How Sellers Can (and Should) Adapt to a Virtual World
This article appeared originally in Forbes.
Virtual selling—working a deal remotely when you can’t be there in person—is the new normal for B2B salespeople. It may seem simple—just move your meetings online, right? But being a great virtual salesperson doesn’t mean simply conducting every meeting via video conference.
Successful virtual selling depends on using technology to nurture prospects, share information, conduct demos, and host meetings. But technology isn’t all sellers need. You also need to add research, engagement, and technical aptitude to your toolbox of selling techniques.
Many companies are either slowing their buying cycles or freezing them completely. Intelligent virtual selling is the only way to overcome the current economic and business uncertainties that lead companies to defer a purchase. Here’s how sales leaders can adjust the most important elements of in-person selling to ensure reps are ready for the virtual world.
Prospect Research: Prep Like You’re In Person
In the “before times” (pre-pandemic), a face-to-face meeting was an event. It involved travel, hotel stays, and client dinners. Sellers did intense research and preparation before sitting down with prospects. It was a bigger deal and, because it was so much harder to coordinate than a Zoom call, the stakes felt high. You were meeting with decision makers that you could only get to see once or twice a year, or it was a first meeting with a key stakeholder. You had to get it right.
Now that we’re all just clicking over to the next call, I’ve noticed that sellers are less prepared than they would be if they were meeting live. Reps are not doing their research to find out if they’re connected to any other customers, digging into their DISC style or personality, looking for hints in their LinkedIn profile, or reading something that they wrote.
Virtual Adaptation: We should have the same attitude toward video conference calls as we do about in-person gatherings, because they’re as important. Prior to a virtual meeting, sellers should scroll through their prospect’s social media connections, looking for anyone they know in common, and calling to find out more. Make sure your sellers are doing their homework and preparing for each call as if they were meeting face-to-face.
Prospect Meetings: Expect the Unexpected
Whether your virtual meeting is one-on-one or with a group, sellers need to expect the unexpected. It’s much easier to invite somebody to a Zoom call than it is to get them in-person. These days, your sellers might find that they get on a call thinking they’re meeting with two people and see five on screen.
Zoom is a different animal. Since prospects are in their home offices, not traveling or moving between company locations, it’s easier for them to jump on a call. We’re seeing meeting sizes getting bigger because participants have the bandwidth to do it.
Virtual Adaptation: Sellers must check the meeting invite to see if others have been added to the calendar. It’s a simple tactic of seeing who’s accepted and doing homework on those people. Make sure sellers understand these new attendees’ roles and how the puzzle pieces fit together so they’re not unprepared for unexpected guests.
Prospect Meetings: Engage Multi-Taskers
The other new challenge of virtual selling is engaging prospects who are multi-tasking. When you’re face-to-face with people in a room, whether it’s one-on-one or five-on-whatever, people tend to be much more attentive. If you’re in a video conference with one or two people, it’s not an issue.
But when the group gets bigger than three, you lose people. They’re checking emails, they’re texting, they’re working on another project. They’re not giving you the attention they would in-person. You have to be much more aware of how to overcome distractions. It’s a classic challenge, but it’s definitely magnified in the virtual environment.
Virtual Adaptation: There are several techniques to keep people involved: using people’s names, asking more questions, making sure you’re not talking too long. It also works well to ask someone to describe what they just heard in their own words. If you do that once in a meeting, everyone is now alert. Call on the person you know is paying attention and can answer the question. Others will engage because they’re thinking, ‘He’s going to call on me next.’
Post-Call Follow Up: Leave a Trail
In the virtual world, we must be more organized post-call. Sharing and tracking relevant content has always been a sales challenge, but it’s amplified when sellers are no longer in-person with their enablement and marketing teams. This makes it tougher to nurture prospects effectively. Creating a repository for prospect-related content, and including an audit trail of interactions with each individual or account, has multiple benefits for sellers and prospects.
One of the advantages of being remote is the ability—and desire—to record meetings for your own note-taking purposes and to share that recording with customers. Customers are beginning to ask for a copy of recordings so that they can reflect on portions of the discussion, revisit product demonstrations, and share it with someone who couldn’t attend.
Virtual Adaptation: Document the entire buying journey for each account and share it with the prospect. For example, when a seller sends a white paper that gets a positive response, they can flag that as something that’s important to the prospect. Meeting notes and call recordings can also be added to the repository as well as copies of any PowerPoint presentations the prospect has seen, and a record of email exchanges and questions following the presentation.
Adapting to Virtual Selling is Critical
Sellers who can build trust with their prospects and convey the right information using virtual techniques will be the only vendors who can break through buyer inertia and make the sale in today’s environment. Moving out of your comfort zone and mastering the techniques associated with virtual selling are critical during the pandemic and will remain so long after the virus has run its course.
Download your copy of The Essential Guide to Virtual Selling for practical tips and advice for succeeding when you can’t be there in person.