During recent months the selling industry has experienced a rapid shift toward virtual selling. This shift arose from practical needs related to the global pandemic and the benefits associated with frequently and immediately engaging customers over virtual media.
While virtual selling presents an exciting new opportunity for sales teams, it also creates new traps for sellers unprepared to effectively connect with clients in a virtual setting.
The most common mistakes sales professionals make when selling virtually include:
- Assuming rapport will emerge naturally
- Expecting customers to be engaged
- Anticipating the meeting will flow like it does in person
- Assuming the technology will work
Here we examine these for traps and solutions for overcoming them in greater detail.
Assuming Rapport Will Emerge NaturallyThe Problem: Rapport typically develops more easily in-person because conversation can spark from simple observations about the physical surroundings.
The Solution: Sales professionals must do more to facilitate the casual conversation that eventually leads to a formal discussion. They should research current events in the customer’s business and industry to help prompt the conversation in the early moments when everyone is still getting comfortable with being on camera.
Expecting a Similar Level of EngagementThe Problem: Distractions have a greater influence over the conversation in a virtual meeting. The ping of emails, messages, and other environmental factors cannot be eliminated the way they are behind the closed doors of a conference room. These distractions inhibit focus and collaboration.
The Solution: To overcome this challenge, sales professionals should state early in the call that they plan to seek feedback from specific participants throughout the conversation. This approach not only communicates that the sales professional welcomes the customer’s opinion, but it also alerts the participants to the idea that they may be called on at any time.
Expecting the Meeting to Flow as It Does in PersonThe Problem: Time can appear to move faster in a virtual meeting because start times almost always occur later since one or several participants tend to log on late. Once the meeting begins, many sales professionals feel compelled to also diminish the timeline given that customers become impatient faster and can disengage without it becoming obvious as it would during an in-person meeting.
The Solution: Addressing this characteristic of the virtual sale means taking two steps. First, sales professionals must choose a duration for the meeting that allows plenty of time to start the meeting. Second, it is critical to resist the urge to speed through the meeting once customers begin to show signs of disengagement. The key is to re-engage customers with participation, not acceleration.
Assuming Technology Will WorkThe Problem: More than any other factor, technology has the potential to kill a virtual sale. One failed connection can end the meeting. Rescheduling becomes difficult amid competing schedules and the underlying sense that the opportunity has passed.
The Solution: Sales professionals must test and retest their technology to ensure that everything that can be controlled is controlled. It is critical to check the audio and video quality as well as the bandwidth in advance of the meeting. It is equally important for sales professionals to avoid over-reliance on the technology, which can lead to too many charts, lists, and slides at the cost of valuable, authentic conversation.
Virtual selling is normalizing fast as new business conditions demand continuity despite restrictions to in-person communication. Sales professionals who are prepared for this new mode of selling will succeed and perhaps even win increasingly valuable market share. Doing so demands a clear understanding of common mistakes stemming from the misunderstanding that virtual selling is merely in-person selling from a screen.