Fundamentals to Virtual Selling

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Have you ever stopped to think what it would take to sell yourself something? I mean really sell… to have your beliefs changed about a product or a service, to get you to pay attention and invest your hard-earned money in something or someone.

Do you have what it takes to sell yourself? And with the business climate of today, to sell yourself virtually?

 

Virtual Selling, Defined

Over the better part of the last year, we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the transition to virtual selling, the new sales process, and the different skills and technological considerations involved in serving customers remotely.

With all the change and the chaos of this new reality we live in and sell in, it’s even harder for sales reps and sales teams to break through the noise and stand out to their prospects and customers. It’s vital that sales professionals establish themselves as unique and different, to avoid fading into the collective chaos of a customer’s virtual experience.

It’s easy to become frustrated by all the new challenges that come with selling virtually, now that sellers cannot visit customers due to COVID 19. Sales reps have had to relearn almost everything they once relied on, and also realize that what once made someone successful in their career may no longer work when selling virtually.

As one of our customers recently said, “Good enough isn’t good enough anymore.”

Faced with all of this, most sales reps have probably wrestled with each of the the following questions:

  •  How do I differentiate myself, as a sales professional, within the context of the virtual selling world?

From virtual prospecting to cold calling to winning opportunities over video conferencing platforms, the virtual selling world has redefined the role of a sales rep.

The reps who are successful today understand that their role is not just to understand the customer’s needs and decision process, but to reveal needs and change the decision process/criteria.

In other words, with customer centered selling, a sales rep’s role is to change beliefs – to sell a new way of thinking, not just sell “stuff” to a buyer.

 

Challenges of Virtual Selling

We spend a great deal of time thinking about and writing about how this new virtual reality has affected us as salespeople and sales leaders: how we prospect, how we conduct meetings, how we sell, how we serve.

Whether in B2B or B2C sales, inside or field sales, all sales teams have had to grow and evolve continuously over the past year. Sales reps have had to re-learn how to serve customers and adapt to their changing needs in a virtual selling environment.

With virtual communication taking a more permanent place in our way of conducting sales, it’s vital to continue that progress by addressing some of the challenges of the virtual sales process, that buyers and sellers both experience.

 

Virtual Selling Challenge #1: Diminished Receptivity

A customer’s level of receptivity has more impact on influence than the sales rep’s value proposition. Said another way, the customer’s willingness to listen is more important than your ability to position your solution. In a virtual sales environment, it’s harder to earn someone’s attention and get them receptive.

 

Virtual Selling Challenge #2: It’s More Difficult to Get a Meeting

There is so much noise going on nowadays. If we do things as we’ve always done, sales reps will get lost in the virtual noise and the crowd of salespeople. Other than a shift in messaging, the challenges with virtual prospecting remain quite similar. However, if you have a field salesforce of predominantly account managers, those individuals can no longer just “stop by” for a casual, “Just checking in to touch base…”

That just won’t cut it right now.

 

Virtual Selling Challenge #3: You’re Working With Less Information.

To influence, to sell, sales reps need the truth… the truth about what people want (really want), what they fear, who is really driving the decision, and how the decision will be made.

Unfortunately, when selling remotely, the truth is harder to uncover.

 

Virtual Selling Challenge #4: It’s more difficult to demonstrate value.

Have you ever attempted to sell someone on an idea, whether a customer or a friend, and been baffled at their unwillingness to change? Your logic was compelling, they genuinely agreed with your recommendation, but they did nothing?

There is an inherent challenge when motivating people to act, and even more so in a virtual sales environment.

 

Virtual Selling Challenge#5: Managing a Virtual Meeting

Transitioning from leading a meeting/ presentation in person, to conducting a virtual presentation can be daunting. So much has changed with hosting a meeting and connecting with customers when it has to be done virtually.

There are new technological options to consider, virtual challenges to overcome, and different customer expectations.

 

My Personal Experience with Virtual Sales

When I (figuratively) look in the mirror and think about selling to myself, I learn quite a bit.

I am a hard sell. I’m typically immune to being approached by salespeople in general, especially bad ones, and especially via Zoom or another video conferencing platform.

Yes, I am a sales person by profession. Because of this, I take the art of selling, both face-to-face sales and selling virtually, very seriously. I have a genuine passion for helping salespeople transform into sales professionals and adapt to the new virtual selling environment.

I am very adept at recognizing good salesmanship. I have rookies, amateurs, and even rude, commission-breathing dragons approach me every day, trying to pitch or persuade me. Very few succeed.

