With all the changes in society, many salespeople must switch their focus from the face-to-face interaction that so often characterizes a sales transaction to selling their products and services in a virtual environment. For many reasons, this can be jarring. Much of a salesperson’s personal tool kit, the tried and true methods they employ when dealing with customers, do not readily translate into the virtual world. In order to meet their quotas, sales professionals need to either find new tools or customize and adapt their ways to better suit this vastly different landscape.
One of the first things lost in a shift to virtual selling is the physical element of face-to-face communication. Much of how we communicate centers around the cues we send and receive through our body language. In the virtual world, with the increased use of phones, email, and video conferencing apps like Zoom, it becomes more difficult to read these signs. Whether it’s the tone of an email or the look of video conference–where participants can appear frozen behind a desk–you may notice that your well-trained eye for reading customers is suddenly impaired. Following are tips that could help you transition from face-to-face into virtual selling.
- Written Communication
In virtual selling, you will need to rely more on the written word, but without verbal indicators, it can be easy to misunderstand a client’s intent. Your clients may not be skilled writers, able to clearly state their aims and objectives. Often, people write in shorthand and merely state the facts; it can be difficult to get the info you need. If something is unclear, ask more questions. At the same time, salespeople should ensure their own emails are concise and on point. Proofread and even read your emails aloud before you hit send. Remember, recipients don’t just read an email; they also hear it as if it’s spoken. Make sure your word choice and tone are appropriate for the specific client.
- Think Visually
With the increased use of cameras, think about how you come across visually. Remember that your posture, such as how you sit, can affect your voice. A slumped position makes it harder for others to hear you. Sitting up straight allows your diaphragm to expand and contract, making for a clearer and more confident tone of voice. Work in a little hand movement to emphasizeze key points, as this increases interactivity. Also, consider the position of your computer or cell phone. The angle may not be flattering. Nobody wants to talk to a giant head or see inside your ear canal. Set an angle that shows your shoulders and allows you to look straight ahead when speaking. In addition, note the space behind you or select a virtual background, such as your cityscape or company logo.
- Improve Active Listening Skills
In virtual selling, you’re going to spend more time on the phone or in video conference. As such, your active listening skills become more important. Your sense of vocal indicators—the tone, sighs, use of “um,” and voice inflection—must become heightened to better gauge what a customer is thinking. Sighs can express exasperation, with either a company problem or their processes. This can clue you in to possible obstacles. A lot of “ums” and pauses can mean your client is unsure and looking for guidance. Note these as areas you might need to further explain or ask more questions.
- Adjust to Client’s Preferences
Selling virtually, you need to adjust to the customer’s communication preferences. Some of your clients may be more comfortable on the phone while others prefer to talk over video. While something as simple as nodding along during a video chat can signal your clients that you hear them, you’ll need to verbally confirm your comprehension of the issue at hand when you speak to them over the phone. Remember, regardless how your client prefers to communicate, the goal is the same: to bring value to their specific needs.
- Direct the Conversation
Typically, the amount of time spent in virtual communication is less than the time granted in person. As such, you need to ask better questions. At the same time, it’s important to seize control of the conversation. While you should always encourage your customers to speak, you need to direct the discussion with specific questions. Letting your customer control the dialogue can make you appear ineffective or unsure. Worse, it can inhibit you from your goal. Remember, it’s your job to steer the conversation in the most productive way for you to gain the information needed to provide solutions.
While many sales professionals might be resistant to change, the new world order doesn’t give them much choice. Those who embrace the technology and new methods of communication may find that selling virtually makes their jobs easier. It’s one thing to laugh along with a client on the phone, but it’s a whole new level of interaction when you catch that “Aha” moment in their eyes when they see for themselves that you have the knowledge, experience, and expertise to help their organization. At this point, you’re a step closer to establishing a long-term relationship–whether you’re sitting five feet across a conference table or watching on your computer from hundreds of miles away.