It is certainly no secret; personal relationships are vital to a successful sales career. Cold calls or emails may get your proverbial foot in the door, but the close comes from earning a client’s trust. It is hard to beat a face to face meeting and a handshake as a means to building that desired trust.
As times change, however, the world of sales is experiencing a transition from in-person meetings to a variety of collaborations facilitated through technology.
Of particular importance to sales, is how to develop and maintain a personal relationship with a client in the virtual realm. Whether your use of technology in sales is based on social distancing, saving on travel expenses, avoiding time away from home, or any number of other reasons, there are some suggestions that make the absence of the face to face meeting easier.
Consider these five tips for improving video calls.
1. Send Calendar Invites
Most people tend to remember a meeting scheduled in a conference room, or a colleague’s office, or across town. But virtual meetings have a way of slipping from the collective, or perhaps selective, memories of certain clients. The use of calendar invites can be particularly important for the online conference and can work to your advantage.
When sending an invitation to an online meeting, do not make your potential client jump through a series of digital hoops to attend. Include links and teleconference ID numbers as needed. If possible, avoid systems that require your client to download an app, or sign-up for an account, or any other inconvenience which might cause them to cancel your meeting.
Next, use titles that remind your client who you are or what you can do for their company. For instance, rather than a calendar invite titled “Meeting with Kevin,” consider a title that works as an ad for your product or service.
Instead, try, “10-8 Systems teleconference,” or “CAD/RMS virtual meeting.” As your customer looks at his or her calendar in the days and weeks leading up to your meeting, they repeatedly see your company and what you have to offer.
2. Text Messages as Appropriate Reminders
Communicating with your lead by text tends to show you respect their time and lets them feel they are in control of the conversation. After all, they can respond at their convenience rather than interrupting their day answering a phone call. Start early in your relationship with a potential client and seek their permission to communicate by text.
Regardless of how you first made contact; face to face, an email, phone call, or some other way, asking if you can text them lets your lead know you respect their time and privacy. For example, asking, “Would it be alright if I sent you a text? That way, you can respond whenever you have time,” goes a long way in building a relationship with your potential client.
A few points of text etiquette are good to keep in mind. First, send text communications during traditional business hours. Unless the relationship with your client dictates otherwise, weekdays after 9 am and before 5 pm are usually best.
Next, maintain a professional tone. Casual phrases and abbreviations between friends and family are far different than what is expected in the business world. Finally, most professionals do not want to have long conversations through text. A brief message to convey information or send a reminder about a video conference is usually all that is needed for effective business communication through a text.
3. Things Do Not Always Go as Planned: Have a Plan B
Technology continues to make life better. In the business world, the use of the internet and cell phones have successfully taken industries into the second decade of the 21st century. Technology is great…until it’s not. That is to say; it is not without its occasional lapse in expected operation. Having a backup plan helps overcome these rare but potentially embarrassing moments.
When scheduling a video conference, it may be wise to consider calling into the meeting in addition to logging in via your computer. In the less than ideal situation in which your 21st century, hi-def, fiber-optic, video conferencing system did not come through, you may find yourself on an old-fashioned telephone call with your customer.
This is when it is crucial to have a plan to make your pitch with what you have. This phone call may be your only chance to make an impression, close the sale, or develop the all-important relationship.
Avoid statements such as, “I’m sorry the connection is not working,” or “If you could only see my screen, I could show you…” Instead, thank the client for their patients, make the best of the situation, and do what sales professionals do: sell your product!
4. Have Your Presentations Ready in Advance
In furtherance of building a confidence-instilling relationship with a potential client, consider the vital portrayal of professionalism. Being prepared for your video call helps demonstrate respect, an imperative component of a professional partnership.
A simple step in your preparation is to have your presentations loaded and ready to begin before joining the teleconference. Regardless of the platform you are using for your deck; PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, or a similar presentation avenue, have both the program and your file up and running well in advance of the call.
As an example, I normally have these 2 web pages ready for my meetings.
I have them pulled up, without my bookmarks bar (I’ll talk about this in the next section), so that I can actually show the client our website, our expertise and it’s a web page that they can get familiar with and will influence them to navigate back to it later if they need anything.
Most people have been on the receiving end of an unprepared speaker. Perhaps you even had a short period of empathy for someone who struggled to load a program, warm-up a projector, or find their PowerPoint in a sea of files. That understanding, however, usually has a limited lifespan and can quickly evolve into the perception of someone who does not respect your time.
It is best not to hope for the possibility of empathy when making your presentation. Have the deck loaded so you can immediately begin when the client is ready. Whether they consciously recognize it or not, you will have demonstrated both your level of professionalism and appreciation of their time.
5. Screen Sharing and the Bookmark Bar
Even when technology works as expected, the human factor can still result in a less than favorable digital meeting. During the recent uptick in online meetings due to social distancing, it was not unusual to see videos or read articles about some breach in basic etiquette as working from home became the norm. Regardless of your location when participating in a video call, there are some points to keep in mind to enhance professionalism and avoid embarrassment.
If you are sharing your screen, please remember to hide your bookmark bar. Often, bookmarks contain information that can divulge a great deal about the computer user. In addition to information such as banking and financial links, bookmarks may include a list of your competitors or other business research you may not want to share with the world.
How about your family’s information, such as the kid’s schools, vacation plans, or other items you did not mean to be part of your business meeting and memorialized in a recorded video conference? Hiding your bookmark bar is a small and easy step to protecting your business and your privacy.
Ultimately, the transition from face to face meetings to teleconferences is likely to increase. Sales professionals must make allowances for this transition by leveraging technology, having a backup plan or two, and embracing the evolution of the inevitable digital handshake.
While the journey to get there may be changing, business and sales still are, and always will be, about building personal relationships.