Online meeting technologies are important tools for sales professionals in “normal” times.
In this virtual time, embracing online technology is critical. Online sales meetings are not the same as in-person meetings or phone calls. There are similarities, but it takes specific actions to make the most of an online sales meeting.
Consider different ways of using online communication to stay connected and drive your sales process beyond initial qualification. By examining different ways to stay connected, you will gain long-term efficiencies that will sustain you far after we all come up for air.
Like all sales performance, the skills you use in online sales meetings develop and improve with practice. Here are some tips for making the most of online sales meetings.
1. UNDERSTAND THE POTENTIAL OF ONLINE SALES CALLS VS. FACE TO FACE MEETINGS
Many sales people jump to face to face meetings as soon as commitment for taking the discovery conversation deeper. Is a face to face meeting absolutely necessary, or can the same result be accomplished through a virtual sales call? We work with many sales teams that sell complicated solutions completely online. I have successfully worked with some of my largest clients without meeting them face to face, and have built strong relationships. Think about the doors that could open for you by perfecting your online sales calls. For me, it meant working with more international clients, how about you? Online meetings enable you to have your resources at your fingertips. You can cover more ground, connect with more people, save the drive time and advance sales faster if you master the necessary skills.
Tip #1: Ask yourself, “Is a face-to-face meeting necessary, or can the same (or better) result be accomplished more efficiently online?” Then, look at opportunities to make this happen within your current workload.
2. PREPARATION IS KEY, EVEN FOR SPONTANEOUS MEETINGS
Many online sales meetings happen spontaneously, and you may not have time to carry out detailed preparations. That’s why it’s important to be able to act quickly. Having client information as well as your visual aids and other resources at your fingertips lets you be ready when the opportunity for an impromptu online sales meeting arises. Practicing with the online technology you use beforehand is important. Perhaps you and a colleague can role-play an online sales meeting so you can identify and prepare for possible difficulties beforehand. Better to plan for all meetings:
Deciding on the Platform – Companies often adopt specific software for internal and sometimes external meetings. The venue itself is not as important as ensuring that it works! Ask your customer which technologies they support and be prepared to shift your technology to accommodate. Test online connections before the meeting starts. Know your online meeting software forward and backward so you can focus on connecting with your customer, helping him/her identify needs, asking the right questions, and speaking to the solutions that your products or services offer the business.
Open All Resources – Fumbling around looking for supporting documents is cumbersome during online meetings. Anticipate everything you may need to pull during your meeting. Online meetings can be more efficient than face to face in this case. It is like having your whole closet with you on a vacation, and you can pull what you need when you need it!
Use at Least Two Monitors – If you are in front of a computer, use two screens, one to have the necessary documents open that you may need and the second to actually share information and monitor the conversation. Pull documents from your “closet” as needed to the presentation screen.
Invest in a Good Headset and Microphone – Don’t attempt a call through the computer without one! Make sure all other speakers are off so you avoid feedback. Or, eliminate the VOIP phone and call the customer directly, using online software as visual only. Consider international and toll-free numbers in your meeting plan to avoid charges to your customer.
Camera or No Camera? This depends on many factors. First, some people are just not comfortable using a camera. If you are trying to discover customer needs, cameras can be distracting. Use cameras where you really want to have the face to face connection. Use cameras for initial introductions – turn the cameras off when you or the customer pull specific resources on screen, or simply share your extra screen. This will take practice and knowing the capabilities of your software. Like every other sales interaction, ask your customer if they prefer to use a camera or not! Use cameras when you need to conduct a product demonstration or walk through.
Tip #2: Practice makes you better and better with each call. Practice with the technology and resources that you will use during your call to ensure you make the most of every opportunity.
3. CONDUCTING VIRTUAL PLANT TOURS AND PRODUCT DEMONSTRATIONS
So, this might really push your virtual thinking. If you have a product or service solution that needs demonstration, or if your solution depends on a plant tour of walk through of the client’s premises, try this:
Walk throughs – Send specific guidelines in advance – ask the customer to walk you through their facility taking pauses for questions. Emulate the actual event as if you were there. Because it is difficult to conduct both the visual and audio on one device (actually have the conversation and look at the facility) try two devices. Use your online meeting software and ask the customer to call you so you can have a conversation – and stream the walk through via another handheld device. Or, ask the customer to record a walk through of their facility and then meet online to review together, pausing for questions and dialogue.
Demonstrations – If you require a physical product demonstration, use at least two people, one to man the camera and audio device and another to conduct the actual demonstration. Record the demonstration so you can replay and review any questions or salient points. If feasible – send the product in advance so your customer can practice the demo as you are instructing. Consider creating interactive demos using virtual reality tools and other simulation technologies.
Tip #3 : Stretch your virtual thinking by considering ways to take traditional sales presentations and demonstrations online. Orchestrate your activities at this level to ensure success.
4. CONSULTATIVE SALES SKILLS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT IN ONLINE MEETINGS
Consultative sales skills are important regardless of meeting venue. How you apply these skills may differ with each communication vehicle and you may also need to make other preparations.
Pay attention to the customer’s behavioral and communication style. Some people need to see or even touch exactly what you recommend and others would prefer to listen and have a conversation. Be ready to adjust to whomever is on the call.
Don’t read through your presentation. Instead, use visual aids to support the interaction with the customer, pulling the right supporting documents, websites or other resources as needed, just as you would in an in-person interaction. Like all sales skills, you develop your online sales meeting skills through preparation and practice. When you become comfortable with the technology and the medium, you will be able to put clients at ease and allow you consultative sales skills to help you do what you do best: solve problems, address needs and add value for your customers.
Be ready to close on specific actions and next steps. Propose the next phase of the sales process without suggesting an in-person meeting by defining next steps, “Here is what I think makes sense moving forward. You have seen how our solution can help you increase your market share while reducing operation costs. Let me put the final numbers together. I will send a proposal and then let’s meet next week via online meeting to finalize details.” Then, book a meeting and send your invite.
Tip #4: Consultative selling applies to all methods of interaction. Practice using visual aids to naturally collaborate with clients during online meetings. If you have detailed information to review, either send it in advance or after the meeting. Confirm your meeting at least 24 hours in advance.
5. TRANSITION YOUR INTERNAL TEAMS TO VIRTUAL THINKING
I spoke with a salesperson today who said, “I have to go to the office, I have to meet with engineering and talk to production about my customer’s order.” So, of course I asked, “Why do you have to meet in person?” He paused and said, “Because that is what we do.” Now more than ever is time to challenge traditional thinking. Do you really have to meet in person? Questioning any point of contact will help you operate more efficiently now and in the future. Since mid-2000’s, Impact Sales Training has evolved from approximately 70% in-person training to almost 80% online training and coaching, both synchronous and asynchronous. This was deliberate, not because of a virus, rather, because of deliberate response to more efficient means of delivering sales training.
Tip# 5: Challenge yourself and your team to think virtually and explore ways to better serve customers, operate most efficiently and maximize your time and resources. Look at today’s adversity as a means to evolve to the next chapter of efficiency for your organization.