And just like that everything changed.
A global pandemic. Panic. Social distancing. Working from home. An economic crisis.
In a heartbeat, we went from happy hours to virtual happy hours. From conferences to virtual conferences. From the classroom to the virtual classroom. From selling to virtual selling.
Will the customers and prospects accept virtual selling?
Here are five basic truths:
- Most of your prospects and customers would prefer to meet you face-to-face before making any risky decision. They want to know if they can trust you. Seeing you in person helps them realize how much they can trust you.
- If prospects and customers are given a choice to meet face to face, most will.
- If the only option to meet with you is on a virtual call, most prospects and customers will be fine with it.
- The majority of your prospects and customers will be comfortable with at least some of the steps of the sales process being virtual.
- Most of the mental hang-ups about virtual selling are with you, not your stakeholders.
Pick up the phone. You still need to talk to people.
Jeb subscribes to the basic truth that the more people you talk with, the more people you’ll sell. Talk with as many people as possible through as many channels as possible. Build emotional connection and help them solve problems. In the land of the complex sale, real-time, human-to-human communication is the key to success for you and your customers.
Four types of intelligence. Know where you lead and where you lag.
IQ – Innate Intelligence – how smart you are – is fixed. It’s baked into your DNA.
AQ – Acquired Intelligence – how much you know – makes IQ relevant.
TQ – Technological Intelligence – how fast you assimilate and leverage technology for low-value tasks – gives you more time for stuff that matters.
EQ – Emotional Intelligence – your acuity for dealing with emotions – amplifies the impact of IQ, AQ and TQ because it allows you to relate to other human beings.
Recommend Reading: Sales EQ by Jeb Blount
Video calls and the problem with cognitive load.
On virtual video calls, you must never discount the power of the subconscious mind and how it holds sway over your stakeholder’s perceptions, emotions and behavior. On video calls, the brain must expend energy as it attempts to interpret the picture it sees on the screen and compare it with the way it expects a person to look like in person. When that picture doesn’t look natural, when the clues and cues that are normally present in and in-person conversation are not there, the brain must work harder to fill the gaps.
Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Poor quality video calls increase cognitive load even more, causing your brain to fill in those gaps to the point that it becomes overloaded. This is why even a 30 minute video call can leave you feeling exhausted. Imagine if TV shows and movies looked like most Zoom calls. You’d be instantly turned off by the cheap production quality. You certainly wouldn’t pay for them. The quality of most video calls is awful. Bad lighting, bad audio, bad cameras, bad framing all contribute to a poor emotional experience.
Seven technical elements of a highly effective video
Element #1 Sales Calls
The directors and producers of TV shows and movies invest hundreds of hours into perfecting their sets, lighting and audio. They usually spend twice as much time on getting the set right as they do working in front of the camera. They do this because viewers know what looks right and what looks wrong even if they’re unaware of it at the conscious level.
This is your primary goal with video sales calls. You must invest time and resources to create a video experience that makes you look as natural as possible on camera. You must optimize every aspect of your video sales call set.
Element #2 Audio
High-quality audio matters just as much as high-quality video. If people can see you but not heart you, you’re not selling. If your audio is poor, it leaves a bad impression on you.
There are four keys to a good audio (1) Good Internet (2) Background noise (3) Room echo (4) Professional microphone.
Element #3 Lighting
Lighting is the most important technical element of a video call. Just like your eyes, your camera needs the right amount of light to process a good image. Great lighting makes you look natural and reduces the brain strain for stakeholders. It also illuminates your facial expressions, making you more reliable and trustworthy.
Element #4 Framing
Proper framing on video calls makes you look professional and confident. How you’re positioned within the frame has a massive impact on how you’re being perceived. Pay attention to six frames that are counterproductive:
Element #5 Camera
Do not use your built-in webcam. These cameras are subpar at best and the best way to turn you into the Grim Reacher. Instead, invest in an external camera and a sturdy, adjustable tripod. They won’t break the bank and instantly, you’ll come across as more professional on video.
Element #6 Backdrop
Your backdrop is essentially everything that’s visible in your frame other than you. Your backdrop should represent your company or your personal brand. What people see when they’re on calls with you sends a powerful message.
Element #7 Internet Connection
If you live in an area with super fast Internet, count yourself lucky. No matter what your situation though, spend the money to upgrade to the fastest ‘upload’ speed your broadband provider offers. Most providers tout their download speeds. That’s great for streaming movies but doesn’t help a bit with delivering a video call stream. For this, you need to max out your upload speeds.
