“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Stephen Hawking

Remember when we used to jump on a plane to meet with a prospect, or grab a cup of coffee in town, or wow a conference room full of decision-makers with a fantastic presentation? We took for granted that we could read the room, notice who was checking their phone, connect while walking to the coffee maker, or build on the energy of a great collaboration.

Now a shift is happening, and we need to adapt. While the catalyst for change was the global pandemic, virtual is here to stay…at least as a strong option. While meetings via remote platforms can be more efficient and cost effective for clients, for salespeople it can feel like a deal killer.

The good news is that the keys to building strong, trusted relationships with clients and prospects are the same – the trick will be to get out ahead of the competition with smart planning and flawless execution. Here are 5 tips on how:

1.  Prepare More: Ramp Up The Time You Commit To Planning

Like many of us, the busy executives we want to meet with are even more overloaded and suffer the same “virtual fatigue” we are all experiencing. You now have less time to make that first impression, and potentially, less airtime overall. If you’re not on point, highly credible, and well organized, you’ll lose your audience quickly.

  • Don’t Wing It. Know what’s most important to your client, consider their questions and concerns in advance. Document what information you need to gather and what information you need to give so you can engage quickly and bring value as a strategic resource. Have a clear, concise agenda that respects their time and prioritizes what matters most to them.  
  • Be Tech Savvy. We’ve all been on too many video meetings where precious time ticks by as people struggle with technology. Make sure you confirm the platform and test your skills long before the meeting. If you’re delivering a formal presentation, leverage the features the platform has to offer to really engage them. 
  • Make It Easy On The Client. Send out materials in advance, including an agenda. Make room in the conversation for them to weigh in. Take breaks to gauge their level of interest and engagement. Follow up immediately with a meeting summary and next steps.

2.  Consider Your Video Persona: Pay Attention To Your Presence

While we’ve all become accustomed to viewing each other’s living rooms, spare bedrooms, or kitchen tables, err on the side of professionalism. There are five key factors you should keep in mind when setting up for a video meeting that can easily be remembered with the acronym FIELD:

  • Frame: Position yourself squarely within the video screen
  • Image: Create a clean, uncluttered background
  • Elevation/Eye Contact: Raise your camera level and make eye contact with the camera
  • Light: Make sure there’s a light source on your face, not behind you or over your head
  • Distance: Move in – your head and shoulders should fill the frame

Check out this 3-minute video tutorial for more detail regarding how to rework your virtual presence. Some very minor and easy changes can dramatically affect whether your client is paying attention to you, or the cat walking behind you.

3.  Build Rapport: Create Connections That Transcend The Distance

With a global health crisis and recession at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it would be disingenuous to dive right into business. Lead the meeting by taking responsibility for welcoming others and setting the tone. Imagine you’re hosting the client in your own offices. Take a few minutes to acknowledge the environment, demonstrate genuine curiosity by asking how they are doing, and let the conversation breathe. Connect by conveying emotion through facial expression and vocal tone. Make the meeting more than a transaction.

4.  Ask the Right Questions: Be Intentional And Curious – But Get To The Point

Virtual selling – like in-person meetings – requires exceptional questioning and listening skills. Your role is to facilitate a conversation in which the client shares their aspirations, their objectives, and their challenges. One of the major advantages of selling virtually is your ability to keep prepared questions in a place that’s easy to see. Keep them on your screen, jot them on a Post-it note, and refer to them occasionally to keep you on track.

5.  Watch the Clock: Talk Less, Listen More – It’s All About Them

One of the pitfalls of virtual meetings is you can’t read the room, which means it’s easy to fall into the trap of presenting too much information, talking too quickly, and neglecting to slow down and give your audience a chance to participate. If you have an hour for the meeting, your “airtime” should take up no more than 20 minutes all in. Be deliberate in your interactions. Check in frequently, pause and look around the video screen, make eye contact with the participants, and allow them space to jump in or comment.

Our "next normal” is demanding smart approaches to how we think about and adapt to working in a new environment. The winners in the game of virtual selling with be those who pivot fast, own the change, distinguish themselves through their command of technology and virtual presence, and build trust through genuine engagement with clients. If you’re wondering why your sales team is falling behind, they may be relying on practices that are “so last year.” The world has changed overnight – don’t miss the chance to leap forward.

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