I have a lot of data and experience to draw from. So in the interest of passing along some useful tips for selling virtually, I’ll take another “look in the mirror,” and share my answers to the following:

What are the fundamentals of virtual selling that would help a sales rep to gain access to me?

 

Fundamental #1 — Know Me

If 90 percent of decision makers don’t respond to cold calls, only one percent of sales voicemails are returned, and less than 17 percent of sales emails are even opened, we had better learn how to warm things up in this cold virtual selling reality.

The hard truth is that most people (prospects) are emotionally closed, they are unreceptive to being sold to. All the features, benefits, and data in the world won’t change this.

This is why one of the cornerstone principles we coach salespeople on is the Cornerstone (Receptivity) Principle:

When someone is emotionally “closed,” you cannot persuade them with logical arguments. In fact, when attempting to persuade an emotionally closed person, they become even more closed.

Therefore: Receptivity of the prospect has more impact on your ability to influence than the message.

Somehow, we have to find a way to get them receptive.

The first way to do this is to prove that you know and understand the decision makers you are approaching, and what is on their whiteboard.

In other words — do your homework. Research everything you can to gain insight, look beyond the obvious, and get specific. Tools like ZoomInfo and LinkedIn Navigator, among others, provide a wealth of organizational information, but that’s not enough to capture the interest of most executives.

Marketing experts argue that we get anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 messages a day. Regardless of the exact number, it’s a lot. We are more and more overwhelmed with information than any other generation in history. Therefore, the brain employs a system called the Reticular Activation System (RAS) to act as a filter between your subconscious and conscious mind to determine which messages get through.

To make sure your messages are received, you’ve got to make sure they get through the RAS. If you want my attention, you need to understand my world and the challenges I face.

Talk to people in my organization or talk with my clients and other solution providers. Sales reps, do everything you can to understand my situation before you ask for my time.

 

Fundamental #2 — Enlighten Me

Now that you have proven that you’ve done your research and know what is important to me and my role, what do you do with it?

Tell me something I don’t know.

Most executives have a general quest for knowledge when it comes to business effectiveness and getting a competitive advantage. Expand my knowledge by enlightening me and sharing something that may help me with my whiteboard of wants and goals. Pique my interest, make me think you know something that I don’t.

Bringing it back to the RAS, there are only two criteria the RAS uses to determine if a message gets noticed:

  • The message contains something you know you need. For example, you’re more likely to notice certain cars on the way to work the day after you decide to buy a new car.
  • The message contains something you don’t understand or is out of the ordinary. For example, a baby talking about investments or an ostrich in sunglasses selling car insurance.

The point is, getting a prospect’s attention is about alignment, not selling – especially with virtual sales.

If you just want to “pick my brain” with your list of favorite qualifying questions and pick-up lines, don’t bother… this genie won’t grant general Discovery call wishes.

 

Fundamental #3 — Inspire Me

If you get through the first two virtual sales “gates” unscathed, you now own some prime real estate. You have driven out the competition. Now what?

It’s time to make it pay off. This is where you get one chance to showcase what makes you and your solution different from every other sales rep that has died trying to make this ascent.

Don’t blow it by borrowing the same universal features and benefits you used on the last call. Get proprietary. What is unique about your and your solution and why should it matter to me (your prospect)?

Take everything you learned from Fundamental #1, integrate it with Fundamental #2, and make it all come alive with something that is all your own. Inspire me.

Practice delivering a great virtual presentation. 

Showcasing how you and your solution are different will grant you ACCESS to a floor in the elevator that most won’t find. Arriving at this point and then spitting out something generic is just false advertising.

 

Tips for Differentiating Yourself in Virtual Selling

Here are a few other considerations for you to incorporate into your virtual selling practice, as you work to distinguish yourself from the competition and establish a personal online brand.

 

  • Technology

The goal here is to establish a personal online brand – to convey that personal brand virtually and make sure that technology is helping, not hindering, the sales process.

There is a minimum standard of tech savviness or capability that is expected of all sales professionals. You need the right technology set-up to inspire your customers:

 

  • Bandwidth

(Minimum of 15 MB upload and download speed)

Test your internet speed here.

The closer to your router, the better off you’ll be.

 

  • Video

Ensure the quality of your video is clear and crisp. A fuzzy feed or video lag can detract from the conversation you are trying to have and the point you’re trying to make.

Invest in a camera that has 720p (pixels) and 30fps (frames per second) for optimal video quality.

 

  • Audio

There are many options that are better than speaking into your laptop speakers, such as AirPods, a bluetooth earpiece, or a headset. Clear audio quality is crucial when connecting with your customers online.

