This article will be of interest to salespeople conducting remote calls, sales leaders, sales enablement leaders and leaders of technical pre-sales teams who want to improve outcomes from every remote selling meeting.
We are 90-days into the COVID-19 era and most salespeople will be comfortable with using Zoom and other video conferencing platforms to engage prospects. I thought I saw in a Linkedin feed that a quick poll taken at SaaStock last week indicated that about 50% of participating companies were considering plans for in-person calls in 2H2020.
While a lot of salespeople may be itching to get on planes to go visit prospective customers, why as a customer, would I want an in-person visit from a salesperson, given the risks? Over the past 90-days, B2B buyers have had adequate proof that they can evaluate alternative offerings and make decisions without a handshake and a close and personal encounter with a salesperson.
As your sales manager, you will have to be very convincing before I sign off on an airline ticket to visit prospective customers when our top sellers are doing very well selling remotely.
I hear an objection, “But what about when buyers insist on meeting company leadership before making a commitment?” Executive-level meetings and reference calls can be done very effectively and more efficiently remotely.
“But what about the post-COVID era, surely things will return to normal?”, says another naysayer.
Because we are unlikely to see an effective vaccine and immunization of the general population inside 2-years, today’s new “remote-selling” normal will be the norm, with just a few exceptions for selling very high ticket items.
How do you rate your sales organization’s effectiveness at remote selling? The sales organization includes SDR’s, inside sales, field sales, SE’s, and solution architects.
Remote Selling Challenges
The challenges in selling remotely are mainly human; there is little difference in the technology used to get an appointment for a phone/video conference and to have a remote-first meeting with a prospect.
Here are a few of the human challenges we observe:
Lack of skill to engage remotely and build rapport
Lack of confidence
Poor communication and listening skills
Lack of call preparation
Lack of supervision and coaching
Low conversion rates from first meetings
1-way presenting instead of having a conversation
“Product-speak”, or what Scott Santucci calls Productitis
Poor or no formal follow-up
Please feel free to add more challenges in the comments section.
Remote Selling Best-Practices
A quick Google search revealed several dozen articles with advice and best practices for selling remotely. We have a few ideas of our own and best practices conversation frameworks for each step in the buy-sell process that make it much easier to engage buyers in a true dialogue.
Here are a few of the more important remote selling best-practices that we see top sellers practicing.
Turn on your camera – Zoom and Chorus.ai stats (pre-COVID), indicate that win-rates increase by 9% with both buyer and seller having their camera on at each meeting.
Set up your home video studio – If you use video from a home office, you should do what you can within reason to make yourself clearly heard and easily seen. This video from Corey Sommers on setting up a home studio is recommended. Having some sort of physical or digital whiteboard is a must for your home office setup.
Use a pre-call checklist – Airline pilots use them, doctors use them, if you are not using one, then I suggest you get started tomorrow.
Use an up-front-contract – so that you are on the same page as to the duration, purpose, and outcome of the meeting.
Use a Sales Prologue – This is not a new technique, but like many good ideas it has stood the test of time but is largely unknown. The sales prologue is a way of building rapport with the buyer by deliberately thinking through in advance what some of their questions might be for you. If you open the meeting with, “As I was preparing for our meeting today, I tried to think of some of the questions I thought you might have for me. I thought you might want to know, i. What do we know about your business? ii. Who have you helped that is like me? iii. How can you help me? Are these some of your questions?” You explain how you will respond to those questions and then ask, “Do you have any other questions?” Less than 1% of salespeople ever ask these questions, but by asking them and running the meeting around the buyer’s questions you are serving your prospect’s agenda and not yours. This builds trust and sets you apart from other salespeople. (How you sell is more important than what you sell.)
Questions. Answering buyer questions should be your top priority for the meeting. One of the buyer’s questions might be, “just exactly what do you guys do?” If you don’t answer this question up-front at a high level, you are in danger of alienating the buyer who has to wait until it comes up in your pitch. Ideally the answers to buyer questions will be captured in your sales playbook
Get the big idea across upfront. Use an animation, visual confection, draw it out, or show a sample of your work. When the buyer asks the prior question, you could physically show them a sample of your product, an image, or use a physical or digital whiteboard to outline at a high level how you help customers.
Use Visual Conversation Frameworks. My colleague Corey Sommers, who literally wrote the Whiteboard Selling Book, has some breakthrough, new ideas that add a much more powerful visual dialogue capability to your meetings using either a physical whiteboard or digital tablet. Instead of pitching a whiteboard story about what your company sells, Corey has developed a series of conversation frameworks and a very creative way of engaging buyers in a qualification discussion that is focused on your prospect’s needs. The salesperson captures dialogue elements visually in real-time and this serves to add a dimension of visual clarity and understanding without being manipulative or pitching. It also provides the basis for meeting follow-up.
Send a Meeting Summary – Following every remote meeting, a picture of the captured whiteboard conversation serves as a powerful selling aid when embedded in a meeting summary template. Again, the meeting summary is not a new technique but, it is 90% effective in qualifying buyers.