Virtual Selling Can Be Like Driving Without Headlights

When you were a kid, did your mom or dad ever turn the car’s headlights off while driving at night to scare you? Mine did. 

It was scary, but fun all at the same time. And, so, as a son now turned Dad, I have carried on the tradition with my kids (only five or six times in my life).

Before you turn me in to social services, you should know that we live in a small town without much traffic. So for the scare and thrill of my two young boys, I only do it on the back road to our house where there are no streetlights. I turn my headlights off for about two seconds while only moving about 15 mph. 

It’s pitch black, especially since their eyes are still adjusting. It’s just long enough to get them to jump, but short enough to be safe. It’s scary and makes you appreciate how much your headlights help. They always beg for more, but I keep it to just about once a year, so they’re not expecting it. 

**Our lawyer suggests that I advise you not to do this at home.


How is this like Virtual Selling?

As a sales rep, especially having to sell in a virtual environment, you may already be doing this with your customers when you talk to them on the phone or on Zoom. You just don’t realize you’re doing it. Why? Because when selling virtually, you typically don’t have the benefit of those same visual aids and tangible products to help your customers understand your solution.

In person, you have a live presentation, or marketing collateral, or even a sample of the product you are selling. Customers can touch and see it. They can read your body language and you can read theirs. 

But in most cases, the only thing customers have to understand your solution when you’re on the phone or behind a screen, is your words and your slides.

While the trend of video conferencing in all industries continues to explode, many sellers are still relying on phone conversations to sell. The problem is that within 95 percent of phone conversations, the only information your customers get is from what you say. It’s the same as closing their eyes. The only sense they are using is the sense of sound – what they are hearing from you. This has the same effect as turning off your headlights. They don’t know where you are going, and it might feel unnerving or even scary. 

We need to adapt how we sell

Why do we want customers to see? Because it’s more powerful. Using more senses involves more brain energy and emotion. It makes a bigger impact, and customers are more likely to embrace what you are saying. We would like them to “see” the entire call.

But the most important time for them to “see” is when you are making your recommendation for a solution, or in the Build Value stage of the conversation. It is at this point that customers are learning new information. The more senses they use to receive this information, the greater their ability to process and the more likely they will buy what you are selling.

With virtual selling on Zoom, it is easier to get around this by sharing videos or slides that demonstrate the information you are conveying. But when selling on the phone, there are two very important things that you can do on your next call to help your customer “see” better on the phone: 

1 – Use Other-Centered® Benefits 

2 – Create Word Pictures. 

Both of these are effective ways to help customers visualize your recommendation and increase your chances of success.


1 – Use Other-Centered® Benefits

Highlighting features and benefits of a product are essential in the selling process. As a refresher, a feature is a specific fact about what the product or service does, and a benefit is why any particular feature is important.  For example,

  • Feature: The X123 camera has two gigabytes of memory and holds 1,000 pictures.
  • Benefit: Having a 1,000-picture capacity means you don’t have to download pictures to a computer in the middle of a vacation.

Here are two truths: Benefits sell and features don’t. 

Benefits don’t help customers see, but Other-Centered Benefits do. What’s the difference between the two types of benefits? Most sales people have a list of marketing-crafted features and benefits in their sales tools. But an Other-Centered Benefit is personal; it connects the features and advantages of the product to a specific situation the customer told you during your Discovery.

So you can only create an Other-Centered Benefit by learning about the customer. If the customer wants an upgraded camera, an effective line of questioning may get the customer to reveal:

“On our last trip to the islands, I ran out of memory on my camera. I had to delete some good pics and missed some others because I didn’t realize I was out of memory until we are on our boat tour.”

This is very personal to the customer. And the customer can “see” himself on that boat, frantically trying to decide what pictures to delete while once-in-a-lifetime sights are passing his family by.

The standard benefit of “You won’t have to download them to a computer …” is okay, but what is even better would be something like:

“The next time you are on a unique adventure, you won’t have the stress of trying to decide which pictures to delete while your family is screaming at you to take a picture of the one-of-a-kind view you are missing.” 

This is an Other-Centered Benefit. It specifically connects to the customer’s situation. And the customer sees it.

Even if you are not selling a camera for vacation, customers also “see” the problems they have at work. They experience them first-hand, and those images are burned in their minds. When you connect to customers, those images of work problems come back to life in their minds. And seeing is believing.

So, use your standard benefits as a starting point. But get your customers to really see how it applies to them by connecting the benefit to their specific situation. Use an Other-Centered Benefit.


2 – Create Word Pictures

Sometimes understanding the Other-Centered Benefit can be a little complicated. While you are the trained sales professional who knows all about your solution, customers may struggle to get it the first time. And on the phone or with video conferencing, it’s even harder.

We had a client selling some technology features that consolidated servers and folders through virtualization. So to bring the solution and its Other-Centered Benefits to life on the phone, the rep would say, 

“It’s like having five different sets of music you want to play depending on the situation:  a workout, a party, or a quiet dinner at home. Instead of carrying five separate CDs you can just have Spotify on your phone with five playlists.” 

The sales rep created a Word Picture.

Unlike Other-Centered Benefits, you can create these Word Pictures ahead of time. Look at the top two or three features and benefits of your solution. Now, think about everyday life and try to compare the benefits to a situation totally unrelated to the industry you are in and something that has nothing to do with the product. It makes the benefit really come to life and people really see it. 

Here are a couple of examples to help you get started:


Benefit of your Solution: You sell a product that automatically cleans its filters and is self-repairing. 

 Word Picture: It’s like having a car, which when your tires need replacing, sends an email to the local service center. Technicians deliver your exact tires, install, and balance them while you and your car are at work.


Benefit of your Solution: Save time by processing the work more efficiently. 

Word Picture: After you load your groceries in the cart, you don’t have to unload them all at the cashier to scan, pay, and then load them all back up. You just walk out to your car and go.


Do you have some examples of word pictures of your own? Please share them in the comments section – we’ll be looking to see if you need some help with ideas.


What Next?


As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.

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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.