The global coronavirus outbreak has forced most people to work from home in isolation. Online meetings are becoming the new norm. The meetings may range from internal meetings to meetings with customers, suppliers, or employees who all work from separated locations. There are significant time savings in being able to conduct online meetings - and especially considering the Covid19 crisis, it has further demonstrated the need to handle a wide variety of meetings – virtual and online.

Online meetings allow people to meet over great distances. Another benefit is that the meetings can be recorded. The recording enables sharing with the participants as a summary or resumes for learning and training. But online meetings also represent a challenge. One thing is that it requires practice. Another problem is to keep people engaged and interested. If there is no webcam, you can’t see and not hear everyone if they are muted, as opposed to physical meetings, face to face.

Essentially, you need to master your online meeting software and how to make these meetings more engaging and productive.

In most cases, you can apply pretty much the same set of rules and structure to online meetings as face-to-face meetings. However, the differences that lie in not being able to see the reactions from the participants must be taken into account. Therefore we decided to bring you these tips. Some of them may be very basic, but they are crucial for getting the most out of these online meetings.

We highly recommend that you watch this free video series "Remote Selling School" from Winning by Design. These are super tangible inputs to get your sales team going and your online meetings more efficient. See them HERE

Preparation

1. Choose a good meeting software

It is vital to choose suitable software from one of the many available options (WebEx, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype for Business and others). Such a solution manages the meeting itself - and create a framework that ensures everyone is on the same page, let participants interact, ask questions and help record comments and messages that help everyone follow the conversation. Slides, presentations, etc. must be shared and displayed as if you were sitting on the same screen. Besides, most solutions can also record the meeting - either for sharing as a summary or for subsequent review for learning and training. We recommend that you use a webcam, as being able to see each other mitigates some of the loss by not sitting together, and at the same time, it demands active participation.

2. Build a structure for your different meeting types

Make an overall plan for your meeting types. This plan allows you to have a firm, proven, and practiced form that matches different meeting types. The meeting plan should align with your sales process.

We recommend writing a short PLAYBOOK for each type of meeting. The playbook should be rehearsed and improved continuously. If you are a sales manager, the objective should become to measure effect and behavior. However, it is challenging to measure impact and action unless there is a common framework to follow. Getting this insight enables you to optimize and improve your sales force.

The playbook should take into account that meetings will vary vastly – especially in terms of the stakeholders attending. The playbook should also include elements as to where the clients may be in their buying process. Conclusively, the meetings conducted should always support the clients in their specific needs and respect their buying process.

3. Always have a well-defined agenda

Booking meetings, especially with clients during times of crisis, may prove difficult. But instead of giving up in advance, remember that everyone is affected by the same global phenomenon. It requires all of us to think of new ways to conduct business. Consequently, you need a clear agenda for your online meeting. This requires you to prepare the meeting and try out the technical aspects, just like if you were conducting a big presentation in a regular conference room with a projector. Ever tried being part of a meeting, where the speaker was unable to work the AV-installations? Pretty embarrassing. You want to avoid that particular situation. Through preparation, you will be able to increase the likelihood of engagement from your participants.

The agenda should be included in the meeting invitation in advance so that everyone knows what they are expected to contribute with and can prepare accordingly. The meeting invite must at the same time contain all necessary information about time and place as well as login information for the meeting (link, codes, etc.).


The meeting itself

4. Start the meeting and set the stage

Online meetings are often associated with a more informal tone, and if you work from home, the atmosphere is also often thought of being more casual. However, this may not always be the case. You need to be aware of the participants. Choose your attitude, wording, and appearance as you would have done if the meeting had been physical.

As in all meetings, you may consider starting with an icebreaker to create a positive atmosphere from the beginning. It untightens people and helps limit any social barriers, making participants more willing to contribute.

If you are unfamiliar with conducting online meetings, try it out first in a low-risk environment with one of your colleagues. This rehearsal allows you to practice before hosting an online meeting with clients. Remember, you may need to help your clients join the meeting, enable them to un-mute themselves, or advise them in turning on their web-camera. 

5. Presentation round

Let each participant present themselves. It requires them to participate in the meeting and not be distracted by their inbox. It is an effective way to get everyone started, and everyone must be able to make themselves known in sound and preferably also in video. Through a round of presentation, you personalize the voice that other participants hear, making them more willing and confident to engage in dialogue and discussion later.

6. Make the meeting relevant and interactively

The most important thing is to make the meeting as relevant as possible for everyone involved. Do your best to engage the participants and use interactive elements to avoid a boring linear presentation. Use a powerful presentation tool in conjunction with your meeting software. Thereby you ensure you have the right material at hand - up-to-date and flexible. Ask a lot of questions and make sure you get everyone involved by seeking out the participants’ input at each discussion topic.

A sales enablement tool is as useful in online meetings as in physical meetings. Sales Enablement software will begin tracking the sales rep’s actions and help management identify winning behavior. Tracking these elements in conjunction with recording the session itself is hugely influential for further training and optimization of skills.

7. Keep it short

Online meetings may be awkward, as people may interrupt each other. Avoid questions like “Does anyone have a question?” and ask the participants instead once at a time. This approach will both secure engagement, but also keep the meeting short and sweet.  

Your playbook will also need to include aspects in terms of timing. How much time do you allocate for introductions? Your presentation? Q&A?

Depending on the number of participants, you need to consider whether it is an online meeting or and online webinar/conference. More than 10 participants may indicate a webinar rather than a meeting – as it will be challenging to get +10 people proactively involved. However, every meeting is different. Some sessions may also only have a handful of people speaking/engaging, but the rest spectating. Once again, your preparedness for each meeting will prove vital.

All in all, as part of your playbook and schedule, you should make a timeline for an ideal meeting, so you have a guideline.


After the meeting

8. Follow up with simple meeting notes

Be careful not to make too extensive minutes-of-meetings. No one wants to read detailed notes showing each item discussed at a meeting. Send a summary highlighting the three most important issues/challenges and the suggested solution to match each. A meeting note should also describe the next step. What did we agree? Who should do what? What’s the timeline? These are must-have elements.

Working with a powerful sales enablement platform allows for more effortless follow-up. From here, meeting notes along with current materials from the meeting can be synced directly into your CRM. Other elements to sync could be notes, the materials shown, and any meeting participants’ interaction with the contents afterward.

Using a sales enablement platform increases the quality and consistency of meeting follow-up. The salesperson who conducted the meeting, the sales management, and marketing will, through a platform, be given insights into how the meeting went. Analytics that will enable the organization to answer questions such as: What presentation was shown? How long time did our sales rep talk about what? How is the sales rep doing compared to others? What content resonates with each of the individual stakeholders? These are just to name a few of the benefits working with a platform.

9. Learn from recorded meetings

There is no better feedback for the sellers than to re-experience their own meetings.

Allow sales reps to hear themselves and what they said retrospectively. Evaluate their appearance and performance. Provide input as to what could be improved. Enable the rep to see and listen with the customer’s own words what was important to them. Pause and repeat the recording if necessary.

Ask the reps to replay the recording before their next meeting with the client. This experience will supplement their CRM-notes and provide a better qualification. It will also allow them to prepare their meetings better in the future.

The recordings are also valuable for sales management, in the continuous evaluation of the sales methodology, process, and playbook. Learning from the past will increase win rates and secure a more successful sales apparatus.


Further reading: You may also be interested in reading our brief overview of sales methodologies or our 3 key elements in a well-working client meeting structure

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