ISA 21: Five Ways to Improve Virtual Meeting Sales Skills - Modern Distribution Management

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ISA 21: Five Ways to Improve Virtual Meeting Sales Skills

With distributors’ customers migrating to hybrid work environments, virtual sales calls still play an important role but there is room for improvement with the medium.
Marcus Sheridan ISA presentation

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that distributors’ sales teams interact with their customers, and with a large number of those customers going to a hybrid model there’s still room for marked improvements on how video conferencing sales calls are conducted.

Speaking Tuesday morning at the ISA 21 conference, digital sales and marketing expert Marcus Sheridan provided an overview of several key pillars that are foundational to successful video conference calls for salespeople.

“It’s critical that as organizations, we start to change the way that we talk about face-to-face selling,” said Sheridan. “We look at it in two lights. We’ve got face-to-face over video and we’ve got face-to-face in person. There’s going to be times when we use each, and let’s recognize when to use those times.”

One of the myths about using Zoom, or any of the other video conferencing platforms, is that video sales calls goes against the grain of distributors being relationship-based businesses. One advantage to video conferences is they enable distributors to have more frequent contact with their customers.

“What we have found is that if we’re providing value when we meet with a prospect over video, we can do it more often than we were before,” Sheridan said. “What’s happened is we’ve seen consistently higher closing rates. We’ve seen high sales number, and we’ve seen much less in terms of travel expenses across the board.

“So you have a lot of CFOs that are saying, ‘Well, if we’re getting better results, why would we go back to the way we were doing it before?’”

Sheridan discussed 12 best practices to improve video conference calls. While some may seem obvious to most after more than a year of operating under the shadow of the pandemic, a surprising number of business are still missing the mark with how they conduct their video sales calls, he said.

Here’s a look at five of Sheridan’s best practices for successful video sales calls.

1. Camera on

Video sales call closing are 15% to 20% higher when both parties have their cameras on. Sheridan said sales staff should get customers to confirm that they’ll have their cameras on before the call even takes place. Without the camera on, it’s hard to gauge the customer’s interest level and whether they are even paying attention. In addition to enabling face-to-face interaction, having cameras on prevents misunderstandings when complex topics are being discussed. Sheridan said if customers balks at turning cameras on, go over the benefits again with them in a second attempt to get them to change their minds.

“We want to be very clear with why we’re going to ask them to turn the camera on. In other words, what’s in it for them,” Sheridan says. “No. 2, we want to get an actual confirmation that they’re going to turn their camera on.”

2. Record (with permission)

Whenever possible, get customers’ permission to record the video conference sales calls. Some companies may have policies against recording the video calls, so Sheridan said not to push them about it. Recording the video calls is beneficial for the sales staff — the calls can be reviewed after they take place — and for the customer because they show that the sales staff wants to keep an accurate record of what was discussed. Sales staff should try to record a video conference call at least once a month, which can then be reviewed by the sales manager.
“When we record the calls, we learn things about ourselves from our peers that we never realized before,” Sheridan said. “We catch things sooner than we caught them before.”

3. Less text is more

Limit the amount of text on presentations to 20 words per slide. Customers can drift away from what the sales staff is saying on the video conference call because they’re focused on reading the slides, Sheridan said. A more detailed deck can be prepped to send out after the sales call.
“If you have too many words, there’s competition of attention,” Sheridan said. “They end up usually reading the long slide, meaning that they’re not paying as much attention as they should be to the rep.”

4. Don’t rely on screen sharing

Limit the screen sharing during video conference call presentations. Depending on the platform, screen sharing can cause the salesperson’s face to shrink during a presentation. Ideally, everyone on the call sees each other throughout the video conference to better interact with each other.
“What we are saying is definitively there is a problem with sharing your screen the entire time when we look at virtual sales appointments,” Sheridan said. “This is a prolific issue with sales teams.”

5. Make questions specific

Don’t ask general, open-ended questions on sales video conference calls. Sheridan said doing so will usually result in two or three people jumping in to answer at the same time. Ask specific questions to specific customers, and use their names each time. By directing questions to each member of a video conference call, no one person can dominate the conversation.
“We are the band director. We are the leader,” Sheridan said. “Our job is to ensure that all the instruments create the greatest sound and noise. To make this a reality, you are the one directing who’s talking. That doesn’t mean that people will jump in and say what they’re thinking, but it means now everyone’s voice will be heard.”

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