According to a McKinsey study carried out during the lockdown, over 90% of BtoB companies have moved towards a distance selling model. We’re certainly not going to go back to the pre-lockdown selling model any time soon. Videoconferencing sales appointments has become standard practice.
However, you can’t transpose exactly the same best physical sales appointment practices to videoconference. Although, at its best, videoconference can re-create physical reality, as a salesperson you have to cope with a number of challenges specific to the medium:
- Your interlocutor’s attention is more volatile
- Communication of information is more uncertain
- As a salesperson, you’re cut off from an important part of the discussion: nonverbal communication
- A videoconference sales appointment leaves less room for bonding as there’s less time available (due in particular to attention).
- The technology involved is your ally, but it can also be a disservice to you if it isn’t used properly.
At Touch & Sell, we believe that videoconference sales appointments are here to stay. That’s why we’ve complemented this article, which we published at the beginning of the lockdown, with this complete guide.
Before the sales appointment, take care over setup
In the past, when you went to visit a customer, you were inevitably thrust into your prospect’s formal environment. This is no longer the case, as both parties are in their own private environments. In order to re-create the context, particular care must be taken over setting up your appointment.
- The work environment
Seat yourself in as neutral a setting as possible, with minimum personal decoration in the background. By doing so, you limit your interlocutor’s projection into your personal context and create a more formal atmosphere.
Lighting should also be taken into account. You want to be able to see your prospect and they want to be able to see you. So avoid backlighting in favour of frontal natural light (or artificial if the room is dark).
When videoconferencing, you can dress less formally than for a physical appointment. Your clothing must always be adapted to your customer. If it’s a startup, you can dress more casually than for a key account. More advice here.
Children, neighbours, work going on outside – it isn’t always possible to isolate yourself completely. However, using a headset or earpieces limits disturbances. Most importantly, you’ll stay focused.
Make the utmost of your videoconference tools and webcam
If you apply certain best practices, your digital tools become levers for increasing engagement, which is often impacted by remote communication. Whether you’re using Zoom, Go to Meeting, Teams or another service, videoconference tools have a wide range of functionalities that can be very useful in involving your prospect and avoiding losing their attention.
- Screen sharing
Although video allows for differentiation compared with the rather more classical phone call, it’s screen sharing that creates interactivity. Nonetheless, it requires preparation. Assemble all your content in a file specific to your appointment. Pay attention to your office background, which must remain professional.
If you’re going to need online content, open all necessary content in your browser beforehand. As you’re aware, your interlocutor’s attention is fragile, so don’t waste time searching.
Don’t forget to suspend your notifications, which may otherwise come up on your screen during your sales appointment.
Whether in order to limit interruptions or overcome a microphone problem, use of chat is a best practice for sharing questions and recommendations. All the more so when you’ve got several interlocutors. Keep the chat window open so you don’t miss anything or, if possible, ask a colleague to manage chat during the appointment.
- Survey tools
If you get the feeling that your audience is becoming distracted during a sales appointment, you can use the survey options available in a number of tools. Your prospects will then be able to vote on a subject and get back on track.
- The webcam
This is videoconference’s most valuable asset and the main difference between a videoconference and a classical phone call. According to a study carried out by Zoom on its clients, 82% of respondents considered that video helped build trust and reduced inattention, and 91% asserted that it improved engagement and transmission of nonverbal communication.
However, due to problems of lag or Internet connection quality, it isn’t always used. In a videoconference, this means that you lose then nonverbal aspects of your communication (we’ll come back to this). The webcam is therefore your main ally in making sure that information is communicated to the best possible advantage during your appointment.
If you can’t use it for the entire duration of the discussion, make sure you connect it at the beginning and end of your sales appointment. By doing so, you’ll create closer ties as well as mark the various stages of your appointment. Also remember to look at your camera as much as possible rather than your screen; eye contact also helps keep up attention.
