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Virtual Selling Best Practices (And The Most Common Mistakes)

Ray Makela is an author, speaker, and business executive with 25 years of management, consulting, and sales experience.

In this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Ray explains the best practices for virtual selling and what some salespeople are getting wrong.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Ray Makela
Author, Speaker, and CEO of Sales Readiness Group

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of The Salesman Podcast.

 

Ray Makela:

I think it is difficult to build trust in a virtual screen share if you will. And I think people have discovered that what we used to do to connect with people, we don’t have access in the same way anymore. What we’ve seen from our clients is those that are doing well, are the ones who have really been able to nurture and protect existing relationships. It’s no surprise that they’re often going back and selling to their existing customer base while they try to prospect.

 

Will Barron:

Hello Sales Nation, my name is Will Barron, host of The Salesman Podcast, the world’s most downloaded B2B sales show. On today’s episode, we have the legend that is Ray Makela. He is the CEO of the Sales Readiness Group, which you can find over at salesreadinessgroup.com. And on this episode, we’re getting into the virtual selling. What people are getting wrong, what you should be doing with your lighting, audio, all that good stuff, how you can build more rapport, empathy on your calls and how you can get more engagement from your buyers as well. As well and a whole lot more besides all of that. You can find out from what we’re talking about and all the links in the show notes of this episode over at salesman.org. And with that said, let’s jump right into it.

 

Ray Talks About Virtual Selling and Compares that to Selling in Pre-COVID Times · [01:28]

 

Will Barron:

So we’re going to get into virtual selling in this episode, and we’re going to look at how we can project empathy, how we can keep engagement on these calls, these Zoom meetings, whatever we do in technology and all that good stuff. I want to start off from a slightly different angle, Ray? From doing training, and you’ve got a new training coming out on virtual selling, what have you learned about virtual selling in the past six months that you didn’t know about it pre-COVID times?

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, that’s a great place to start Will, because obviously, I think all of us are thinking hard about what’s different? How has this changed? What do we need to do really, to continue to move forward? And, frankly, we’ve been doing inside selling as long as the Sales Readiness Group has been around. Most of our conversations are in a virtual meeting room, and we’ve done a significant amount of virtual training over the years. So, we’re no stranger to that. But I think more than anything to your question, is the ability to connect in the virtual world, if you will, in the virtual classroom, in the virtual meeting room, on a different level. I think I’ve really come to appreciate just how important that is these days, especially when we’re going from meeting to meeting, and we’re distracted. We have kids and we have dogs and we have worked from home and everything else, that personal connection to me is just so important. We need to figure out how to do that even better, I think, virtually.

 

How to Increase Virtual Connectivity and Engagement · [02:45] 

 

Will Barron:

And this is a somewhat loaded question. Do we increase that engagement, that connectivity, via 15 more apps and software downloads and tools and resources? Or is this, is there another way of about doing this?

 

“I think the age-old relationship-building, rapport-building, really doing our research and understanding that person and the organisation and making that connection, finding a way that we can demonstrate our expertise and show trust. I think that’s critical and probably more important now. We just need to do it in a different environment, because some of the other things we used to do, like break bread together or physically shake hands, we can’t do those anymore.” – Ray Makela · [03:32] 

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, and I think that is a bit of a loaded question, but I think there’s a lot out there that can help us. I love some of the use of technology to improve that engagement. Even if that’s sending asynchronous video as a follow-up, where we can really personalise our proposal. Or even in prospecting, sending a very tailored 30 second-video, I love some of that technology and how that really does put a face to your proposal, or to the presentation you’re making. But having said that, I think the age old relationship-building, rapport-building, really doing our research and understanding that person and the organisation and making that connection. Finding a way that we can demonstrate our expertise and show trust. I think that’s critical and probably more important now. We just need to do it in a different environment, because some of the other things we used to do, like break bread together or physically shake hands, we can’t do those anymore.

