I am old road warrior sales guy. I spent my 45-year career sitting face-to-face with prospects. Now the sales world has turned virtual. No more morning coffee with my first meeting of the day. Then lunch with another. Followed by a couple of afternoon meetings. Sometimes finishing with an evening meal with a client. With the pandemic that’s not happening. Or at least not as much. The change is driven by increased efficiency as much by health concerns. Buyer’s time meeting with salespeople is reduced when they meet virtually. So, great salesperson, what’s the new normal?
Some Things Never Change
In this blog I focus on the fundamentals of good selling. All the fundamentals stay the same. How we now need to apply them has changed. The six-step selling process is Rapport, Pain, Budget, Decision Maker, Presentation, Follow-up. Successful selling still requires great salespeople to do all the same work virtually as doing face-to-face selling.
So What’s Different With Virtual Selling?
Time. In face-to-face selling we had time to build rapport, find the pain, confirm the budget then make a pitch to the decision maker. True we needed to be aware of the time allowed by the buyer but often if we made a connection and really had the buyer’s interest time got flexible. Discussions started in a late morning meeting could continue over lunch. Now we schedule a virtual meeting for a particular time period. Often the buyer has another meeting after ours so time is not flexible. We need to match the goals for the meeting to the time allowed. Everything is moving faster today.
Virtual communication is two-dimensional. Yes, it’s better than a phone call because you can see facial expressions. And you can do screen sharing to encourage engagement. But it’s not like the feel of being in an office or conference room. The ambiance of the environment is now missing.
Stress is different in virtual selling. When I had in person meetings I was hyped up to do my best. I came professionally dressed and positive attitude. Now virtually sitting in my home office only dressed well on the parts only seen on video, I feel more relaxed and less in control. It’s a challenge to amp up to the level needed for good selling. But great salespeople know they must be at their best in any situation.
Rising To The Challenges In Virtual Selling
The sales process to winning good customers is the same. The way we do it has changed. You still need to bring your personality to the virtual selling meeting. And make time to build rapport. Sometimes it’s a few minutes at the beginning speaking with the buyer about common interests while waiting for others to join. Or maybe winding down at the end checking in on kids activities while you summarize the meeting.
Great salespeople still come prepared to the meeting. If this is one of a series of meetings in a long sales cycle, then review what’s happened so far. Set the agenda for this meeting and get concurrence from the buyer and their team. Then get about your purpose. Be strong and be in control. Remember great salespeople lead their prospects to the conclusion to buy from you.
Engage the prospect with insightful, targeted open-ended questions. Listen carefully and confirm what you heard. Sound familiar? We do this in person, too. Keeping the prospect and his team engaged is a challenge. Admit it. I’ll bet you have been listening in a virtual meeting while reviewing your emails. So keep all those ears and eyes on you by calling out prospects by name to answer questions in those large meetings. Remember the only way to learn about the prospects problem, budget and decision-making process is to ask good questions. The 70/30 rule for salespeople still applies: listen 70% of the time.
Get the tech right. You will lose credibility fast if your screen share doesn’t work, your mic faults, or the internet fades in and out. Practice with the white board for collaborating with the prospect. Use it so all can brainstorm on an idea, perhaps. Videos to support your claims of benefits and solutions to the prospects problem need to be faultless. Short videos and reactions from the prospect keep engagement. In your pre-call plan make sure the supporting videos, slides, photos or documents focus the prospect on the goals you have set for the meeting.
Your Job Is The Same, Virtual Or Not
Even in virtual selling your goal is to get the order. You will win when you convince the prospect the cost of staying the same is greater than the cost of making a change. This is the same for getting a buyer to change brands of toothpaste or negotiating a contract for a major real estate sale. So find the pain your product or service can solve. Help the buyer understand what it costs them. Show how solving the problem with your solution will be a benefit to them. Convince the decision maker your solution is the only viable one. And follow up.
What You Can Do Right Now To Be A Pro At Virtual Selling
- Realize the selling fundamentals are the same
- Be skilled at use virtual tech platforms
- Study everything you find about virtual selling
To the third point above. The nudge for this blog post came from an article by Dave Shaby in Selling Power. Find it here: Four Keys to Virtual Selling Success.