The Virtual Selling Skills You Need To Grow
The most effective sellers have mastered the art of creating a dynamic, high-impact sales presentation. They know how to present value, offer compelling insight, and most importantly, drive the meeting to its natural and logical conclusion — a signed contract.
However, it’s a brand new day when none of that engagement happens face to face. Conference rooms quickly converted to Zoom links, and many salespeople are struggling with the transition to remote work and virtual selling.
However, for some of us, this is not a completely new world — and I’m fortunate enough to include myself in that category. We built our business largely through remote selling from our office in Minneapolis. And while we made some in-person sales, we spent a lot of our time closing deals over the phone and negotiating contracts through email.
But as the pandemic began, we noticed our buyers readily willing to make the move to online platforms like Zoom. Zoom fatigue? Hardly! We loved it instantly — and we are never going back! It allows us to connect in an entirely new way, and elevate the sales experience in a way that completely differentiates us from the competition.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that January 2021 will be one of our most active months delivering work in years. While the margins might be a little different I am still astounded by our productivity in the middle of this pandemic.
Our Business Manager Lynn Mandinec sheds light on the evolution of our approach. “The way I approach a sale has completely shifted. Before I would have a strategic phone call and follow up with additional, relevant sales assets. But today, on Zoom, I am able to bring up these assets in real-time, get their feedback, and customize our offering along with them. We are able to collaborate on our engagement in that moment, which has enabled us to close deals faster.”
In this post, we’re breaking down how we’ve shifted our remote sales process to take advantage of high-quality video conferencing. Here’s what we’ve learned about virtual selling along the way.
Virtual Selling Requires More Preparation
We must meet customers where they are. But in this new era, it’s also important to meet your customers when they are. We’re working more during the pandemic, and we’re also juggling more personal responsibilities.
Our conception of the workday has certainly evolved during this time, and to meet this challenge, you’ll also need to evolve your seller preparation. To do so, we’ve focused on the pre-work that occurs before our call to ensure that we are providing value first. We doubled down on providing more information and content before our conversation begins.
As an example, I’ll use my new Wellness Webinar Series. Before we ever have our sales meeting, we’ve provided the buyer with relevant resources, content, case studies and data about who has used the Wellness Series and how it strengthened their business. By the time we get on Zoom for our sales meeting, our buyer better understands the value we can create for their business, and we can have a more engaging, dynamic sales conversation that helps us better understand the clients’ needs.
Remember: Customers don’t care all that much about you. You are only relevant to the degree that you can help get a customer where they want to go. In this environment, enterprise clients are more likely to stay with the status quo; to close a deal, you’ll have to elevate the sense of urgency around the decision. You do that by getting obsessed with customer outcomes. You bring that energy to life, live on video!
Prepare to Listen — and Win
The evolution of your preparation doesn’t end with how you prepare your client. How you prepare yourself and your team has never been more critical.
Research shows that the average meeting length during the pandemic has decreased by roughly 20%, and it’s my experience that sales meetings are no exception. You’re competing with buyers’ internal meetings, a robust outbound market, and whatever is on your buyer’s other tabs — not to mention the noise their kids might be making in the other room.
Successful virtual selling requires fanatically preparing for your meetings. Before every sales engagement, Lynn and I consult our Value Proposition Checklist and our Sales Call Planning Checklist. This process helps us align with what our prospective customer cares about the most and ensure that we have every avenue covered to make the meeting relevant and our ideas resonate.
That level of preparation also helps us do something else: listen. There is no greater critical competency for a salesperson than mastering the art of perceptive listening. When we prepare, we carefully consider how clients might register objections or concerns. Objections are a critical sign that a client is engaged, and they’re an invaluable opportunity to create dialogue and demonstrate value. We also show up with relevant OEQs (open ended questions) that drive the discussion directly toward our commitment objective. After all, selling is about earning a commitment to advance to the next stage in the decision making process.
Set Your Stage
Once you are prepared for impact, it’s time to think about the delivery. Successful virtual selling requires more than just hopping into the video chat. You need to set your stage.
As a keynote speaker, I had to rapidly shift our product to one that could be delivered virtually, while providing the kind of energy and emotional resonance we are known for during a live event. Enter CallSign 51, our virtual production partner and the evolution of my Home Office Studio. Our producer Jeff Achen believes that creating a professional home studio is essential. “It’s like going to a tailor and getting a nice suit,” he explains. “It’s about how you represent yourself and your brand.”
Of course we had to set up a studio environment to deliver a compelling virtual keynote presentation. However, the ancillary benefit has been the huge advantage we have in any competitive sales situation. You can gain that same advantage! You just have to set the stage. Here is a breakdown of the inventory and technology in our home studio/sales center.
We bring Jeff in to produce a big sales presentation the same way we would if I was delivering a conference keynote. This creates a huge advantage for me!
And while all of this may seem daunting, don’t let it be. “When you see all of the equipment set up just to ensure you look great, it can look pretty intimidating. But learning to use these tools to your benefit is a skill, just like anything else,” says Rex New, multimedia producer at our marketing partner Rep Cap. Rex co-wrote YouTube’s first movie Dance Camp, and he works with us on supporting our content marketing, including our Prepare for Impact video series. “It takes practice, but most importantly, it takes an openness and a willingness to learn.”
Do you need all of this equipment to become effective at virtual selling? Probably not. Create a solution that works for your budget and needs. At minimum, Jeff recommends a ring light for your computer, an HD webcam, and headphones that will ensure you sound as good as you look.
Bring your computer or camera to your eye level and make sure your background is tasteful and not cluttered, he says. “With those things, you’ll be at least 50%, if not 70% of the way there to a much better video presentation.”
Of course, I’d invite you to consider whether you want to compete in the marketplace resourced to the bare minimum. I sure don’t. I want every single advantage I can create. You decide if 100% is worth it to you.
Attack The Opportunity Inside The Challenge
Our world has been turned upside-down during the pandemic. It’s only human to wish we could “return to normal.” For many sellers, that means travel, face-to-face meetings and conferences.
Here’s the reality, though: This is “normal” now. Even after the pandemic, somewhere between 19-36% of all business travel will be replaced by video conferencing. It’s essential that we learn to use the new tool at our disposal — because your competition will be.
So get ready for our new digital world. If you embrace it, there’s a world of possibilities — and a chance to gain a huge competitive advantage, demonstrate the value you can create in amazing new ways and drive profitable growth.
About Ryan Estis
Ryan Estis has more than 20 years of experience as a top-performing sales professional and leader. As the former chief strategy officer for the McCann Worldgroup advertising agency NAS, he brings a fresh perspective to business events. As a keynote speaker, Ryan is known for his innovative ideas on leading change, improving sales effectiveness and preparing for the future of work. He was recently recognized as one of “the best keynote speakers ever heard” by Meetings & Conventions magazine alongside Tony Robbins, Bill Gates, Colin Powell and Mike Ditka.
Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]