 

Why Building Trust is More Difficult Online · [04:02]

 

Will Barron:

And how, I guess, there’s two angles to this that we can go down, but how much more difficult is it to build trust in the mid-COVID world that we’re living in? And a follow-up question to that, Ray, is this because we’re living in a mid-COVID cycle or world? Or is it because we’re not able to get in front of those people, if that makes sense?

 

“I think being able to find a common point, and really share an experience with that individual is what’s going to set us apart. And so we can’t just drop by, or check in on them as we might use to. And we’re hearing this quite a lot, that world is probably never coming back in the same way. Being able to drop in on the doctor, or being able to go into the OR, and scrub up before a procedure. We just won’t have that same type of access anymore. So we need to figure out how to do it virtually.” – Ray Makela · [04:44] 

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, I think it is difficult to build trust in a virtual screen share if you will. And I think people have discovered that what we used to do to connect with people, we don’t have access in the same way anymore. So I do think we need to try just a little bit harder to make those connections. I think being able to find a common point, and really share an experience with that individual is what’s going to set us apart. And so we can’t just drop by, or check in on them as we might use to. In some cases, and we’re hearing this quite a lot, that world is probably never coming back in the same way. Being able to drop in on the doctor, or being able to go into the OR, and scrub up before a procedure. We just won’t have that same type of access anymore. So we need to figure out how to do it virtually.

 

Will Barron:

Because I know you Mentioned medical device sales or medical sales. My best customer was Bradford hospital, just down the road from us here. I used to just camp out there on a Friday afternoon. Really, I was [inaudible [00:05:32] a little bit, I was skiving a little bit, but I would just go there and do my emails and, because I got good relationships, I’d sit in the surgeon’s lounge. I would engage with these people as they were coming back and forth. I’d find out bits of information. It’s almost 15 coffee conversations in a row I’d be having with these individuals. Now that’s gone, in hindsight, that was an incredible tool to catch people at the right time to build rapport, to deepen levels of trust without really going and doing all that much work. I’ve just, as I said, Friday afternoon, it’s my closest account to home. So I’d go and hang out there for a little bit.

 

The First Steps to Having Better Conversations when Selling Online · [06:29] 

 

Will Barron:

Because to put that in context, there’s no way any of the surgeons in Bradford that I’d be dealing with, would be getting on a Zoom call with me at half two in the afternoons, have those same conversations. So honestly, I don’t know what approach I’d have to take. I think I’d have to go back to just speaking to people on the phone, and even then you can’t get hold of these individuals. So with all that said, Ray, what is the starting point if, perhaps it could be inside sales, outside sales, a mix of the two, if your world is a sales person has just been turned on its head? What’s the starting point with virtual selling to make more, more better conversations happen?

 

“What we’ve seen from our clients, is those that are doing well are the ones who have really been able to nurture and protect existing relationships. It’s no surprise that they’re often going back and selling to their existing customer base while they try to prospect.” – Ray Makela · [06:50] 

 

Ray Makela:

Right? No. And it’s no surprise, Will, to that point that what we’ve seen from our clients, is those that are doing well are the ones who have really been able to nurture and protect existing relationships. It’s no surprise that they’re often going back and selling to their existing customer base while they try to prospect. But I’m a big fan of Matt Heinz, he used the quote and I’ve shared it a number of times, “You can’t grow tomatoes in the winter.” And that really stuck with me. That, “Hey, there are some times you just can’t grow that crop, or you’re not going to be able to get your foot in the door. But go back, what can you do to plant the seeds?” What can you do to really protect and grow those relationships?

 

“Those who know us, that already trust us, and we have that rapport, we can go back in and we can find ways to add value and really help them. New clients don’t have that. So we have to work even harder.” – Ray Makela · [07:29] 

 

Ray Makela:

I think to your point, those who know us, that already trust us, and we have that rapport, we can go back in and we can find ways to add value and really help them. New clients don’t have that. So we have to work even harder. Back to your first question, we have to be more relevant. We have to be more, work even harder to understand their situation. When we talk about showing up with empathy, we really need to understand how has COVID affected them personally? How has it affected their business? Where is their world? Because some of our clients are having their best year ever, tech and online, SaaS companies, things that this has been a boon. And others are worried about their job. So we really need to meet them where they are. I think that’s the first step to building that trust and rapport, is really connecting and understanding, putting ourselves in their shoes and understanding where they’re coming from.

