The new normal: it seems to be here, according to a recent article that explained how businesses have become comfortable with virtual meetings instead of jet-setting. We have quickly realized that the Zoom economy is beneficial because, among other things, it reduces expenditure on travel, requires fewer sales resources, and delivers more efficiency when it comes to scheduling and reducing the sales cycle.
But there’s more to effective virtual sales than just checking that the mute button is off. Just as traditional sales require a range of skills, from small talk to technical knowledge to a good elevator pitch, so does virtual communication, and in many instances, sales people need to revise much of their approach. Virtual sales require a different way of presenting, a new range of materials, adaptations to our life at home, and an expanded set of technological tools.
Zoom fatigue is real. You’ve been on videoconferencing calls all day, but so has your sales lead. Keeping the meeting to the point without skipping important details or developing a personal connection is yet another skill for sales people to master. It’s therefore important to rehearse opening the meeting, introducing your side efficiently, explaining the basics, and expeditiously reaching the objective of the meeting. And don’t forget to conclude the meeting with clearly defined follow-up items.
In fact, Zoom calling is a whole subject onto itself. Whereas videoconferencing was once rare for salespeople, it’s now the rule. Looking professional has taken on new dimensions and dressing properly is only the first step. Because clients see attendees mostly from the shoulders and up, it’s important to make sure that hands (manicures, nail polish) and faces (clean shaven, makeup, hair styling) are well groomed. Care should be taken regarding camera angles and lighting – to be judged by a remote coworker – as well as equipment quality and background. Even during long meetings, participants should not allow themselves to be distracted by their phones or other programs on their monitor. The best way to approach a Zoom call is to behave as if it’s an actual meeting – Jeffrey Toobin, take note.
A Material Change
One of the most important aspects of virtual selling, beyond the call itself, is all the marketing material surrounding it. The days when a sales person would make a pitch, answer questions, and leave behind some pamphlets are over. Now, your sales prospect has probably researched your product or solution even before the call, and will continue once the call is over, before making a decision.
In fact, buyers now prefer generous amounts of online information when evaluating products. There was a time when delivering a short, concise message was a main rule of content writing. Now, top Google content referrals are for articles above 2,400 words. Prospective buyers want to do much of their own research to back up your claims, including reading white papers, reviewing competitor’s sites, and visiting peer review services like G2 Crowd and Trustpilot.
That’s why your website should include customer testimonials and answers to questions that potential new customers will ask. It’s also a good idea to develop a Google search strategy so that multiple sites will lead to essential information about your company.
The Literal Home Office
One of the many benefits of working from home is avoiding travel to work, but the downside is that you must compete with all the other members of your family who are also stuck. It’s therefore important to treat your workspace at home just like you do an office, where you don’t do diapers, lunches for kids, or volume control. Find a separate area with good Wi-Fi reception and the equipment you need for quality communication, or tell everyone else to steer clear of your makeshift office when you are on calls.
It’s also important not to be too isolated. According to this article, frequent breaks will increase your productivity, and since you’re not always being watched, you will feel freer to pause and refresh more often.
Forget the Rolodex
In the first three weeks of April 2020, the use of online collaboration tools leapt by 400% as both companies and individuals were suddenly reliant on them. This trend has only continued, reflecting the need for increasing investment.
Besides quality communications equipment, virtual sales people should have access to support technologies that were once only nice-to-have. For instance, expanded use of cloud computing, project management tools like Asana or Monday.com, and instant messaging technologies like Slack or MS Teams is now common.
Sales staff in particular should consider education management systems such as Lessonly and SAP Litmos to replace in-person training, as well as creative presentation software like mmhmm (not a typo) and Prezi. And finally, in order to ensure that the sales team is adapting as quickly as possible to the virtual situation, it might be a good idea to use idea generation and workshop tools such as Mural and Whiteboard. These tools can be used to build assets such as virtual selling playbooks and scenario-based selling practices.
In addition, each of your clients will have a preferred medium, so it’s important to be prepared for communicating across all of them – chat, direct message, social media, email, phone, and screen time. Using these media requires that every channel be professionally presented. For example, through an informative Facebook page, emails without typos, and a Zoom screen with a logo.
The Next Chapter
Despite the hindrances of the COVID 19 era, businesses have proved remarkably resilient. For instance, the incredible drop in US GDP during the second quarter of 2020 was more than offset by a phenomenal 33% increase in Q3. This figure hints that we are already adjusting to a new way of doing business, with sales tactics and strategies being adapted accordingly.
In this spirit, and on a personal note, a little ingenuity goes a long way in the virtual sales arena. For example, commenting on the photos or furniture showing on a client’s screen is a great way to build a personal connection. Having a few anecdotes about working at home, or about life with COVID, will also serve to break the ice.
One day, this will all be over. We might then find that sales are even easier to as people will crave human connections more than ever, while follow-up and deal closing via Zoom will be more acceptable for the client and an advantage for the sales team. In the meantime, however, let’s take this as an opportunity to expand our skill set, change the way we work, and enjoy a home-brewed cup of coffee every morning.