Selling has changed. Virtual sales meetings, typically using Zoom or MS Teams, are now being used by almost everyone. Surveys confirm many buyers prefer it. Virtual selling is here to stay. But this poses the question – When everyone is selling on screen how can you stand out and differentiate yourself? What is best practice?
In this post we’ve highlighted three key areas for you to focus on:
1. Differentiate By Your Selling
Salespeople need to move up a gear when selling virtually. The sales fundamentals don’t change, but the medium amplifies mistakes and shortcomings. In the face-to-face sale a good communicator may be able to ‘wing it’, but virtual sellers need:
- Enhanced call preparation to come across credibly on video.
- Good engagement and facilitation skills.
- A repeatable, question-led sales structure to keep them on track.
- The ability to bring new ideas/insights to the customer.
Here are 6 best practice tips to immediately upgrade your virtual selling:
1. Set yourself up with the right mindset. Before the meeting don’t think ‘What can we sell to them?’ But ‘How can we help them to succeed?’ ‘What will this customer learn on the call?’
2. Remember virtual selling is a collaboration tool first and a presentation tool last. Using a virtual call simply to present what you offer is rarely a good approach. Instead ask questions. Engage. Make sure you have a note of each person’s name in front of you. And address them by name. “Mark, what are your thoughts on this?” Your objective is to involve everyone on the buyer’s side of the call.
3. Consider using whiteboard functionality to promote collaboration. It enables you to write down their challenges and ambitions – type if you’re fast and accurate, or use a digital pen with an iPad or equivalent as a second screen. Ask “What do you want to achieve?” “Why is that important?” And then you can address people directly “Sue, anything you’d like to add?” Establishing a written list of requirements gives the virtual sale a strong foundation. Both Zoom and Teams support whiteboard sharing. If you must use PowerPoint avoid it early in the meeting – people switch off.
4. Build trust. Every seller knows this is important but how can you build trust quickly when selling virtually? Stanford’s Dr Roderick Kramer writing in HBR says: ‘Some of the best trust builders I’ve studied display great attention to, and empathy for, the perspective of the other party. They know what steps to take to reassure people, and proactively allay the anxiety and concerns of others.’
The lesson is clear – the ability to see things from the perspective of the other person builds trust. So do your homework and uncover the roles and responsibilities of each prospect. Then tailor your questions and messaging appropriately. Users want to know how well it works. Business function managers need to solve a problem or achieve an objective. Directors are interested in ROI. This of course applies to all selling but it is more important when selling virtually.
5. Seek feedback – check how you’re doing. Especially if you see someone’s attention wandering. “Have we missed anything?” “Anything you’d like to add?” “How do you feel about it?” “Very interested to learn if our approach has appeal?”
6. Gain commitment. Leave sufficient time for the close. Use the soft close “How would you like to go forward?” Always book the next stage before leaving the call.
2. Differentiate The Technical Experience
Getting the tech right promotes trust and builds credibility. To create a best practice experience:
Video – always have your video on.
Camera at eye level.
Head approx 10% from top of screen.
Divide screen vertically into thirds – occupy the middle third. Watch the BBC news and see where they put the newscaster on the screen.
Use a separate HD webcam if possible. Provides a higher res image than laptop camera. Quality builds trust online.
Lighting – make sure your face is well lit. Use additional face lights if room lighting not adequate. Ring lights work well – though not so good if you wear glasses as you can see reflection. Avoid overhead lights that cast unflattering shadows and backlighting that will make you look dull.
Audio – use an external USB mike, laptop mikes (unless you have a high end model) are usually not good enough. Often on TV you will see someone contributing remotely and their voice sounds tinny and scratchy – that’s either a poor connection or a poor quality mike.
With an external microphone the closer you place the mike to your mouth the better it sounds.
Ensure notifications are off and typing is muted. Other voices are especially distracting.
Background – tidy/rearrange as necessary, or find a plain wall. Or you can use the replace background feature. Be careful with this – to make it work professionally you need a well-lit green/blue screen behind you and an appropriate digital image to replace it. Be on brand. Note: the digital image will look better if slightly blurred (use an app with a gaussian filter). Teams has a useful blur background feature built in.
Avoid clothing with patterns and stripes. Avoid wearing green if using green screen.
Test everything before going live. Turn off all internet hungry apps – email, chrome.
3. Differentiate By Your Presence
Master your virtual presence. Be great at holding the customer’s attention. People buy people first. Most salespeople are too low key on video. Use your hands. Sit upright. Be animated but not too much as to be distracting. And remember to smile. Energy sells.
Dress as if attending an in-person meeting.
Look at the camera not the person on screen – but not all the time that can be too intense.
Be attentive – all phones, email etc off or in another room.
Use good body language/posture.
Get in the zone. Here’s a powerful but little known secret to presenting well – before the meeting and in private, laugh out loud, really laugh for 2 or 3 minutes – it puts a sparkle in your eye and sets you up to be at your best when it counts. If laughing out loud isn’t practical then laugh in your imagination. It works. In addition you can use PDT’s – physical determination techniques eg running on spot, massaging your facial muscles to get yourself ready.
Virtual selling has become a necessary skill set – enjoy it. Apply these tips and practise, practise, practise. You’ll be well on your way to mastery.
Relevant sales skills are taught in LDL’s The New Professional Selling Skills instructor-led programme and The New Rules of Selling on-demand sales training programme.
More about LDL sales training.