As most salespeople know, the more engagement, the more successful a sales meeting. While this has always been true in face-to-face meetings, it is even more so in virtual. For many salespeople, however, it’s one thing to engage clients when you’re in the same room, but it’s another thing entirely from several states away. That’s why, with the global shift to virtual meetings, many salespeople worried they could not effectively engage customers in virtual like they did in face-to-face. However, according to a survey by the Harvard Business Review, 86 percent of participants report as high or higher levels of engagement with video conferencing than face-to-face. Now, with most sales organizations fully entrenched in virtual, here are seven tips to keep buyers engaged during virtual meetings:
- Schedule Early
Generally, people work best in the morning. In fact, research cited by the BBC shows that 11 a.m. is the most productive time of the day, followed by a slight dip in productivity until 2 p.m., and a precipitous fall after 4. These days, with so many organizations relying exclusively on virtual interaction, it’s common for clients to have several virtual calls a day. To avoid meeting fatigue, schedule your virtual meetings early. Of course, we are often at the mercy of our clients, and it’s best to accommodate their needs, but to maximize engagement in virtual meetings, early is better.
- Limit Participants
When meeting buyers, salespeople want to engage as many decision makers as possible. And these days, with the number of B2B decision makers steadily rising, virtual is a great way to ensure you’re in front of the most VIPs who can facilitate a purchase. However, it’s helpful to remember The Ringelmann Effect. This states that the more people involved in a task, the less productive they will be. As many teachers can tell you, the more students in a class, the more some think they can hide in plain sight. You may have noticed the same thing during sales meetings. Whenever possible, to increase participation and engagement, limit your virtual meeting to essential decision makers and key stakeholders.
- Tell Stories
People have engaged in storytelling since the earliest humans sat around a campfire and lied about the woolly mammoth that got away. Today, in virtual, storytelling is an essential component of building engagement. Beyond the necessary facts, figures, charts, and data, nothing captures a buyer’s attention like a specific client success story or even an important learning experience. Your stories are a vital part of who you are, and they can be essential to building trust. More importantly, in a virtual meeting, they can ensure your clients stay focused on you and hang on your every word.
- Ask Frequent Questions
All salespeople know open-ended questions help clients share. If this was useful in face-to-face meetings, it’s essential in virtual. The more you can get people talking in a virtual meeting, the more they will interact, interrupt, and engage with each other. In virtual meetings, questions provoke discussion. Not only can this reveal hidden needs or problems, it also ensures that people pay attention. Ideally, you want to create a lively atmosphere for virtual participants to talk, laugh, and feel a little less isolated. Salespeople who make meetings memorable inspire trust and build relationships.
- Invite Participation
Another way to create engagement is to actively invite participation. If you just sit back and wait for your meeting attendees to speak, the only thing you’ll hear are virtual crickets. In addition to asking questions of the entire group, ask specific people for their input. Think again of school, when teachers randomly called on students and the whole class snapped to attention. The more specific you can make this the better, such as, “Walter, your initial email mentioned distribution issues. Can you elaborate on that a little, especially for Jane, who raised a similar concern?” Call that a two for one.
- Create Anticipation
A final tip to keep buyers engaged virtually is to remind participants that essential information is coming soon. Like a trailer for a blockbuster movie, you want to give participants just enough to whet their appetites, such as, “I just want to touch on a few more key points to lay the groundwork before I outline several solutions that address your concerns.” In addition to giving them something to look forward, to, this reminds them that your current points are tied to their understanding and will help them appreciate the soon-to-come solutions.
Despite the handwringing of salespeople who feared virtual meant the end of engaging sales meetings, many sales pros have found virtual engagement to be as—if not more—rewarding than in-person engagement. As with all sales interactions, the trick is making the most of the buyer’s experience. After all, the basics of sales have remained the same through countless technological advancements. Resourceful sellers are those who see change as opportunity and use the tools of virtual selling to do what salespeople have always done: build rapport, discover need, find solutions, and form beneficial partnerships, no matter where the meetings take place.