How to build effective virtual capabilities in your sales team

The COVID-19 has deemed most commercial organizations to eliminate travel and face-2-face meetings. Frontline sales reps are grounded in their home office - most of them with absolutely no experience when it comes to succeeding with engaging online sales meetings.

Most Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) do not know how to guide and coach the needed rep behavior – but why?

One of the biggest challenges in virtual meetings is keeping everyone’s attention and engagement. As a result, the sales reps need to master some essential ground rules in online meetings, from the technical facilitation until using different techniques of engagement.

Virtual sales meetings have its upsides: No wasted travel time between meetings, more effective use and measurement of sales content, and a beneficial source to extract best-practice learnings.

In a virtual meeting, the sales rep can seamlessly move from presentation to demo environment to other pieces of collateral, while guiding the conversation through the ongoing engagement of the customer. The sales rep must align the schedule, content, and presentations to match the stage of the sales process, personalized to the situation. The rep’s mission is to activate the participants throughout the meeting with the most relevant content and different types of micro-interactions to keep everybody engaged.             

Why should you rethink your customer engagement model?

Many sales organizations are used to time-consuming face-to-face meetings with a lower frequency and many elements on the agenda. That kind of meeting requires a long preparation and often long travel time in between meetings.

Does your customer engagement model fit the remote sale? And why should you consider it now?

As mentioned previously, it seems that it is the Covid19 crisis that drives the digital transformation in many sales organizations. That is a shame, as online meetings are becoming the new norm, also after the Corona lockdown.

It seems that it is the Covid19 crisis that drives the digital transformation in many sales organizations

Shifting into a customer engagement model consisting of both face-to-face meetings and virtual meetings will help your sales team become more sustainable and resistant, and better able to accommodate the ever changing sales situation and customer needs.

A need for mastering virtual interactions will arise, which in many cases have a higher frequency due to shorter and more specific interactions. The online meetings are characterized by often having a few topics per interaction, or adjusted to address a particular stakeholder concern.

Several research studies highlight the necessity and importance of building these virtual capabilities and practical skills among the sales team to secure an effective outcome and engagement of the customer.

The benefits and potentials are significant

Increased facetime with potential customers with reduced resources. A vast savings potential from reduced traveling and more likely to meet customer expectations through more frequent, targeted, and personalized meetings to meet each stakeholder’s concerns.

The importance of creating trust in online meetings

Building trust in a sales meeting is essential in both physical and virtual meetings – but the perceived level of trust is harder to gain through online interactions.

The outcome of the meeting will depend on the ability to create that trust as part of the dialogue, which can be improved by a particular structure.

Building trust is a combination of the virtual capabilities, from mastering the technical part of the meeting, helping the participants to get safely into the online meeting, presentation round, aligning expectations or goals, relevance, keeping time, and micro-interactions to ensure engagement.

The outcome of a meeting will depend on the ability to create trust as part of the dialogue

How to optimize the virtual sales effort in the short term?

Build new virtual capabilities

  1. Choose a suitable meeting software to meet the needs of delivering the ideal customer experience
  2. Build Playbooks to match the different types of online interactions
  3. Train the sales reps and sales managers skills both technically in mastering the online facilitation platforms, as well as mastering the playbooks and various techniques of engaging the customer
  4. Record all meetings for playback training purposes

Include and align with marketing

  1. Update and adapt your sales collateral and presentations to meet the need for virtual interactions
  2. Get marketing to address all type of stakeholders and become more flexible to suit different needs and concerns
  3. Co-create with markering – with focus on bite-sized content and insights for sharing
  4. Read more about the importance of the right content and how to help your customers to buy here 

Reshape the operation model for virtual sales

  1. Book weekly role-plays and make training an integrated and recurring event for the sales teams
  2. There is no better feedback for the sellers than to re-experience their meetings – both training- and live meetings
  3. Integrate a “lessons learned” to conduct best practices and to adjust on sales content, training, and playbooks. The recorded sessions are valuable for sales management, in the continuous evaluation of the sales methodology, process, and playbook

Essential ground rules of virtual sales meetings – the best practices guide to get started:

  1. Never assume that your customer knows your meeting technology and has used it before. As part of your meeting invite, send a guide helping the customer understand the basics of your meeting platform.
  2. If you need them to read, prepare, or want to educate them before the meeting, send relevant material beforehand.
    Depending on the type of meeting, make a short prep call before the meeting to ensure their preparation as well.
  3. To increase engagement and participation - always ask for cameras to be on for all participants. You may need to change the conference software to set this as default.
  4. Make sure your slides are suited for online presentation by using a minimum of text. If you need guidance – use a manuscript.
    Never make your virtual presented slides the centerpiece of the meeting – use it only as guidance to the ideal customer dialogue.
  5. If you are presenting slides, turn “sharing” mode on and off throughout the meeting in combination with questions, that will ensure a better conversation. Keep in mind people may start to read and not pay attention to your spoken word if you continue to show slides all the time.
  6. If you are meeting several people who are all connected in from the same conference room (together around a table) write everyone’s name down, ensuring being able to address each one by name and, if possible, title/function to secure involvement. A question is much stronger if it is directed to the person’s name and not just out in the open. It gets everyone more engaged and involved in the conversation.
  7. Be positive, and as the camera hopefully is on – Smile!
    Remember to review the recording of your meetings – and mark your appearance. We believe we look positive – but in a real situation, we often look quite different than we expect and would like to.
  8. Be very clear on the purpose of the meeting from the very beginning.
    This intent may be obvious, but it is even more critical with virtual meetings, as many and at least not all participants in the assembly do not know what the goal of the conversation is.
  9. Control the meeting from the beginning and set the stage.
    If something is distracting, fix it. If someone is noisy and needs to be muted, mute them. If things need to get back on track, get it there.
    If done right, you will gain the participants’ trust, which is the first step in winning the business.

Read the guide 9 powerful tips to make your online sales meetings more effective – what and how to prepare, setting the stage and creating trust in the meeting, how to engage throughout the session and finally how to make an effective follow-up - both on the meeting and learnings from the meeting.

In this guide, you will find links to a free video series from Winning by Design called “Remote Selling School”. Their footage is excellent inputs to get your sales team going and your online meetings more efficient.

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