Over the past several months, we have heard many stories from salespeople complaining about how they are now relegated to selling in a virtual world. The hesitancy, and even fear in some cases, is driven by the fact that even though many of us are working on new opportunities where most of our interaction is virtual, we know there is always a preference to meet face-to-face.
Most of us tend to enjoy the face-to-face setting a lot more. It enables us to read the reactions of people we are interacting with more easily and we feel it is a lot easier to build connections. This is especially true with people we have not yet had the chance to build an established relationship.
Rather than being defensive about total virtual selling, let’s turn the tables!
How can we use this environment to build a competitive relationship advantage?
We know from our training that connection is the ultimate source of competitive advantage. We can use this time, when our competitors are feeling uncomfortable, to strike!
There are five simple guidelines for gaining a competitive advantage in situations where you may not know the client individuals that well, especially as it relates to a virtual presentation.
1. People Research
When we meet people for the first time in a face-to-face presentation (you remember… when we walk in a room and shake hands) we consciously or subconsciously “size up” each person – their personality, the way they dress and conduct themselves, are they reserved or outgoing, are they pleased to see us, is their body language positive or negative, etc.
We make this assessment quickly so by the time we start talking to the group, we have been able to assess individuals and can also pick up on clues about the relationships between people.
None of this is possible on a virtual call.
Therefore, we need another way to gather this critical people and relationship information.
Allocate specific uninterruptable time for you or your team to thoroughly research the individuals on the call. Talk to your supporters, get on LinkedIn, and use one of the amazing websites that provide personality insights. Draw them up on a chart and create a profile for each person so you can visualize them when they come on the call.
2. Set the Outcome as the Destination
A common destination for the call ensures everyone can become part of the same team, which releases the energy for discussion (more on this later).
This is the first opportunity for collaboration – once you have established the destination, this becomes the GPS destination.
3. Be Bold with Video
The number one reason people dislike using video is because we simply don’t like the way we look on camera. This is not a reason for you to give up trying to create a visual connection. Get on the call early and turn your video on. When they jump on the call, they may turn theirs on too. But if not, push on and show how much you are enjoying the conversation. Be active on video. Don’t give them the stare so close that we can see your new dental work. Relax – just like you would in a normal meeting.
4. Create Energy
Energy does not come naturally on a virtual call. It needs to be created and the way to do that is by stimulating conversation. It might be great in a face-to-face presentation to have the audience nodding – but on a virtual call, often all the others feel is the awkward silence! This is the time to be bold with our points of view. This is the time when a, “No, I don’t quite agree with those priorities…”, can be great! When selling virtually, contrary points of view are your friend, not your enemy.
5. Facilitate – Do Not Present!
Presenting is typically either one-way or two-way communication. If I am speaking and the others on the call are asking questions, it is a two-way communication. This will drain energy out of your virtual room. However, bringing the stimulation of three-way conversation to the table can be a game-changer. Let’s say John asks a question. Open it up to the others to provide their perspective before you are tempted to respond directly to him yourself. Call out people by name but give them advance warning. For example, “Francesca, I would like your thoughts on what I am about to outline next…” This gives them time to re-engage if they have been distracted.
When you have managed to create a vibrant conversation environment, where people are freely sharing their points of view, you have now become a facilitator. It is a great feeling! The load falls off your shoulders and your role becomes one of guiding the group and recalculating the route to the agreed destination. And there you have a virtual competitive relationship advantage.
For your next important virtual call, prepare yourself based on the five simple guidelines in the article. Role play the call with your colleagues and ask for honest feedback. After three times you will be amazed at your progress!