80 weeks! We are approaching 80 weeks of managing complex sales cycles virtually. When it comes to complex sales, we have learned several critical lessons about how to connect and gain a relationship advantage. We have gleaned insights on how to maintain momentum in deals when the opportunity to drop in for a chat or coffee has been robbed from us.
The dynamics of connecting to other human beings over a pixelated, digital medium has given rise to an untold number of mind and heart challenges. We are no longer able to feel the vibe in the room. We can’t read the body language as easily. It has become increasingly more difficult to get the feel for how a sales call is going. And if the participants aren’t on video? Forget it!
And then there are the practical challenges of the virtual meeting. You can’t exactly pull someone aside to go get a cup of coffee or have a quiet chat off the record. The social elements of gathering for the meeting are lost on a virtual meeting. We have all waited five minutes past the meeting start time for the last participant to join while we are texting and instant messaging them – awkward moments abound.
Here are four of the simplest but most effective key lessons for conducting complex sales campaigns from a distance:
- Communication Needs to Be More Personal
The more formal you are and the more salesy you sound, the less likely you are going to break through the artificial barrier of the digital environment. Using this style will only be exaggerated online. To avoid this, use “I” instead of “we.” Leverage your personality – be yourself! Use simple language. The more clearly you communicate, the more chance you have of making a difference.
Informality is your friend. Leverage the fact that we are all working in this mixed up personal / business world from home. Be brave and take the risk to let your personality and sense of humor shine to build a fast connection.
- Being on Camera Is the New Normal
There was time a couple of years ago, in the age of conference calls, that audio was the sole communication medium. This is no longer. The norm now is we are all expected to be on camera, so we need to invest in ourselves to know how to leverage it to our advantage.
There are numerous tutorials or YouTube videos that can teach us about backgrounds (please set up a proper office and get rid of your fake background – it’s very distracting!) and making sure we have the right lighting. When on calls, watch yourself to ensure you are in frame and looking at the camera (i.e., at the person you are speaking to). No one wants to look at your forehead up close and personal!
- Gain Agreement on Next Steps
If you finish a virtual sales call, either with one person or six, and you do not have absolute agreement on next steps, the chances are you have scored (as they say in soccer) an “own goal.” It is too easy for people to get distracted with other important matters after your call. Unless you have created unstoppable momentum, the chances are you will be left in the follow up email mode. Not a great place to be.
I was on a sales call last week where I was the client. At the end of the call, the salesperson put up a slide which clearly asked me to agree on which of the following steps I would prefer to take to further evaluate options and progress (including a timeline). It demonstrated confidence and it felt professional in the way it was executed. We agreed to a follow up call one week later.
- Listen More, Talk Less
Virtual sales meetings are typically limited in time compared to face-to-face, so we need to be significantly more perceptive about aligning than ever before. It means the ratio of listening to talking must change. If we do not clearly understand our client’s needs, thoughts, priorities, and perspectives before we open our mouth, then we increase the risk of completely missing the mark.
And once we miss the mark in a virtual environment, the way back is a long and painful journey.
Consciously spend more time investing in your lines of inquiry about what is trying to be achieved, what is important, and what are the risks. Demonstrate your interest in their world, which will enable you to connect and align.
The above four points are probably the easiest to execute with a bit of focus. My observation is that many salespeople have underestimated their importance. Address them now and watch things get easier in your virtual sales career!
Take the time to invest in yourself by improving in each of the four areas from this article. Practice your webcam persona and plan your questions for your next important call.