Sure, an in-person meeting would be nice, but it’s hard to schedule a sales pitch for a San Francisco client if your company is based in Barcelona.
That’s where virtual meetings come in handy: video conferencing and screen sharing are key tools that can help facilitate sales with the click of a mouse and an internet connection.
In order to help you get the most out of your time online, we reached out to the experts and asked for their top sales tips on conducting business via virtual meetings: managing directors, consultants, trainers, best-selling authors. GoToMeeting has compiled a list of their most important pieces of advice to make your next call as effective as possible.
Engagement and interaction is key
“Where possible, you need to find ways to interact with your audience. Asking questions is great but don’t forget about using online polls, using live chat for questions from the audience, or even the odd multiple-choice quiz. Structure your meeting so there is some kind of interactivity every 4 or 5 slides and mix it up using videos, graphs, charts, and images. Avoid death by bullet point at all costs!”
Arrive early, spread appreciation
“As the organiser, log in at least 10 minutes before the meeting is due to start. Display a slide with the company logos, title and topic, agenda, and other relevant information for the meeting. Check your email, IM, cellphone, Twitter, and other devices for urgent messages from people who may be searching for the invite URL, having technical difficulties, or experiencing delays. As people log in, make contact with them, perhaps referring to something from their recent LinkedIn or Twitter updates.”
Have a successful meeting
“If possible, all sales and sales negotiations should be carried out face to face. However, in today’s wired world, it is not always possible to gather all the principles required in a room together. So the virtual, online meeting was born. While 80% of all sales meetings are a waste of time, here are 2 quick tips to ensure that you have a chance of success.
1. Agenda: ensure that all parties have an agreed agenda, and that the facilitator sticks to the agenda, and that the time frame is adhered to.
2. Follow Up: record the session and send a copy to all participants – along with a written summary of agreements reached and with the list of actions to be taken and who is taking them.”
‘Great talking to you’: How to follow up
“Following up sounds like a pretty basic action; in hindsight, you’ll tend to find that you either don’t do it enough or you don’t do it well enough. It’s vital that you do follow up and make sure you’ve done something more than send an email with: ‘Great talking to you.’
Re-evaluate the notes you took and what the meeting was about, send it over and see if you’ve missed anything or if something came up in the meantime.
A little follow up can be enough for people to think of something else that may be important to what was discussed.
Add even more value by choosing something from your notes that sticks out and either create an article for it or find one and attach it to the follow up. It’s a great way of building solid rapport.”
The power of preparation
“The most important advice I would give anyone looking to sell through a virtual channel is not to underestimate the power of preparation. You may not be leaving the comfort of your office chair, but there is more to setting up than sending an e-invite and simply logging in at the right time.
Send communications that set clear expectations ahead of the session: what will be covered, who will attend, what the objectives and desired outcomes are for both sides. Prepare examples and brainstorm any potential questions that are likely to come up; it pays to have your bases covered and be prepared for any eventuality. Just make sure you’re organised: the sound of paperwork being frantically shuffled is amplified through a microphone…!”
Is virtual selling different?
“When people are interacting but can’t see each other because they are on an audio-only conference call, or if they are on the kind of videoconference quality most of us still have, verbal behaviour becomes particularly important.
That’s just as well, because verbal behaviour has been studied, verified and objectively modelled for success in sales; whereas non-verbal behaviour (referred to by some as “body language”) is the stuff of inconclusive academic debate at one end of the spectrum, and risible charlatanism at the other.
Whether face-to-face, on the phone, on a 13-way conference call, grainy Skype or 3-D holographic telepresence, the same requirements apply. Give the buyers most of the air-time, and pull the needs from them using questions that isolate a particular problem (however apparently small). Then ask questions that grow the problem by exploring the business impacts it is having, and get them to articulate how badly they need to solve it. Only when you get to that point does the product or service you offer have any relevance. That’s when you can shift from seeking information to giving it. Any earlier and you might has well go offline.
It’s always nicer if you can physically be there in their office, drinking their coffee and reflecting that your family looks better in a picture frame than theirs does. Not least, it enables you to build some pre- and post-call rapport. Those are things, but they are not the most important things. The most important things are the words.”
Virtual meetings and offline meetings are created equal
“Treat a virtual meeting in exactly the same way as you would an offline meeting. Be clear where you are in your sales process and conduct yourself in the same way as you would normally. Use the video conferencing facility so you can see each other. This is particularly important for larger meetings. Take time to develop rapport and once you get down to business, follow an agreed structured agenda – just like you would do in an offline meeting.”
Author of Consultative Selling for Professional Services: The Essential Sales Manual For Consultants And Other Trusted Advisers and Principal Consultant at
The Accidental Salesman – @richard__white
Do your research
“Virtual selling can be like walking up a down escalator: there’s a lot of effort involved but in reality you don’t get anywhere.
When selling virtually, most salespeople seem to think that the rules of selling do not apply. They pay no attention to the customer or their needs, and deliver a great set of features with no benefits.
Selling virtually follows exactly the same rules as any other sales intervention: people buy when a compelling need is met by a credible solution that offers perceived value.
The key to selling virtually is ‘do your research.’ What are the most likely compelling needs? How does your product or service meet those needs? And how can you prove it? What makes it great value for money?”