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If you had asked me earlier this year if I would recommend virtual selling and consulting, I would have quickly said, "Only as a last resort." I would have then quickly rattled off all the pros of meeting in person: human contact builds relationships, you get a better read on body language, you can make a more comprehensive impression on the meeting attendees, and the list goes on.
Enter COVID-19. This virus is forcing everyone to do things they never thought they would: send employees home to work remotely, rely more heavily on delivery services, wear masks and, yes, even consider a virtual sales presentation. As the saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention."
If you are of the mindset that nothing can replace sitting down at a table with someone to review a project proposal, bear with me. I'm not going to try to convince you that virtual selling is better, but I will discuss how it can be effective.
The mechanics of virtual sales presentations
Here are some tips to help you be successful with your virtual sales presentations.
Use video conferencing software. It may seem like common sense, but some people are still emailing proposals to prospects to review over the phone. The downside to email is once the proposal gets in the prospect's hands, you lose their attention. The prospect is rushing to the last page to see the total cost, then flipping through the pages skimming the headlines. Five minutes into your phone call, they finally start paying attention to you.
To avoid this, use video conferencing software that allows you to share your screen. This gives you control over the presentation. The attendees only see what you want them to see when you are ready for them to see it.
Use software that is easy for your attendees to join. There are so many different options out there for conferencing software. Some are big names and very recognizable, others more obscure. The key is to use a product that will be easy for your attendees to join. Do not use software that makes your attendees sign up, register, give their email address, check their email and enter a code, or anything with a lot of hoops to jump through. It should be as easy as one or two clicks. You want your attendees to have a good experience from the beginning. If they have to troubleshoot to join the meeting, it takes time away from the actual meetup.
Encourage attendees to use video if possible. This is very important, but it may not always work out. Your prospects may not have a webcam. If not, you can't do much about it. But if they can join with video, encourage them to do so. With a close-up webcam, you can see their facial expressions as they react to what you're presenting. If they are in a conference room with a full-room camera, you might be able to see some of their body language, as well. With this input, you'll be able to get a better sense of what they are thinking.
Learn the conferencing software. Regardless of the system you use, you need to do some test runs if you are unfamiliar with it. Practice the different features. Learn how to share your screen. Learn how to give control to your attendee in case they want to show you something. Learn how to mute a participant in case an attendee's dog starts barking because they are working from home. You want to be able to control these elements without having to fumble around for the right buttons or keys.
The overarching concept when putting together a virtual sales meeting is you want to control the environment, and you want your prospect or client to have an enjoyable experience.
When we finally get to the other side of the coronavirus crisis, many people will continue the habits and practices they picked up during the pandemic. Post-COVID grocery delivery will likely remain at higher than pre-COVID levels. Some companies will allow much of their workforce to continue to work remotely. You might consider extending the practice of virtual sales meetings, as well.
Believe me, some of the benefits are tempting. You would spend more time being productive and less time traveling. Plus, it's actually a little easier to get all the decision-makers into a virtual sales meeting because they can join from anywhere.
Then again, there's a lot to be said for meeting someone in person, shaking hands and being able to read a room as you're presenting. But until we get to the post-COVID end of the tunnel, use the tools available and make the most of them now.
About the author
Scott Ford is the director of operations for Pronesis Technology Group, a Tampa, Fla.-based IT firm that specializes in managed services, VoIP communications, business consulting and planning, network security, cloud migrations, and Microsoft 365. Ford is also a member of The ASCII Group, a North American IT community of more than 1,300 MSPs, solution providers and systems integrators.