IS SELLING IN A VIRTUAL WORLD REALLY THAT DIFFERENT?
It’s almost a year since we first entered lockdown here in the UK and so much has changed in our working and personal lives. New words and phrases have entered our everyday vocabulary. The other day I was reflecting on this whilst out on a socially distanced cycle ride with a neighbour and remarked that I hadn’t meet anyone face to face in a business context since lockdown 1.0. He enquired, had we managed to keep going and I commented that yes, in fact we had won business with new customers. I started to talk about how actually from a sales perspective, not much has actually changed, before becoming temporarily distracted and having to take evasive action to avoid the large puddle ahead.
Now settled back in the warmth of my study, it made me think. Is selling in the virtual world really that different? I thought it might be helpful to expand on why I think some things haven’t changed.
ACCELERATED LEARNING IN A NEW VIRTUAL WORLD
There is no doubt, we have had to hit the accelerator pedal hard and accelerate into a new virtual world. We have had to learn a whole bunch of new tools, Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, etc. Whilst these are new and we all like new tech, a lot of the behaviours that are needed to have a successful sales outcome are still required.
All the research conducted into sales success, indicates that verbal behaviours are super important, whether its listening, asking the right type of questions, or pausing and not filling the silence. And now, when you can be sucked in by all this new tech, it’s much harder to pick up on non-verbal indicators. Utilising these verbal skills and behaviours in a virtual context is now even more important.
USE ACTIVE LISTENING WHEN SELLING
Before I move on, the most important sales skill and often the most underrated, is Active Listening. And the problem with increasing automation in the sales process, there is increased pressure to close deals faster, even more so in today’s Covid world. But to help prospects get what they actually want, you need to understand their needs; which means you need to listen. Which reminds me of some great advice I was given when I first started out. My manager told me I needed to act like Mickey Mouse, to which I replied I’m not quite sure what you mean. The reply came “Mickey has two big ears, two eyes and one mouth, use yours in that ratio”; advice I never forgotten!!!
SELLING IN A NEW VIRTUAL WORLD – MY TOP TIPS
So, what are some of things as a seller you should be doing, in addition to active listening to make your virtual meeting as successful as it can be?
- First, and most importantly, figure where you are in the buying journey; this is fundamental. If the buyer is at the very early stages of the buying journey, they don’t want to be hit with a barrage of slides proclaiming how great your company is. You are in mortal danger of your audience switching the camera off and reading their emails or checking their next online order.
- Think about what your opening statement is going to be. How are you going to ensure your prospect feels it’s going to be worthwhile spending time talking with you?
- Without some of the behavioural clues to spot, on a virtual call there’s an even bigger tendency to fill the silence. And the danger is inexperienced sellers will fill this with talking about the features of their solution, without first hearing what the prospect’s pain points are. How will you stop yourself filling the silence?
- To make sure you are on track and the prospect is still engaged, take time to test your understanding of the problem, summarise where you think you’ve got to. It’s a great way of getting engagement from others on the call who may have stayed silent and have their cameras switched off.
- As we’re now in a virtual world, have all the notes you have prepared for the meeting to hand. I’m not suggesting you read from a pre-prepared script, but why not have the list of questions you want to ask sitting next to your laptop. Much easier to do in a virtual world than in a face to face meeting.
- And lastly, just because it’s a virtual call, don’t forget to ask for some form of commitment. Too often we forget to ask for this and it doesn’t have to be big, just something the prospect is going to do for you.
And a final thought – Is selling in a virtual world really that different? When I pedal out this weekend and we pick on the conversation again, I’ll reflect and say yes, we have some new technology, yes we can’t meet prospects face to face, but the basics of having a successful sales conversations haven’t really changed. Don’t let the technology take the lead, make sure you take control, do the basics right and success will follow.
Stay safe and well
About Chris Smith - Chris has considerable experience of leading complex projects involving multiple stakeholders and third parties across public and commercial sectors. He is passionate about sales and business development and has the good fortune to have worked for, and with many of, the world’s leading technology companies. Chris has over 30 years of experience of winning and delivering innovative technology solutions into a variety of different industry sectors, ranging from £100k to £20m+.
At JA Consulting we help businesses and individuals take the theory of selling and put it into practice. We’re here to help you learn how to spot and grow business opportunities, how to develop strong and transferable selling skills and how to generate robust account management.
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Look out for more hints and tips coming soon.