Today's blog post is by Ben Taylor. He is the content marketing manager at Richardson. He has an MBA in finance from LaSalle University and over a decade of business and writing experience. He has covered content for brands such as Nasdaq, Barclaycard, and Business Insider.
Virtual selling requires more than a camera.
Sales teams are discovering that virtual selling is different from executing normal sales conversations in front of a screen. They are learning that being effective over video requires more than simply transferring in-person selling skills to a video interface.
Understanding these new skills is critical because virtual selling isn’t temporary; it will become an accepted method of business as selling organizations become accustomed to the time and money saved with an approach that doesn’t require travel or logistical burdens.
Let’s look at the top selling skills salespeople need to move sales forward and close deals while working remotely.
Skill #1: Pace yourself so you have energy to engage customers.
Selling virtually can be unexpectedly draining.
During in-person sales presentations, individual sales professionals have an opportunity to catch their breath as they hand off the floor to a teammate. In a virtual setting, this recovery time is not possible. Every sales professional is always on camera. Therefore, they must be engaged – and engaging – from beginning to end.
Maintaining continuous engagement is difficult because a virtual connection often lacks the energy sharing that occurs when everyone is in the same room. The spontaneity of lively discussion can feel dampened as individuals wait for their opportunity to talk or when customers choose to mute themselves.
The solution to these challenges is to enter every virtual sales presentation and discussion with the expectation that it will require enormous energy and stamina. Knowing this aspect of virtual selling in advance prevents the unexpected exhaustion (which some are referring to as “Zoom gloom”) that can set in during the second half of the call.
Tip #2: Embrace difficult questions to advance the sale.
Your customers face new and unexpected challenges right now. In nearly all cases, the customer’s challenges have intensified and become more near-term.
Many customers are seeking ways to maintain revenue and preserve capital amid growing threats from diminishing GDP. This reality of our current economy has changed the dynamic of the sales conversation. The customer’s challenges will shape your key selling challenges.
Helping customers clarify the specific nature of these challenges is critical to properly positioning the right solution. The problem: Seeking clarity on these issues means asking the kinds of questions that may yield unpleasant truths. Sales professionals who fear this discomfort choose to avoid sensitive topics.
A better approach: Face this stress directly. Sensitive questions are necessary. In fact, avoiding such questions “can be economically costly,” according to social science research from The University of Pennsylvania. The researchers worked with nearly 1,000 participants in their study. After reviewing the findings, they determined that “question askers believe that asking sensitive questions will cause greater discomfort than they actually do, and they expect that asking sensitive questions will harm the respondent’s impression of them more than they actually do.” So, go ahead and ask sensitive questions.
Doing so often fosters a sense of candor that advances the relationship and encourages openness among the stakeholders.
Tip #3: Safeguard against external distractions.
Distractions have an outsized influence on virtual selling. Stakeholders are either at their screen or in a conference room with their phone or individual laptop nearby. As a result, they are still exposed to the alerts, updates, emails, and notifications that have become the “white noise” of our daily lives.
In an in-person setting, these distractions are limited because social norms keep people focused on the speaker. However, in a virtual setting, stakeholders can listen to and respond to these distractions inconspicuously. Therefore, sales professionals need to take a proactive stance against distractions that are unseen but not uncommon.
Sales professionals can overcome this characteristic of virtual selling by asking individual stakeholders for their feedback. This person-to-person approach keeps stakeholders alert because they know they may receive a question about their opinion at any time. This interactive approach encourages participants to keep their video and microphone on.
The key is to avoid a one-way conversation in which the sales professional merely presents information. A conversational approach is more effective because it keeps distractions to a minimum, and it enables the sales professional to understand the details behind the customer’s challenges and goals.
Succeeding in selling virtually requires understanding the new rules of engagement. As this approach to business normalizes, sales professionals need to develop heightened energy, incisive questions, and a proactive approach to distractions to succeed.
For more insight about transitioning your sales team to sell virtually, check out Richardson’s Virtual Selling Training Program.