 

How to Show Empathy to Customers During a Virtual Sales Call · [08:20]

 

Will Barron:

What does that look like practically Ray? Because I know some people, maybe a 50/50 split in the audience here, who, when you say, “Show it with more empathy, ask more better questions that drive deeper into the pain points that people have, that are relative to the moment their living in right now,” a lot of the audience will go, “That makes total sense. I get that.” And there might be a split with men and women here and stuff, as well, as there’ll be multiple layers to it. But for the jug-headed fellow like me, who’s probably not as empathetic is what he should be, even though he tries to be, how do I practically show that I’m at least trying to be empathetic towards my customers?

 

“A lot of what we talk about in virtual selling are not brand new skills. They’re foundational selling skills that make you a good consultative salesperson.” – Ray Makela · [09:05] 

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, and I wanted to touch on that as another theme, which is a lot of what we talk about in virtual selling are not brand new skills. They’re foundational selling skills that make you a good consultative salesperson. Everything from good call planning, doing your research, asking great questions, actively listening. All of those components are super important. And we need to even up our game and practise those in this virtual world. So when we talk about call planning now, I’m thinking, and we’re encouraging people, “Hey, go to their website and see what the CEO released about their response to COVID.” Because especially if they’re a publicly held company, there’s a letter that says, “Here’s how we’re addressing it. Here’s how it’s affecting our customers.” Look at their press releases, go into their 10 K or their 10 Q, their financial reports and see if they have a recent one, how they’re responding.

 

Ray Makela:

So I think we need to again, get even better at doing our pre-call research, our homework, and finding those themes to go, “Oh, that’s really interesting. The device sales have gone up, because you’re selling into the education space. How has that impacted supply? How has that impacted your ability to connect and service your customers?” So we need to go in with that premise, and a good understanding of where they’re starting from. If we’ve talked to them before, well, did we talk about their kids? Did we make a personal connection? Is there something going on in their life that we can get back to? And beyond, I saw this the other day, somebody said, “Hey, Will, do you have weather there? That’s great, we have weather here too.” We have to be better than that. We have to work harder to make that common connection and build that rapport.

 

Building Rapport by Linking your Product or Service with Helping your Clients Serve their Customers Better · [10:50] 

 

Will Barron:

I love this idea of looking at any announcements from a CEO or at the PR elements of the company, I guess, if it’s a big company. Because they are, of course, going to mention their customers. And they’re going to talk about whether their customers are doing poorly, badly, how they’re shifting the business to accommodate their customers. So all, if you can tie in your product or service with helping them serve their customers in such a time, the marketplace, we’re in right now, with all these trigger events going off constantly. As we record this, the UK is, tonight, there’s going to be an of a big announcement of different lockdown measures that are obviously going to affect different organisations. If you can be incredibly timely with each of these things, and get in there before anyone else does, there’s almost a load of, if I visualise it, a load of rapport sat on the table waiting to be scooped up, right?

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, and I think we need to get ahead of it, right? This is the whole, and I liked the idea of paying it forward, the Go-Giver approaches. We need to be doing that without expecting that we’re going to sell to them right now. In fact, maybe the tomatoes aren’t going to grow right now, but we’re getting the soil ready, we’re planting the seeds and they’ll remember us and go, “Oh, remember you talked about that thing. It was really interesting. We didn’t have budget at the time, but now we want to do it,” and I’ll share it, we’re having a fantastic quarter right now. Partly because we did a lot of that in Q2. I think for everybody, people were just trying to figure out, “What do we do?” We went from a large percentage of our business instructor-led, we haven’t delivered in person in February, yet we’ve grown the business.

