THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC offered sales reps a crash intro to selling virtually. It’s a medium that brings some advantages and will likely have staying power even as the pandemic recedes, so channel pros would do well to hone their skills.
A sales meeting via Zoom or Teams is a radically different experience than an in-person engagement, however, and reps will encounter some new challenges. For instance, "you can’t read body language as well or notice things as you walk around an office," notes business consultant Mike Schmidtmann of Trans4mers, a peer group for IT sales executives based in Warrenton, Va. This can be daunting for reps who rely on physical queues to gauge if their pitch is resonating.
And rather than feed off the energy in a room, reps now must sustain their own energy, “because they are alone in a room speaking to a machine," says Kit Pang, founder of BostonSpeaks, which offers public speaking training. On a virtual call, for instance, there tends to be more silence than in face-to-face meetings, a prospect that can fluster the presenter.
To overcome these issues, sales reps need "a cadence to your call that is different remotely than it is face to face," says Gil Cargill, an IT industry sales coach and head of Cargill Consulting Group, based in Marina Del Rey, Calif. Specifically, you need to interrupt your presentation more often and ask questions, he says. Examples are: Does this aspect of my service satisfy your needs? Did I address the concerns you expressed last week?
These questions serve two purposes: They let prospects know that sales reps are listening too, and understand their needs; and they engage prospects in the process, because virtual meetings can be challenging for them as well. "A customer faces multiple distractions that a sales rep can't pick up in a remote meeting," Cargill says.
Preparation is key to making virtual meetings successful, and just as important as having a fast and stable internet connection and high-quality camera and microphone. Reps should practice speaking to a camera while referring to notes. Practice sessions can be recorded, affording flexible opportunities for training or watching replays.
Cargill stresses the need for a professional setting too, which could be as simple as using one of the free backgrounds on Zoom. "It's inexcusable to see a sales rep giving a presentation from his or her bedroom and it looks like my teenage son's bedroom from 20 years ago," he quips.
In addition, reps should pay attention to production values. "Too many virtual presentations look like hostage videos," Schmidtmann says. This can be mitigated through a few tweaks, including soft lighting aimed at the speaker and a camera angle that points slightly down. And, of course, he adds, "find a way to mute the barking dogs and screaming kids."