Virtual Selling – Part 4: Use the tools in the virtual kitbag…
Back to basics and joining the 1% club
Following the COVID crisis, customer interaction has been stripped back to the very core; no-frills, focus on the basics & keep it simple. Grappling with survival, organisations using even the basic approach, are facing challenging client relationships.
But with some form of stability beginning to emerge in certain sectors, and a slight shift back to more ‘normal’ customer engagements, it is an almost certainty that ‘virtual’ meetings will remain the new norm and become a permanent feature into the future. But, “How do we interact with our customers virtually in a way that gets the most out of the experience for all?”
As discussed in our previous articles; Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, we’ve been talking about 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.
In this next part of articles & videos, we’ll explain what you need to do next, to get into the “1% virtual sales club.”
“Even if it only gave you an extra 1%, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Anyone who knows about sport will know that following the English football team (soccer team) can be an emotionally traumatic experience. Amongst their famous international event failures, they have been in World Cup penalty shoot-outs in 1990, 1996 & 2006. All were lost. If it was based upon pure luck, you would wager to have won at least 1 out of 3.
2018 was different – England WON!! Ex-England international Gary Lineker spoke about this recently, “We never practiced, I never understood it. Even if it only gave you an extra 1%, why wouldn’t you do it?”. The team of 2018 did practice, gained the extra 1% and won.
What has this got to do with virtual selling? Everything. Research suggests that only 12% of sales professionals use ‘human’ interaction tools during customer meetings. For 88%, a virtual meeting equals a presentation. Despite this, 70% of business professionals expect online collaboration to increase in the future, which looks pretty bleak and an interesting definition of the term ‘collaboration’… I’d love to know how collaboration works without interaction and just talking ‘at’ the customer…
The 1% virtual club (the very few people amongst the population of sales professionals that get it right) utilises the new ‘tools in the kitbag’. If you’re of the mindset that ‘my customer doesn’t do that’, ‘we don’t do it like that’ or ‘it won’t work’, feel free to save yourself the time and bother of reading on. Even if it only gave you an extra 1%, why wouldn’t you use the new tools in the ‘virtual kitbag’?
It’s all about interaction…
In previous articles, I have discussed how working virtually saps energy faster than a physical meeting. To counter this, keep it short (60-90 minutes maximum), punchy, and, crucially, interactive. Because most sales professionals don’t do this well, many customers expect the meetings to be passive; this is your opportunity to stand-out and plan your interactions – engage your customer! This is important in a physical meeting, but even more important virtually. You should be aiming to engage your customer every few minutes to keep, and maintain, interest.
You have a new kitbag
Using questions is vital and how you use them, even more vital. This was covered in my article about understanding the human element, but there are many more tools available now, that you don’t have in physical meetings – Chat, Annotation, Virtual Rooms & Jamboards to name but a few. These are great tools, particularly when engaging larger groups and they enable you to gather views faster than a physical meeting would allow. It also enables a richer conversation as you can address & probe views by name. One crucial advantage virtual meetings can offer, is the flattening of hierarchy; because the input is more likely to occur simultaneously, this reduces the impact of ‘group-think’ or ‘let’s wait to see what the boss says’.
Let them draw…
Annotation tools enable you to gather views swiftly; polling provides another mechanism, but in my view, is just a bit more boring. Be creative in your use of visual cues, like temperature gauges, scales, or tick boxes to assess where your customer groups stand on big topics. These tools are hugely under-utilised probably because they’re associated with being ‘fun’ – apparently customer meetings have to be boring and deadly serious – right? Wrong. The use of humour is a key tool for building rapport with other people. You want to be dull? Make the right choice.
Smaller groups for richer input
Even in the virtual world, and in bigger groups, customers may be reluctant to contribute in an open forum. Placing people into smaller groups gives a ‘safer’ space which encourages contribution and increases engagement levels. The use of ‘chat rooms’ combined with virtual collaboration tools such as Google Jamboards, actually gives virtual meetings an edge over physical ones. These can be constructed in seconds and participants can be brought back into the ‘room’ in an instant.
Attitude determines success
Your language will point towards your attitude and your attitude will determine the success or otherwise of these new tools. To maximise your chances of utilising the new kitbag, three things are critical:-
- As with taking World Cup penalties, practice builds confidence. Make sure you know when and how the tools will be used. Practice them before the meeting & make sure they work. Signal to your customer that you’ll be using them and ensure they use a computer – phones and smaller screens either don’t work or can’t be seen. Before the meeting starts, ask your customer to practice the tools you’re going to use – prepare a slide to show where the tools are & get them to try them out.
- Be confident in your language and ask what you want them to do. You don’t need to apologise for standing out, being different, and engaging your customer professionally. Use firm language – “In Chat, what are your thoughts on….” is much more confident and professional than “I’m sorry, I know it’s different but it would be great if you could trouble yourself….”
- If you’re going to use tools such as breakout groups & Jamboards, get a colleague to act as the ‘Producer’ and operate these tools on your behalf. It takes the pressure off you, so that you can concentrate on the most important thing – engaging with your customer.
Stand out in the ‘virtual 1% club’
Everything discussed in this article is designed to help you stand out from the rest – rise above the ‘fog of sameness’ that pervades the virtual customer engagement experience. Go on, be different and stand-out. Welcome to the 1% Virtual Club!
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