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17 Common Virtual Selling Mistakes to Avoid

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Written by Dave Shaby
Strategic Adivsor, RAIN Group

There are many mistakes to avoid when it comes to virtual selling.

Although we all make—and learn from—our mistakes, they're often magnified in a virtual environment, which makes awareness and preparation paramount to success.

Avoid these 17 common mistakes to impress your buyers and stand out from the competition:

  1. Not using video: Video helps build rapport and create a connection with buyers. Even if a buyer isn't sharing their video, it’s best to keep yours on. If you let your buyer know in advance that you'll be using video, they'll tend to follow your lead.
  2. Poor lighting and positioning: Backlight makes faces hard to see and overhead lights create glare and unflattering shadows. Beware of the lighting in your setup and adjust it for an evenly-lit, clear video appearance.
  3. Unprofessional background: You and your background represent your brand. We're all faced with new circumstances working from home. This doesn't mean the buyer needs to see your closet office, piles of boxes, or headboard. Neaten your office and create a space with a simple bookshelf behind you, find a monotone wall, or use a virtual background (with a green screen).
  4. Talking too much: Virtual selling doesn't mean you must constantly be speaking. Collaborate with and involve the buyer in the conversation.
  5. Not developing appropriate levels of rapport: Rapport building virtually is different than in-person meetings. Be proactive in your rapport-building efforts and leave time and space in your meetings to allow for personal connection. 
  6. Lack of technical prep and clear instructions: Nothing is more frustrating for a buyer than not being able to get into the meeting, view screens, hear the seller, etc. Become a master of the technology and prepare your buyers ahead of time for optimal use.
  7. Leaving on alerts: Dings, buzzes, appointment reminders, and Slack notifications are annoying. They distract buyers and they distract you. Turn off your alerts, remove your phone from view, and close your door.
  8. Letting the buyer take the lead: When selling virtually, you need to lead the meeting. Buyers want your guidance and advice. Add value by guiding the discussion. This instills confidence and trust in you and your solution.
  9. Too much background noise: From dogs barking to lawnmowers to voices in the background, background noise is incredibly distracting. Reality means some challenges are inevitable, but use a noise-canceling mic or soundproof to best remedy in advance.
  10. Not having a plan for the meeting: When selling virtually, you need to be even more organized than face-to-face. Orchestrate the meeting from start to finish while also allowing for flexibility. Guide your buyers through the conversation. There’s much less tolerance for aimlessness in virtual meetings.
  11. Being distracted: Look into the camera and give the buyer your full and undivided attention. Don’t check your phone, look off at a second screen, or check email. Nothing turns buyers off more than a seemingly distracted seller.
  12. Not using visuals: An advantage of selling virtually is the ability to quickly and easily share visuals. Use this. Show your screen to inspire buyers, share a new idea, uncover needs, and build an impact case.
  13. Being too still: When presenting virtually, some sellers don't move at all. They sit stone-faced, using few hand motions, and little emotion. While some sellers overdo animation and facial expressions, which can get distracting, sellers are more often too understated and should project more.
  14. Not reading buyer cues: Pay attention to your buyers. If they're on video, watch their body language. If you sense distraction or disengagement, check in. In virtual selling, it’s much easier to lose attention, and it’s much harder to get it back. If you sense anything but rapt attention, use your tools and selling skills to reengage with questions.
  15. Not attending to your look: When leading a virtual sales meeting, think, "important in-person meeting." You wouldn’t show up to a client meeting unbathed and wearing a Metallica t-shirt. Don’t log into a virtual meeting like this. You also need to consider the color contrast with your background. If it’s a dark background, don’t wear a dark shirt. Using a green screen? Avoid green clothing. Avoid busy patterns on video. Exude a professional and polished look to inspire confidence.
  16. Managing mute: “You need to unmute yourself!” are five words you should never hear from a buyer during a meeting. While it’s important to manage your mute to reduce background and typing noises, be mindful of your mute setting and manage it appropriately.
  17. Not using selling skills: When selling virtually, the basic sales principles still apply: you must build rapport, uncover needs, craft compelling solutions, sell the value and ROI, and share new ideas. Don’t forget your selling skills. (Check out our infographic: 10 Essential Selling Skills.)

As you transition to virtual selling, there are new challenges. Learn from others and avoid the mistakes shared here for the greatest success. 

Book: Buy Virtual Selling Now
Last Updated January 3, 2023

Topics: Sales Conversations Virtual Selling