Remote selling might be entirely new for some of us, but regardless of whether you’re a veteran of video conferencing or just starting up, here are 12 tips on how to excel at it!
1) Be responsive to incoming queries. According to a study from Harvard Business Review, 58% of 2,241 businesses didn’t respond to online queries, and only 15% had live chat available. 37% responded within an hour, 16% within 1-24 hours, 24% over 24 hours, and 23% didn’t bother to respond at all!
Other findings are similarly eye-opening: If a company didn’t respond within five minutes or less, they risked losing the lead forever. Closing a sale within an hour of response was seven times more likely than calling back in two hours and 60 times more likely than waiting 24 hours or longer. Time is of the essence, so for goodness sake, respond as soon as possible.
2) Visualize prospects as customers. I have practiced this while doing in-person sales. Every time I walked into a person’s office for the first time, I would pretend that it was the fourth time I had opened that door. You can do the exact same thing when you’re selling remotely. Before you pick up your phone, imagine they’re already your client. Believe me, your micro-facial expressions, breathing patterns, body language and the words you use will telegraph those feelings of familiarity even though you may be miles apart. Confidence is everything, which leads to #3.
3) Be fearless. Imagine you're calling to return a wallet you found in the back of the taxi, then bring that level of enthusiasm to talking with prospects. You’re offering them something valuable, right? You really want that nuance to resonate through all of your interactions. And on a related note, if it isn’t a perfect fit for them at the moment, don’t take it as personal rejection. Always leave the door open and don’t be afraid to circle back to see if their situation has changed.
4) Perfect your pitch. Some people react to this tip by saying “I don’t use scripts.” Guess what? You're using a script whether you know it or not. Chances are you're telling everybody the same thing when you pick up the phone, so you might as well just admit it, record and print out your default “script,” and then examine it carefully to assess whether it is the most concise and compelling way to introduce your value proposition. If it isn’t, change it up.
Pay particularly close attention to what you're saying in the first 15 seconds. Start with the best you think you can do, then ask yourself, “Is this the most concise and compelling opener?” It needs to demonstrate immediate, actionable value, because ultimately what you say needs to spark a conversation.
5) Consider how you introduce yourself. This is a trick I learned from a co-presenter during a class. Whenever he called someone new he said, “Hello, this is _____ from _______. Does my name or my company name ring a bell?” This is the classic “pattern interrupt”... something that takes your listener’s mind off of “Who the heck is this person calling me?” and onto “Uh oh, should I know this person?”
The other part of this equation is stating your value proposition as soon as possible, perhaps by saying something like, “The reason I’m calling today is…” That’s an ideal time to segue into a three-sentence solicitation.
6) Commit to active listening. A good listener has the ability to understand and process information, but great listeners have the ability to use that information to influence and negotiate, as well as avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. You might want to consider conducting your phone calls with your eyes closed if you’re sitting behind your desk at home (without your webcam on, of course). It will help you focus on your conversation partner’s breathing patterns, word choices, tone, volume and other things that yield insights into what’s really being said.
7) Fine tune your content and timing. Let’s say you have half an hour to do a video conference. You do not want 30 minutes of content. Rather, leave plenty of time for questions and related discovery. And remember, initiating a Q&A period long before your allotted time is up doesn’t mean your presentation is over. In fact, if your prospects are too shy to ask a question, you might ask, “If you did have a question, what would it be?” People typically chuckle at that question, breaking the ice. And if that doesn’t get audience questions flowing, feel free to begin presenting your own list of frequently asked questions. You might say, “One of the questions I often get asked is...” or “I’m actually surprised you didn’t ask me...” Being prepared with a selection of questions that an engaged audience should be asking is one of the best ways you can get your listeners more fully engaged in your material and better able to make some decisions regarding next steps.
8) Remember that resistance is not the same as rejection. If you’ve prepared yourself to field and address objections (and it’s recommended you have an objections archive to call upon), then you should be able to preemptively neutralize many of them. Build the answers right into your presentation so you wind up addressing potential sticking points before your prospect even raises them. One thing that helps is to think of an objection as a question. Put yourself in a position where you and your prospect can address that question together. And remember, an objection is often just a request for clarification. However, if you don’t properly acknowledge the objection, or if you attempt to summarily dismiss it, you’re likely to make the situation worse. Your prospect will feel as if you’re not taking their objection seriously, and their wall of resistance will start rising.
9) Be analytical and diligent. Tracking your calls, contacts, meetings, proposals and negotiations is essential to staying on top of things. When you’re selling remotely, you’re directly in front of your computer and there’s no excuse for not recording your activities and outcomes into a spreadsheet or CRM. If you do, with time you’ll notice patterns emerging, like which days and times are the most effective to call or how many touches it takes on average to make a sale. All of this will be useful data as you move to streamline your business and shorten your sales cycle.
10) Be an alert multi-tasker. Sometimes you need to multitask, particularly when you’re speaking with a prospect. Ideally you should have two or three screens on your desk. On one you should have your CRM open with your prospect’s contact data and notes. You should also have their website, LinkedIn profile, press releases or any other relevant information available. If you have a demo or other information you’ll need to share with them, make sure they’re all queued up on another uncrowded screen.
If you’re appearing on-screen during a sales call, make sure to properly angle your webcam and illuminate yourself with the right lighting. Get rid of any distractions in the background (or perhaps use a software application that blurs your background). Also, avoid sitting in front of a window with light streaming in behind your head. Otherwise, the harsh contrast will throw off your webcam’s exposure and you’ll likely have an aura around you, which will strain your viewer’s eyes. Lastly, make sure to silence your phone and any alerts while you’re speaking with your prospects, then turn them back on once the meeting is completed.
11) Monitor your sales funnel. Carefully assess any headwinds on your prospect’s end and adjust your proposals and estimated deal timing accordingly. You’ll also want to carefully monitor your sales activities to ensure that you’re working both smarter and harder to compensate for increased distraction on the part of your prospects, more influencers and decision-makers who may need to be convinced, potential freezes on non-essential spending, and other headwinds.
12) Take time to hone your skills. It’s important to be comfortable with all your tools. Some of them might be new to you, but practice makes perfect! You’ll eventually learn which modalities work best for you, as well as which ones are preferred by your customers. Believe me, your dedication will pay off and it will all be worth it in the end.