Virtual Selling – Part 3 What’s your story? Simple squared….

Virtual Selling – Part 3 What’s your story? Simple squared….

Back to basics is challenging enough

For many organisations the COVID crisis has stripped customer interaction back to the very core; no-frills, focus on the basics & keep it simple. Even that basic approach challenged client relationships as organisations grappled with survival within an ever-changing landscape, far from complete information and the impossibility of predicting the future…even the very near future.

As identified in previous articles Part 1 & Part 2; we talked about the likelihood that ‘virtual’ meetings will remain the norm and become a permanent feature into the future, as well as the 1% virtual sales club; those few who use the best practices of virtual meetings to sell to a customer and excel in customer engagement, all done virtually.

The same but more……and better

The good news here is that the very same elements that make physical customer meetings excellent are also a fundamental success criteria in the virtual world. The bad news is that this is simply the way that we now need to do it, compounded by the fact that technology demands better from you. In a series of articles & videos, we’ll explain what you need to do to get into the ‘1% virtual sales club.’

“Eight presentations a day – Arrrghhh !”

On a recent programme about creating selling stories, a participant mentioned that she used to be a retail buyer. I asked her about her experiences – “….eight presentations a day!” and she continued, exasperated, saying the long, complicated & dull presentations focused on them (the supplier) not her (the customer). Her ‘filing cabinet’ under the desk (the wire basket) was full of them; and this was the physical, face-to-face meetings. Add in the element of delivering virtually and the problem is multiplied. Physical meetings demand that we present potential solutions clearly and simply; virtual demands more – you are more dependent upon a visual representation of your solution in the virtual world. The ‘1% virtual club’ makes it even more simple & easy to understand.

More simple equals more believable

An unfortunate overhang from our primate human psychology is that the more simple something is to understand, the easier it is to believe. This unfortunate bias has been used by unscrupulous leaders for years and is still used today – simple stories trump facts every day. Don’t let that misuse put you off; there’s a big difference between simple & simplistic. Simple & clear sells, complicated & confusing doesn’t. Delivering virtually adds to potential confusion; in the virtual 1% club, you need to cut through this. 

‘Think Apple’ – keep it simple

One of the things that make the Apple brand stand-out, is the simple, easy & (generally!) intuitive nature of their products. You don’t get a big instruction manual, it’s not needed. They’ve used their clear intellect to make it easy….and delivered billions in shareholder value on the back of that clarity. In any forum, and especially the virtual one, this is the seller’s challenge. How can I make my solution simple, easy & intuitive? It takes intelligence to do this – throwing a virtual 80-page presentation at your customer is intellectually lazy. If you can’t tell your story in 10 pages or fewer, go back and think again.

What’s the story?

Too often a presentation is simply a data dump – that doesn’t work face-to-face, it’s worse virtually. First step – what is the outcome you are looking to achieve from this presentation? The answer to that question is unlikely to be to demonstrate just how much you know about a certain topic. Think harder – what do you want the audience to do, say, or feel? What are their key needs? What is the story I can visually tell to meet that outcome? Yes, a story. Think about your favourite movie and its flow – great movies tell great stories. Virtual business presentations need to do the same – what is the problem you are looking to solve? Customers aren’t particularly interested in your company, they’re interested in what your company can do for them, the problems you can solve. Like a good movie, your virtual presentation needs to tell that story.

Headlines sell

Your key messages need to stand out – headlines sell. It’s the key thing to cut through the distraction of virtual. Simple, short & punchy. This is what will be remembered, your headlines tell the story. Any data, charts or visuals are back-up for your headlines. If you need to spend 10 minutes explaining your message & the back-up graphs, that’s feedback. Too complicated. What THE key message and THE key chart that backs it up – 1 chart will do, 3 shows desperation.

Building blocks matter

In the physical world, the use of different media formats that add to your message is great practice. Virtually, you are more likely to be reliant on something like PowerPoint, so make the most of it. Details always matter, more so virtually. You have enough added distraction already in the virtual environment, don’t add to it with multiple fonts, sizes, and poor spelling. Your story needs to be easily absorbed visually – highlight key points and ensure the slides build correctly. Poor builds or too many whizzy animations drive an added distraction that diminishes your message.

Ask for what you want?

Make your proposal simple, clear & obvious – what is it that you want your customer to do? This seems obvious but all too frequently it isn’t obvious at the end of the story. Be clear what you want & ask for it. If you don’t ask for what you want, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get it.

Stand out in the ‘virtual 1% club’

Everything discussed in this article applies to the physical world of face-to-face sales meetings. The same core principles delivered virtually. The added distractions and more limited attention spans in the virtual environment make them even more important – ‘simple-squared’ if you like.

If you want to know more about Virtual Selling, check out our website and feel free to share this article.

Gareth Moxom

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