 

Capabilities Within Virtual Meetings

Here are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when conducting your virtual meeting within Zoom (or another platform):

 

  • Look at the camera.

This is the simplest yet biggest differentiator that will set you apart and elevate the delivery of your virtual meetings – it’s very easy to understand, but very hard to do.

We often end up staring at the screen, at ourselves or at our notes. Pay attention to this throughout the meeting and make “eye contact” with the camera as much as possible.

 

  • Learn to use 2 screens.

This will help you out immensely when working and presenting virtually. When you’re selling, share one screen with your presentation pulled up, and use the other to display your customers’ faces.

Watch for facial cues and body language, watch for when they lean in or look away, watch for when they mute and unmute themselves (this will indicate when they may want to chime in or ask a question).

 

  • Gallery View vs. Speaker View

In Zoom, gallery view will display all participants equally while speaker view allows you to focus on the person talking, allowing you to really observe their expression and body language.

When the customer is speaking, look at them and when you are speaking, look at everyone else. Resist the urge to look at yourself.

 

Virtual Tips & Tricks that Our Clients Love

These three ideas fall into the “No One Else is Doing This” category, and have made an enormous difference for our company.

The key takeaway here is to keep things moving during your virtual session. “Zoom fatigue” and “death by PowerPoint” are real enemies of salespeople trying to sell virtually.

Using these tools can help combat the monotony of the back-to-back virtual calls that your customers may be facing, while helping you stand out, capture their attention, and earn their respect.

 

  • Polls

Polls are a great tool within Zoom (or whichever service you’re using to conduct meetings) – they are quick questions with multiple choice answers for the audience to vote on. You can then share the (anonymous) group results on your screen.

Come up with a few ahead of time and store them in your Zoom account to be able to quickly launch them during your presentation and liven up your content.

Polls can be used for different purposes throughout your virtual call:

  • As fun ice-breakers (i.e. “What did you have for breakfast?” or “What is your favorite part about working remotely?”)
  • To keep engagement up, drive home a point, or get their opinion/feedback

 

  • Second Camera/ Flipchart

Zoom has an option to share a second camera. Set up another camera (even your iPhone or iPad with a tripod) somewhere else in your home office. Get some type of flipchart or a whiteboard, even a blank poster board, and have your second camera focused towards it.

During your virtual presentation, switch to share your second camera (as your whole screen), and walk over to your flipchart. This movement will grab your participants attention and really get them to engage with you. Look into the second camera and talk to your participants, then turn and write on the board. Our customers have told us this makes them feel as if they are really in the room with us.

By using this tactic, you are driving the call and your personal virtual brand will grow exponentially in your customers’ eyes.

 

  • Music

Have some music playing as people come into the virtual room. Ask for suggestions or recommendations – customers can send song requests in the Chat. If you take a break during your session, have one of the requests playing as everyone rejoins the meeting.

This is another fun way to create engagement with new or existing customers when meeting virtually. It’s a great icebreaker.

 

Each of these ideas are little things that don’t take much preparation time, but are different and unique. Once you start using them, selling virtually will begin to feel more fulfilling and rewarding. You can pull out one of these “virtual selling hacks” at any time to wow your prospects.

Using these few techniques will elevate your virtual brand and help you stand out. Customers will take notice. They will remember you and your message, even in the crazy world of virtual selling.

 

Final Thoughts

It’s up to you to give this a try. Try this approach and see if it works. On your next two prospecting calls, try your current approach for the first call, and then these 3 fundamentals on the second. See what works best.

Do you have the fundamentals to go sell yourself?

If not, and if learning more about prospecting in the new economy is of interest, please consider learning more about our Virtual Selling Skills Program.

 

As VP of Solutions, Sean’s passion is developing and creating a learning experience that emotionally taps into each learner, matches ASLAN’s commitment to excellence, and exceeds our client’s wildest expectations. Find him on: LinkedIn.

5 Comments

  1. Angie Cruz on March 24, 2021 at 6:06 pm

    Valuable content

  2. Carla Reynolds on March 28, 2021 at 11:50 pm

    Excellent information on customer service!

  3. Ashley Habeger on April 24, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    Very useful Information!

  4. SHANTEL ROMERO on April 26, 2022 at 6:52 pm

    VERY RESOURCEFUL INFORMATION.

    • Marc Lamson on April 27, 2022 at 5:51 am

      Thanks, Shantel. Hope it’s helpful…

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About ASLAN

The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.