift has also greatly impacted our customers and potential customers’ way of conducting business. They’ve had to deal with a whole different host of challenges as they change how they vet solution providers and choose their partnerships.
The Challenges & Solutions
In the spirit of being OtherCentered®, let’s take a look at things from our customers’ perspective, through their eyes, and outline a few ways we can guide them and make them more comfortable throughout this new virtual buying process.
Challenge #1 – Distraction
Everyone, not just sales professionals and decision-makers, are overwhelmed these days. People are facing national and global upheaval, the constant barrage of news, uncertainty about the future of our companies, homeschooling children, working from makeshift home-offices, and so on. We are all under more stress than we realize.
On a strictly business level, we are all receiving a lot more communication from all sides. The daily flood of emails with offers to help protect your business, preserve your role, and adapt to COVID restrictions are inundating decision-makers and evaluators.
Customers are overwhelmed with information, and the result is diminished receptivity. At ASLAN, we talk a lot about this idea of cultivating receptivity in our customers. Most people, especially now, are averse to being “sold to.” They are not open to you, or your solution, or your phone call/ email because they are distracted.
Lead with their whiteboard. Find out what is important to your customer and start there. Do your research (read their press releases, read their website and articles, figure out what other similar companies are struggling with) or talk to someone on the inside (we call this a coach) who can help you determine what challenges the decision-maker is facing and what their goals are. You can then “connect the dots” to how you can help solve their problems.
Do not start with your solution. Do not be generic. Be specific about the problem they have, that you can help uniquely solve. By spending the time to actually customize your message to each prospect, you may not send as many emails in a day, but you will send higher quality messages with a higher chance of reaching and connecting with your customers.
Challenge #2 – A Whole New Process
Customers are implementing and utilizing a completely different evaluation/ decision making process than they did pre-pandemic. Everything has changed inside of companies; there are new budget challenges, behavioral challenges, distance challenges. They can no longer gather in the same room to talk through and make decisions together, collectively. They have had to develop new workflows, become familiar with new technology. They know things need to change, but they may not know how or what that new buying process should look like.
In some cases, this means customers may be “hiding” from sales reps or trying to mass audit solution providers. They want to do more research ahead of time, instead of engaging with individual reps.
Customers are still buying, but because of everything outlined above, they are doing it differently and with more initial research (before engaging with a salesperson). When they do, they are further down the path and they have already identified the problem they think they have.
The problem with this is that customers are making uninformed decisions. They are using evaluators (which is not new) and then simply watching the virtual call recordings as a means to make decisions. The common belief for customers now is that by evaluating more options (vendors), they will find the better option – but this isn’t necessarily true.
The danger here for customers is (valuable) time wasted going about the process the wrong way and ending up far down the wrong path.
As a student of the industry, reps have a lot of knowledge and expertise with the problems and solutions that they regularly help clients solve. So as sellers and trusted partners, our job is not to sell prospects our “stuff,” but to help them make the best decision. Part of this entails making sure we have the right information to do so. Ask:
“Are you looking for a presentation of general capabilities? Or are you looking for a recommendation of what you should do based on our years of experience?”
This will open the door to a more productive conversation where you can get more information on their challenges and goals. It will earn you time and access to the right people to uncover stated and unstated business needs.
It’s not about what we want or what we like, it’s about the customer truly making the best decision. When you put your OtherCentered hat on, and if you think they are not making the right decision for their company, help them with their process – help them think it through. As we say at ASLAN, sell your process not your products.
In sales, time is your biggest resource. If you truly don’t believe you can be of service to them, do not waste their time, or yours. There are other customers that you can, and should, help.
Challenge #3 – It’s Boring
Customers are having trouble paying attention. “Zoom fatigue” is real. Evaluators may sit through 10 similar presentations when vetting vendors, and the decision-maker may sit through potentially 3.
They’re struggling to pay attention and stay engaged. Many average reps don’t help this problem – they’re inept with the technology they use, they share their screen and simply read their slides, and frankly, they can be boring.
Be better than the competition. You don’t need to be perfect, but be interesting. It’s vital to keep it professional with your audio quality, background, personal appearance, etc… while also being engaging.
Get and keep your customer’s attention – make them do something to participate. You can do this with:
- Chat – have them respond to a prompt
- Polls – get their feedback on an idea or even do a fun icebreaker question before the meeting begins
- Toggle between screens (share and stop share)
- Play videos – relevant demos or movie clips can be fun
- Use a second camera with a flip-chart
The key is movement. Make it interactive. We wrote an extensive piece with tips and tricks for conducting virtual calls and meetings and how to differentiate yourself virtually.
Using 3 or 4 of these tactics during a 30 minute meeting will have an enormous impact on keeping your customer interested, engaged, and paying attention. The payoff is that they will actually ask follow-up questions and will be much more invested in the decision-making process, following your lead.
One other key is to work on your verbal skills. To an extent, body language and certain visual cues go away in the virtual environment. Salespeople tend to rely on this during face-to-face interactions. It’s easier to stay animated in person.
On a video call, you need to make an extra effort to stay enthusiastic, animated, and dynamic. You don’t want to stumble over your words – practice and be ready with exactly what you want to say to and ask your customers. Know the 4 or 5 key points you want to make. Be clear and passionate.
Learn to own the virtual environment.
Wrapping it Up
One of our customers recently said,
“Good enough isn’t good enough anymore.”
If we do things as we’ve always done, reps will get lost in the virtual noise and the crowd of salespeople. By flipping the switch and looking at the buying/selling process through our customer’s eyes, we can care more, learn more, and do more, to serve them to the very best of our abilities.
As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.