Adopt a more specific structure for your videoconference sales appointment
Speaking of stages, your videoconference sales appointment must be structured. As you’ve certainly observed, attention is more fragile. Remote appointments are shorter than physical ones. Here’s the sequencing we suggest in order to ensure that they’re effective.
- At the beginning, spend at least 5 minutes waiting for all participants to arrive and making introductions. Pay attention to names and voices. If you switch of the webcam, you’ll know who’s speaking during the presentation (you don’t always have participants’ screens and the screen-sharing screen at the same time). Nor should you overlook the classical conversations that might occur during physical appointments and which help create ties even at a distance.
- Then introduce your meeting’s minutes or agenda in the clearest possible terms. You can remind participants of the context in which it is being held and any previous exchanges that have taken place. Then, most importantly, present the session’s sequencing.
- The presentation. Get real dialogue going and don’t let yourself be trapped by your presentation. You’re certainly going to ask more questions than during a physical meeting; reformulate them so that information is effectively communicated and fully understood.
- Summarise what has just been said so as to be sure that it corresponds to the purposes of the appointment, and collect concrete feedback on what you’ve just presented.
- Agree on the next steps to take. This is the time to arrange your next meeting and send your presentation.
- Finally, you can gradually relax and let things become more informal. This is when you become friendlier and make good use of your sense of humour.
Compensate for the weaknesses of videoconference sales appointments: communication and engagement
Do you know the American psychologist Albert Mehrabian’s “3V” rule? According to his studies, 7% of communication is verbal, 38% is vocal (tone and intonation of voice) and 55% is visual (facial expressions and body language). Hence, in videoconference sales appointments, you lose the visual aspect of your communication.
In order to compensate for the difficulties inherent in videoconferencing, you can build on 3 pillars:
Adopt a more energetic tone of voice than you would during a physical meeting. As you know, it’s no fun following a presentation given in a monotonous tone. All the more so if you have to do it remotely. Varying your intonation can help you, slightly stressing keywords for example. You should try to be 10% more energetic than normal in order to keep your interlocutor’s attention, without putting on an obvious act of course.
Also make use of silences to emphasise various points and/or give your interlocutor an opportunity to ask a question or assimilate information. Don’t be afraid of silences and don’t try to fill them with verbal tics. When you can’t see your interlocutor, you are more aware of such tics as well as of time spent thinking.
Keeping up a regular speech rate and taking care to enunciate clearly will also ensure better understanding of what you have to say.
Your videoconference presentation can’t simply replicate a face-to-face presentation. You can’t be sure that your interlocutor is giving you their full attention or that they actually understand what you’re explaining to them. You can be fazed all too easily.
To remedy this, get a dialogue going by asking questions. By doing so, you’ll make sure that you’re communicating effectively and you’ll get the feedback you need in order to move forward. You’ll certainly have to be more concise and provide more specific information than in a physical meeting.
Also, don’t hesitate to be more descriptive, in particular when you’re making a product demonstration. Start each transition by asking questions; this will also be an opportunity to further engage your interlocutor. If you’re addressing several interlocutors, you can turn to them individually when your presentation responds to a specific question raised beforehand by one of them. Above all, ask questions and rephrase them often so as to be sure that you understand your prospects’ expectations.
- Your content
Although your sales materials may always have been valuable tools, they’re even more valuable during videoconference sales appointments. According to a study by the Science Social Research Network, 65% of the population retains information thanks to images (as against 30% by listening to it and 5% by experience). Hence, your content, in particular when shared on the screen, facilitates information retention. It’s therefore of crucial importance in ensuring effective communication of information and its retention on the part of your interlocutor.
Furthermore, by varying content (images, video, computer graphics, etc.), you help your interlocutor stay focused.
By combining vocal communication, dialogue and content, you’ll be able to avoid the pitfalls of videoconference sales appointments and ensure a quality of communication similar to that achieved during physical meetings.
Setup, tools, sequencing, communication and content – you’ve now got all the information required to make a success of your videoconference sales appointments. And you – what do you do during your distance-selling activities? Share your best practices as comments.