 

Ray Makela:

So, going back and having those conversations, checking in, seeing how people are doing, and then being relevant for when budgets do open up again. Back to your point about the doctors, aren’t going to probably take a call to chat with us, but can we help them? Can we send them information? Can we nurture them? White paper research, a case study, anything that says, “Well, I was thinking about you, and I wanted to share this, because I thought you might find it interesting.” Well, now that’s one more deposit in that trust bank for future use.

 

The Effectiveness of Phone Calls Versus Zoom Interviews During the Pandemic · [12:50] 

 

Will Barron:

For sure. Okay. So let’s move on to the next stage of this. So perhaps we’ve stayed relevant over the past two or three months, what it is, whatever it is, depending on your sales cycle, two, three weeks. We’ve now got a call, or we’ve got an opportunity for a call in the diary. Should we, Ray, be focusing on just having a phone conversation, like we probably would have done this time last year? Or as everyone’s wrapped up in Zoom calls and all the technology, should we be, is there enough benefit to pushing down the route of a Zoom call, a meeting online? Should we be pushing down that route?

 

“I think as sales professionals, we need to become experts in this new environment. Are 100% of our clients going to turn on their videos? Probably not. But when clients ask me, and we get it all the time, “Well, how do we get them to do it?” I say, “You know what? Turn yours on. Nine times out of 10, they’ll turn theirs on now and engage.” – Ray Makela · [13:45] 

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, I am a 100% supportive of the virtual platforms and video. I think it does give us that little bit more of an ability to connect. We can see the person, we can read their body language. We can see if they’re paying attention, frankly. So I think we need to do that. And I think as sales professionals, we need to become experts in this new environment. Now are 100% of our clients going to turn on their video? Probably not. But when clients ask me, and we get it all the time, “Well, how do we get them to do it?” I say, “You know what? Turn yours on. Nine times out of 10, they’ll turn theirs on now and engage.” And it’s not that hard. I think most of the time when people ask that question, it’s because they’re not actually turning their video on, we’re not setting it up that way in advance. Saying, “Hey, I’d love to have a video call. We’ll be using this platform. You’re probably familiar with it.”

 

Ray Makela:

The other thing I’ve found, is over the last six months, people are using it with their families, with their kids. Their kindergartners are on board. So the barrier to entry has gone way down, and people are pretty familiar with the common platforms. So I think we need to do it. We need to get good at it. We need to figure out where our webcam is, so we’re looking at that instead of looking at a second monitor or the side of our face. We need to think about lighting. We need to think about the quality of the interaction. Those are all tools of the trade now. We should take time, I think, as sales professionals to really perfect that, because that’s the image we’re showing up with. That’s the impression, right? That first impression or second, third impression. That’s what they’re going to remember, is how did we look on Zoom or on Teams or whatever platform you’re using.

 

Will Barron:

So I’ll come back onto the physical technology side of lighting and that in a second, because I genuinely want to get your opinion on what is the recommended requirements for a sales call, and what we should perhaps be aspiring to have in our Zoom home office setup. But prior to that, Ray, something that I’ve been, I’ve noticed, just anecdotally, when I started the podcast five years ago, I jump on a Skype call, like we are now, going back and forth. I would have to sell the person I was interviewing on getting on video. It just wasn’t the normal thing to do for a podcast. All our content from the very beginning is been video and audio. Even in the emails that go out, just to remove the fourth wall a little bit for the audience, when I’m working with someone and they are coming on the show, they get a series of automated emails that shares what I expect from a podcaster, and the podcast guests with regards to audio quality and lighting and things like that.

 

The Minimum Acceptable Quality for a Professional B2B Virtual Sales Call · [16:33] 

 

Will Barron:

The very first thing in bold in all of these emails was, “If you can’t do video, we can’t record.” I had so many people complain and push back. Now everyone does it, and no one even bats an eyelid, it’s just now the norm. So I just put that in for the audience, for anyone who is perhaps struggling to get people to jump on a video call. Right now, as we record this, I think most people would, if you, as you said, lead with your own video, but in a few months, it’s just going to be the norm for everyone, I assume. So with all that said, Ray, and the anecdote shared there, what is the, I guess, minimum quality for a sales call, a professional sales goal, a B2B, you’re selling a high value product to a large organisation. What is the minimum quality of video and audio? Then what should we be aspiring to as well?

