Article • Sales Tip
Some Thoughts on “Virtual Selling”
Written By Jim Heilborn, INDEAL • August 12, 2022
Selling face-to-face has always been challenging but Virtual Selling?
Virtual selling is not new, but it has certainly taken a major leap forward, thanks in large part to the pandemic. I still believe that selling in-person has a lot of benefits, but that doesn’t necessarily require both parties to always be in the same room or even in the same city. Just like selling in person, it does require some planning.
For many years I spent a portion of each month on the road. I did a portion of my consulting and training in the client’s offices. I was also able to conduct a good portion of that business using the phone and computer; in excess of 300 presentations a year. Due to the pandemic, however, I had to adapt to a new reality… and the need for a webcam.
It was a bit of a challenge at first but I was able to adjust to the technology and presentation requirements fairly quickly. I was fortunate to have a good quiet space, adequate lighting, and some experience speaking into a camera. For salespeople, however, there are some additional challenges.
There have been various studies done but they all seem to have identified similar challenges that “virtual sellers” must take into consideration.
- Reaching the decision maker. This isn’t new but it has become even more challenging as many companies have gone to flex schedules and hybrid offices. Having a good phone and e-mail strategy and message are more important than ever if you want to get a positive response.
- Getting everyone to attend the same meeting. You would think with today’s technology everyone would be able to join a virtual meeting but it’s often not the case. Getting people to understand that a smartphone isn’t always the best device for this type of meeting can be a challenge in itself.
- Demonstrating products virtually. It’s almost as easy to demonstrate a chair online as it is in- person; but difficult when the client can’t touch and feel it…or try it out to see if it fits and is comfortable. Use visuals when possible. It can set the stage for in-person meetings.
- Keeping your audience’s attention. It is a bit easier to control the audience and hold their attention when everyone is in the same space. Capturing an audience member eye-to-eye is easier. Virtual meetings allow the audience to do many other things besides pay attention during a virtual presentation. One key for keeping the audience involved is to ask for comments, opinions, or questions throughout the presentation and not just at the end.
- Meetings with multiple presenters. It’s critical to rehearse presentations and segues so that the presentation is seamless and flows for the audience. Another consideration; trying to cram too many presenters into one meeting. Information overload.
- Technology. It is imperative to test the technology prior to every meeting. It can completely ruin a sales opportunity when the sound or video freezes or is unstable.
- Respecting their time. Keeping to a set agenda and schedule is important for any meeting but even more so for online meetings. Reviewing the agenda with the audience throughout the meeting also helps keep the meeting focused. Another related issue for the presenter and the audience is online meeting fatigue; too many in one day can reduce the quality and information retention. Remember that people can get uncomfortable and start to fidget if confined too long.
Here’s a fact that you should keep in mind…”A recent study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds – shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years. Are we damaging our brains, or is it a question of producing the right content to get people to stop, collaborate and listen?”
- Online Presentation skills. Speak to the camera. One of the biggest challenges for virtual sellers is learning to face the camera as if it was the person(s). Any bad habits that are displayed in person are magnified on camera. Swiveling in the chair, leaning back, looking down; these are all things that can distract the audience during an online meeting. It can be helpful to practice in front of a mirror.
Be careful not to include too many slides and focus on the most important ones. Same thing about text. Discuss key bullet points and write them in a font size and type that’s easy to read.
Lastly, don’t just read the slides.
As Stephen Covey wrote in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Begin with the End in Mind.” In a selling scenario, I take this to mean that we need to focus on our sales objectives. What outcome do we want from each meeting with a client; virtual or in-person? When you contact a prospective client for the first time, the single sales objective is to make an appointment, not try and sell them over the phone. Writing out a “mission statement” for each client helps to focus our activities and make sure that they are directed at accomplishing specific things. This seems pretty much common sense, but again, in the words of Stephen R. Covey…
“What’s common sense isn’t always common practice.”
Jim Heilborn is INDEAL’s Training and Development Consultant specializing in the office furniture/products industry, working nationwide with dealers, manufacturers, and service providers. Jim has been associated with INDEAL since 2011, focused on training and dealer development. Jim can be reached at email@example.com.
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