Selling virtually is a challenge for even the best sellers.
You have to change the way you sell and use different technologies to maximize your success. While many of the principles of consultative selling remain the same (i.e., you have to build rapport, uncover needs, inspire with new ideas, build an impact case, etc.), how you go about doing these in a virtual environment is drastically different.
8 Keys of Virtual Consultative Selling Success
How to Master Virtual Consultative Selling
1. Build Rapport
In a face-to-face setting, rapport happens fairly organically. How you generate rapport and develop relationships is entirely different in a virtual world.
There's no inviting customers and prospects out to lunch or to sporting events. You can’t check in prior to the meeting start while pouring coffee or walking the halls.
You must be deliberate and proactive in your relationship-building efforts. When selling in a virtual environment, you must consciously create space and time for personal discussion and connection.
Rapport tip: In a health-crisis business downturn, it’s bad form to use time pressure to get business now. Make sure you get a feel for what the buyer is up for or even capable of doing business-wise before you start trying to land budget or you risk damaging your relationship.
2. Uncover Aspirations and Afflictions
Buyers have less tolerance during virtual meetings for aimlessness in conversations. You must be organized with your needs discovery. Organized with your idea presentations. Organized about any collaboration.
Demonstrate your buyer research by asking targeted questions. For example, “I see the stock prices of five of your major customers have dropped on average 20% in this financial crisis. How is this affecting you?” Or, “How have the supply chain interruptions impacted your inventory?”
Virtual selling requires exceptional questioning and listening skills. You must be inquisitive and show heightened presence and focus.
One of the major advantages of selling virtually is your ability to keep prepared questions (or other reference material) in eyeshot. Keep them on your screen and use them as an aid to guide your conversation.
3. Make the Impact Case
With uncertain financial markets and many businesses holding on spend, it's never been more important for you to make a compelling case to buy. You must show the ROI.
In a virtual selling environment, you can build the case live with the buyer using screen share or virtual white boards. Prepare to ask questions to gather data to make your impact case, plug the numbers in live, and show the results.
This is an incredibly powerful and influential exercise that can be done much more easily in the virtual setting than in person.
4. Share the New Reality
How will the buyer’s world be different when they engage with you? What’s the new reality you will help them realize? How will you help them get there?
Follow the Convincing Story framework to show how you can help buyers get from their current state (i.e., the status quo, which is bad) to where they want to be (i.e., where they get the results they desire and achieve their end goal).
Stories are incredibly powerful and help to demonstrate your understanding and capability because 1. You’ve been there before, and 2. You’ve helped others reach their goals in the face of similar challenges. The more you can paint this picture and make a case for action, the greater your success will be.
5. Balance Advocacy and Inquiry
One of the biggest mistakes we see sellers make as they transition to virtual selling is presenting too much. It’s easy to fall into this trap as you walk buyers through a prepared PowerPoint deck.
Be deliberate in your interactions. Check in often and ask, “How's this going for you? Too much detail? Too little? Pace okay? Are you learning what you want? What am I missing? How do you think this would work at your organization?”
A good rule of thumb is to talk for no more than 6 minutes, then stop and check in. This is especially important to keep in mind when delivering demos where sellers tend to speak for long chunks of time.
- Read: How Sellers Can Disrupt and Reframe Buyer Thinking
6. Leverage Technology
Technology is something you don’t need to think about in your in-person meetings. When selling virtually, you must master technology. From the buyer's perspective, nothing is more frustrating than wasting the first 15 minutes of a meeting with tech issues and getting people logged in.
Set clear expectations prior to the meeting for what technologies you will be using. Will you be screen sharing? On video? Using computer audio, phone, etc.? Prepare your buyer, and for important meetings such as finalist presentations, do a tech check ahead of time.
Take the Lead: Virtual Selling Checklist
7. Attend to Your Professionalism
When selling virtually, you and your background are your brand. I’ve attended calls in the last month where sellers are wearing t-shirts, their background is a messy pile of boxes, text messages are dinging every 4 minutes, sellers are distracted and seemingly not paying attention to the conversation, lighting is poor, and the list of mistakes goes on.
Would you show up to a face-to-face sales meeting in jeans and a t-shirt? Would you keep your cell phone on if you were sitting around a conference table? Would you invite a buyer into your messy basement office?
Buyers expect a certain level of professionalism even when you’re working from home. Project confidence and professionalism with a well curated look for yourself and your background.
8. Plan for Success
You must guide a proactive and deliberate sales conversation and process. Much of virtual selling success requires you to take the lead even more than in in-person selling.
You must prepare for your conversations and manage the virtual setting. Make sure your tech is ready to go (video, webcam, audio, bandwidth, office scene, lighting, screens, etc.). Take the lead in your meetings by orchestrating them from start to finish. Prepare visuals. Share an agenda. Plan how you’ll collaborate. Do your research. Follow up immediately with a call summary and next steps.
If you attend to these 8 things, and spend time upfront to plan for your success, you’ll have much more of it as you transition to the new world of virtual selling.