Ben Harper, CEO and Founder of Meethugo.com
Our guest contribution today comes from Ben Harper, founder and CEO of meethugo.com who shares his guide to improve your success with virtual sales. Over to you, Ben...
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the constraints it has placed on the face-to-face interaction that was taken for granted just twelve months ago, has forced many professionals to reinvent how they operate – none more so than in sales.
There is good news, though, in recent years technological innovations have given sales professionals the scope to interact remotely with their prospective buyers. However, this means a salesperson must find new ways to develop an organic relationship, which can be especially difficult within a small business environment.
They must be upbeat and intentional in taking the lead in five core areas to ensure that the transition to a virtual setting is as organic as possible.
Core Vital #1: Connection
Connecting with a prospect is the very essence of the selling process, and it basically means developing a trusting dynamic with potential buyers to ensure they’re willing to engage in the conversations that eventually result in sales.
Connection in sales can be broken down into three areas:
- Creating an environment for the right conversations to take place.
- Developing a rapport with a prospect.
Sellers must be a trusted authority that potential customers instinctively want to pay attention to and ultimately buy from. In a face-to-face situation, someone’s natural charisma and presence will shine through when they enter the room.
Virtually though, a salesperson must deliberately project their professionalism in order to create the necessary space to build a relationship with their prospect.
Sellers must manage their virtual meetings in a way that is faster, more coordinated, and more streamlined. This way, a potential buyer will feel as though they’ve used their time more productively and are interested in finding out how the rest of the process plays out.
Core Vital #2: Engage
In both working and personal circles, the uncertainties and challenges mean that it’s far more problematic for a selling party to grasp and maintain their audience’s attention during a virtual meeting.
To engage, you must:
- Grab attention.
- Maximise engagement.
- Visually inspire your prospect.
During a virtual meeting, a robust lead-in will immediately grab the attention of your audience; from here, it’s up to you to ensure that you never let their attention drift from your core message.
The best way of keeping your buyer engaged throughout is to follow the 30+3 rule. This means you must capture their attention within the first 30 seconds and then reengage them every three minutes throughout your virtual pitch. You can do this by taking a few moments every couple of minutes to ask questions or invite collaboration from your opposite number.
There’s nothing in the rule book that says that your prospect must be looking at you throughout the entire pitch. In fact, actively encourage interaction using diagrams, tables, and other interactive elements to maintain their attention.
Since virtual meetings rely on more visual cues than a face-to-face meeting, you should ensure that interactivity and visual elements are consistent throughout your pitch.
Those who can draw their audience in, create engagement and take the buying party on a journey, are those who will have a far better time closing sales online.
Core Vital #3: Collaboration
Data from Salesforce suggests that 60% of sales pros feel that collaborative selling has increased productivity by more than 25%, and 52% of respondents have reported positive changes to their sales pipeline as a direct result too.
The three key areas of virtual selling collaboration, include:
- Facilitating interaction.
- Mastering technology.
- Enabling breakthroughs.
Sales professionals must take the lead in a virtual setting to involve prospects in the sales conversation, by talking with them to establish a free-flow of ideas, rather than talking at them – statistics show that 19% of buyers want to connect with the salesperson during these early stages of the sale.
Integrating technology and collaboration tools can make this process far easier. Even something as simple as a brainstorming session using a shared screen can be an incredibly powerful collaboration method.
As we mentioned, buyers wish to make a connection with you as a salesperson, and when collaborative methods are done well, it can lead to breakthroughs in the sales process far earlier.
A seller that can collaborate well on the virtual plain will be the one that can tap into the buyer’s perspective and open up new avenues for ideas that can move a project forward.
Core Vital #4: Influence
We all know that influence is at the very heart of the sales process. In whatever environment a salesperson is selling in, they are agents of change whose job is to persuade their prospects to approach problems in different ways.
To effectively influence, you need to be able to:
- Persuade virtually.
- Solidify relationships.
- Augment reputation.
This part of the process starts with proposing a series of change drivers.
Becoming an influencer means you must forge relationships based on strategy and opportunity, which needs to benefit both buying and selling parties equally.
When you use your influence virtually, you can drive behaviour, alleviate pain points and promote change. When this happens, buyers have more confidence in the idea that you’re trying to promote evolution as a positive to benefit not just yourself, but your prospect’s interests too.
Core Vital #5: Benefit
Your expertise in the product or service you’re selling is what your prospect is looking for, and you must be able to offer this to every prospect by:
- Understanding the key points of the product.
- Learning about the challenges that face your prospect.
- Offering a unique perspective.
When virtual selling, it’s important to really hit the ground running by creating value even before the meeting begins. Offering your unique take on your prospect’s situation and talking about your experiences with other companies you’re currently working with, means that you need to pull some research together beforehand.
Many buyers won’t be especially comfortable with virtual sales, and most certainly won’t have the patience to sit through pitches that don’t offer benefits to them. This means you need to be prepared with targeted questions, stats, presentations, and visual literature that pertains to their specific situation.
The best part of doing this is that you don’t need to wing it. You can have everything prepared and ready to ensure that you’re always able to offer the benefit and value your prospect will be looking for at every juncture.
Mastering the Virtual Sales Process
Every part of the selling process will have a different twist when it is done virtually. Fundamentally, though, salespeople will need to build on the skills and habits that have helped them succeed when selling face-to-face.
When times are tough, salespeople instinctively wish to call or visit their prospects more frequently, but that can be especially difficult when so many of us are away from our desks working remotely.
By focusing on the five core fundamentals, you can help both yourself and your prospects transition to a virtual setting. Of course, there are many challenges to overcome when trying to build relationships through a screen particular when you’re doing so as a small business, but using these tips, you can ultimately close the gap between on and offline experiences.