Controlling your eye keeps you there. As go your eyes, so goes your attention. The moment you look away, not only you’ll lose focus, you’ll offend the other person. This is particularly true on video calls because the other person has no insight into your surroundings and will usually assume the worst – that you’re losing interest in them.
Acknowledge that you’re paying attention by looking directly at the camera. Affirmative body language and facial expressions also demonstrate your listening. Smile. Lean forward toward the camera and nod your head. Make sure your hands are idle and by your side. Otherwise it’ll appear you’re distracted.
Summarize and restate what they’ve said. This not only confirms you’ve heard them but also confirms your understanding. Ask relevant follow-up questions that build on the conversation. Supporting phrases like “Yes, I see”, “That makes sense” and “That’s exciting” encourage them to open up and reveal even more.
Pause before you speak
One sure fire way to kill a conversation is to blurt out your next question or statement over someone before they finish speaking. Nothing makes the other person feel like you’re not listening more than when you talk over them. It becomes transparent that you’re not listening with intent but rather to formulate what you say next.
When you feel the other side has finished speaking, pause and count to three. This affords you time to fully digest what you’ve heard. Pausing also leaves rooms for others to finish speaking and prevents you from cutting them off if they have not.
Dress, just one step above
Rule number one for your wardrobe is you must dress the same way you’d dress for a face to face meeting. In most causes, this means conservation business casual. However as always, it makes sense to adjust your wardrobe to your customer. If you sell farm equipment, you wouldn’t wear a suit and tie. Nor would you wear work boots and jeans into the boardroom of a banking client.
Jeb’s rule of thumb has always been to dress the way his client dresses, but just one step above. The goal is to project professionalism without making the other side feel uncomfortable. Back in his days, Jeb kept several outfits in his car. He’d often pull a Clark Kent and change clothes before meeting with different customers.
Rule number two is you must dress for the camera. It’s important to consider how what you wear will look in the video frame on the computer screen. Avoid very bright colors like neon, pastels, vibrant reds or anything that can negatively impact lightning and accentuate unflattering shadows.
But what about pants?
There are two reasons why the answer is yes. First, your brain knows when you’re not wearing pants. This affects the way you think and act. Scientists call the effect clothes have on your psychological processes, including emotions, self-esteem and interpersonal interactions, enclothed cognition.
Second you don’t want to get acute with your pants down. Embarrassingly, this happened to an ABC news reporter who was doing a segment from home.
Tips for an effective video demo
VC platforms make it super easy to present remote demonstrations and give stakeholders an interactive experience. To be most effective, video does require two people, one to operate the camera and one to conduct the demo. This allows you to focus on the demo and interact with the stakeholders while the camera operator follows you and points the camera in the direction you or the other party would want.
Jeb’s preference for a virtual demo setup is an Osmo three-axis gimbal that is connected to Zoom. Because Osmo tracks your movements it can also act as a stand-in when you don’t have a camera operator.
To email or not to email
Email remains a staple in virtual communication. Used appropriately, it can help you get a lot done fast. Used inappropriately, it can cause confusion and get you into trouble. Most salespeople and account managers are far more likely to default to email rather than just picking up the damn phone.
Always assume that anything you write will be shared with other people. Treat it like a permanent record. Lawyers use email as weapons. There’s nothing like sitting in a deposition and having the attorney stick an email that you don’t even remember writing in your face and ask you about contents totally out of the context.
Never send an email you wouldn’t be comfortable with others reading. Never ever use profanity and negativity. Avoid sarcasm and other forms of humor. Email isn’t private. Always keep it formal and neutral. You’ll never go wrong that way.
Five rules to ensure your email is clear
Emails that are disorganized, long and ramble cause confusion. Confusion leads to misunderstanding. This in turn causes a massive waste of time for you and your stakeholders. Follow these five rules to get the most out of your email communication:
- The subject line should be congruent of the email.
- Clearly state the purpose of your email in the first paragraph.
- Provide context. Don’t assume readers will know. Attach supporting references that provide context.
- Keep emails to one issue. You’re much more likely to receive an action that way.
- Clearly and succinctly state what you want and when.
Virtual selling is still selling
The coronavirus global pandemic has hit. There’s nothing we can change about that. If you want your business to survive and stay ahead of the curve, you must blend some form of virtual selling into your business development and account management.
Here are five lessons Jeb want you to take away from this book:
- Just because something has always been done that way doesn’t mean it’s the only way.
- It doesn’t matter where you sell, you must adhere to the basics of sales excellence.
- When you blend virtual selling into your sales process, you become more agile.
- When you invest in building human relationships, you’ll gain a competitive edge.
- When you stay open to new possibilities, you’ll be unstoppable.
Also great from Jeb Bount: