This weekend I finished Jeb Blount’s book Virtual Selling. In my opinion, a book that should not be missed on any sales leader’s bookshelf (Jeb, thank you for your insights!). Although there are already several books out on Virtual Selling and companies like Gartner are also posting a lot of research, Jeb’s book is outstanding. Virtual Selling will become the new normal, and given our COVID-19 circumstances, the relevant question, is: Are you ready?
Like how the fax machine, email, iPhone, and FaceTime, arrived in an instant, in order to remain relevant and competitive, sales executives have to change the way they engage with their customers.
My key take-aways:
- Going forward you will have to blend digital tools and virtual communication into your current contact strategy. This allows you to accelerate the number of connections with your customers and prospects and gives you the ability to meet with more stakeholders. Even if salespeople will go back on the road again, this blending is more efficient and, as it turns out, highly effective.
- In virtual selling, attention is the new currency. Hence, leveraging more channels improves your probability of gaining attention. With attention, you can win mindshare and the chance of increasing your share-of-wallet.
- Even pure telephone sales should reevaluate the use of video calling and video messaging for certain steps in their sales process. Let’s face it, video makes you appear more human, than on a phone call. Because your customers can see you, emotional connections and trust are established faster. This is very helpful when it comes to, for example, proposal time.
- And for field sales, who were always on the road, virtual is NOT the same as face-to-face. You need to master virtual techniques to gain a distinct competitive edge. Imperfection really means, less impactful.
Then, about Video Calls. They are here to stay and to get the most out of these, you need to address the big pink elephant in the room…your fear. In virtual selling, you are always on stage. You need to overcome your stress and anxiety about being on camera. In a recent survey, 59% of people said they felt less attractive on video calls and 48% worried more about how they looked than preparing for the meeting. You may recognize yourself in this statement, and you are not alone. So, there is work to be done here, in terms of technology (audio, camera, light, backdrop, and position) and interpersonal improvements (facial expressions, eye contact, body language, and use of voice and tone). In other words, it’s showtime; be video ready.
My recommendation is to see the Video Message as a new weapon in your arsenal of connecting with stakeholders. As a virtual selling tool, video messaging is unparalleled. Some case studies predict that video messaging can reduce the sales cycle by as much as 40%. It can be used in prospecting and in developing business with existing customers. But be aware, video messaging is not about pitching. Instead, it is about connecting with your stakeholder on an emotional level. I have experienced this myself when a wanna-be supplier sent me a video message as a follow-up call and at the same time setting the scene for the next meeting. I was impressed. Here is the thing, customers will likely open a video message because it is made especially for them. Your video message needs to be perceived as a gift, that can be opened at any time of the day. And like with most gifts you receive, you want to give something back. So will customers, believe me, they will get back to you.
Now, different than “being on stage”, to produce a video message you need to let go of your perfectionism. Done well, a video message is the shortest, well-informed, and insightful to-the-point meeting you can have in our new virtual world. Most of these videos will only be viewed once. Really, they do not need to be absolutely perfect, however, they need to be personal, relevant, and should have a Call To Action.
In summary, lots of things are changing in our sales world. Again we need to adopt new technologies in our sales process. And as always, early adopters will be the winners of tomorrow. The question remains, are you ready for virtual selling?
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