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Virtual Engagement For Remote Selling. Remote Selling Success Starts Before The Call Even Begins.

By Bruce Wedderburn

What is the ‘digital disconnect’ and how effectively are you dealing with it? While salespeople across industries are settling in to a world of hybrid and remote sales, most are still working to adapt to the nuances and variables that can affect success in a virtual selling environment. As my colleague, Steve deBree, put it in a recent executive briefing webinar on virtual sales training, many of the challenges can be traced back to the different dynamics between the 3-dimensional world of face-to-face sales and the 2D reality of virtual.

Regardless of how skilled of a salesperson you are or how proficient you are with the technology, you still have to be able to overcome the digital disconnect.

When you’re selling in a virtual environment, you’re not just leading a sales conversation anymore; you’re also managing an experience. As a result, you run a risk of suffering the digital disconnect if you aren’t prepared and skilled in the critical dynamic of virtual sales conversations.

Virtual Sales and the Distracted Customer

Just with in-person selling, having a well-thought-out pre-call plan is important. But there are now additional factors that need to be taken into consideration—audio, lighting, document-sharing, team-selling, video, background, platform, distracting habits that are magnified on video, your motivation, not to mention the different dynamics of the sales conversation. Any or all of these can distract or even derail a well-planned meeting.

For example, customers have less tolerance for meandering conversations with gaps in the dialogue. The natural rapport-building chat before and after a sales call that happens in person is reduced (or non-existent). The meeting needs to be much more tightly organized when done virtually. Otherwise, you can lose your audience.

In fact, when we polled attendees in that webinar, they told us the number one challenge their salespeople are facing in a virtual setting is gaining and keeping customer engagement. And a recent Harvard Business Review article noted that attendees often interpret virtual meetings as “a license to multi-task.” The reality of the 2D world is you’re constantly competing—not against your customer, but against distraction.

This is also the #1 concern we hear from participants when we conduct virtual sales training sessions. Once you’ve finally confirmed the appointment — which can be challenging enough in its own right — how do you have a productive customer-needs-focused conversation online while keeping it interactive, engaging and valuable for the customer?

Remote Selling Success Starts Before the Call

The two-dimensional environment of remote sales can obscure many of the nonverbal ways we communicate and also make it more difficult to hold the other person’s attention. That means, from the very beginning, you have be thinking about how you’re going to connect with the customer and engage in a human-to-human conversation.

But while certain nuances may be harder to see in the virtual world, one thing is much more evident: how well (or not) you’re prepared for the meeting. To ensure engagement, you will need to take a few extra steps prior to a virtual call. This includes:

Planning Out the Why, What and How

In addition to clearly thinking through and writing down the objective for the meeting, plan some of the more specific, tactical aspects of the conversation: How are you going to get and keep the customer’s attention? How will you engage them throughout? How will you explore needs with them?

The tightly scheduled nature of virtual sales calls means you can’t just figure these things out as you go. You have to get it nailed down in advance.

Keeping Information Close At Hand

Have information ready to share with the customer when the need arises. One of the curses of virtual meetings is the “dead air” that happens when you’re spending time looking for something. That pause opens the window up for multitasking, and before you know it, you’ve lost them. Distraction has won.

Reviewing Your Online Presence

In an environment that’s operating mostly online, challenge yourself whether your online profile is sending the message that you’d like people to see. In today’s world, we have to assume that any social media comment, image or quote that you post can be made public for anyone to view.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have personal accounts. But it does mean you need to be aware of the potential impact anything you post might have on you professionally.

Virtual Engagement Happens When Customers Opt In

“Voluntary listening” — when someone chooses to include themselves in the conversation — is a great way to think about engagement. Here are some ways you can get people to want to be part of the conversation:

Align your communication with theirs.

The Behavior Styles Model, which is embedded in our virtual sales training and other programs, is a good starting point. Behavior Styles clue you in to what the person cares about and how they want you to engage with them so you can quickly build trust and rapport.

Ask High-Impact Questions.

Have two or three high-impact questions in mind that you want to ask. The process of asking questions, listening and following up creates a meaningful dialogue that draws the person in. Note that active listening is just as important as asking great questions – and showing the customer through your body language on video that you are listening. It’s also the only way you can ask good follow-up questions.

Be Intentional With Technology.

Make it easy to click on things. Enable auto-on settings with audio and video so the customer doesn’t have to spend time figuring it out. Everything you’re using should enhance the conversation and the flow, not interfere with it.

Remember, you’re also managing the experience, not just leading a sales call.

Craft a Clear Statement of Intent.  

This is a way for you to take the lead, show respect for your customer’s time, link to previous discussions and signal that you want two-way communication vs. a one-way presentation. A Statement of Intent is a concise statement that lets the customer know what you’d like to discuss and what benefits they will gain.

It helps transition from any social pleasantries at the beginning of the conversation into the business reason for being there.

A Remote Selling Mindset Creates Virtual Engagement

Underestimating the power of beliefs is one of the three traps that of remote sales that we consistently see with salespeople who are struggling to adapt to this different dynamic. This isn’t surprising. Success in selling is about mindset, not just skillset, and there are many new variables in virtual sales that can shake even the most experienced salesperson’s confidence.

Our research shows that the most common limiting belief is one that reinforces the #1 concern salespeople have about virtual selling: Customers are distracted and multi-tasking during virtual meetings. Having a good process and strategy to maintain engagement as outlined above will help, but often these limiting beliefs are a sign of something deeper—and in many cases, the real root of the problem.

For example, if you don’t believe what you’re sharing has value, then that might be why you naturally assume the customer won’t want to give you their full attention. As a result, you might unconsciously compensate: Talk more, listen less. Show more slides, ask fewer questions. Dazzle them with your tightly choreographed presentation. Engage them less in a conversation.

There are five sets of beliefs that influence the amount of energy and effectiveness salespeople have in the virtual world. Addressing these sales mindset issues is critical, because people tend to perform consistent with their inner beliefs. Those beliefs, whether positive or negative, ultimately become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Building a Strong Remote Selling Team

As you work with your sales teams to help them effectively engage customers in the 2D world of virtual selling, here are some key points to emphasize:

  • Effective preparation is the first step to virtual sales success.
  • Engagement happens when people opt in.
  • A clear statement of intent sets the stage.
  • Don’t let your mindset defeat you.

Grounded in strong values and ethics, our virtual sales training program, Virtual Selling with Integrity, addresses these and other fundamentals of successful hybrid and remote sales. Learn more…

About the Author
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Bruce Wedderburn

Chief Sales Officer

Since 2016 Bruce has led the Sales organization with a passion for creating impactful results for clients through the successful...
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