 

Ray Makela:

Sure. Yeah, I think the minimum and the baseline, is we need a good quality webcam. So whether that’s a clip-on or a device that has a good quality webcam, so that you’re presenting yourself appropriate. I know for a while it was tough to buy webcams. I mean, literally they were completely sold out, but I think that’s catching up. So having that webcam, figuring out where the webcam is, and I always joke about this, but if you’re talking to a thumbnail, or you’re talking to your second screen, it seems like you’re distracted, or you’re looking somewhere else. So practise that, find out where that eye is. I always encourage people, it’s a simple hack, but if you’re on a windows machine, if you just type webcam into your start menu, it’ll bring up your webcam, and it’ll show you what that’s going to look like before you enter the meeting, before you’re trying to log in and figure it out.

 

Ray Makela:

So do it, check your hair, your lighting, the background. See what it looks like to your customer before you’re engaged. Because I think a lot of times, we’re trying to fix that as the meeting’s starting, because maybe something changed, or maybe the kid’s play room is in the backdrop and you have to clean that up a little bit. So I think that’s a minimum. I think getting your webcam at the right level. So it’s not looking up your chin, or looking up your nose, frankly. I see a lot of that, and it really looks, well, it’s not flattering. So get it up at least to your chin height, so it’s looking at you, like you’d have a conversation with a human.

 

Ray Makela:

Then I think the other piece is we really need to think about the environment. What does our background look like? And it doesn’t have to be fancy. At my home office, I just painted the back wall, a flat grey. I’ll tell you, it upped my game considerably. So I don’t have to worry about books, bookshelves, or paintings or anything else, but it looks like a studio. I can do videos. I can do recordings. I can do that quite effectively just with one flat black wall. And it’s really been quite important. So I have a couple of other things to add, but what were you going to say, Will?

 

Will Barron:

I would just add on top of that, that I feel sound is more important than video. So it doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy, this is a Shure SMB microphone, you don’t need to go out and buy amplifiers and all this kind of stuff. I feel lighting is something that’s underrated. I’d rather have a well-lit shot on your webcam than a super high quality camera that’s poorly lit for example. The most, the worst culprit on this, is typically when people sit with a window behind them. So the window is super bright. So to account for the brightness, the camera turns down the overall gain, or the brightness of the image. So you end up this black shadow that no one can see your features or anything that’s going on in your face. So the best thing to do is sit facing a window if you don’t want to invest in any lighting or anything like that.

 

How to Dress for a Virtual Sales Call · [20:00] 

 

Will Barron:

I don’t think most salespeople need to invest in lighting in particular. One thing I do want to ask you there, Ray, is what is the working from home, but you are a sales professional uniform? Is it a shirt and tie? I feel like you’d look a little bit weird, maybe, sat in your kitchen with a suit jacket on, in a smart tie and shirt. But maybe we should be doing that out of a level of respect for the conversation that we’re looking to have. What should we be wearing when we’re doing these work-from-home virtual selling conversations?

 

“From my own perspective, I think you should be clean, you should be professional. And that doesn’t mean a sport coat and tie. I think you’re right, if you’re sitting at your dining room table and you have a suit and tie on, you may look a little awkward.” – Ray Makela · [20:55] 

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, and I think that is an evolving conversation, right? I I’ve been following, thinking about our clients who we’re calling on. And I go back to my early Accenture and Anderson Consulting days, and it was always dress at a level above the person you’re calling on. You think about where you are in the organisation, well, what would their boss be wearing? What’s appropriate? Well, these days that might be a t-shirt, that might be a ball cap. It’s interesting that the norms have changed. From my own perspective, I think you should be clean, you should be professional. And that doesn’t mean a sport coat and tie. I think you’re right, if you’re sitting at your dining room table and you have a suit and tie on, you may look a little awkward. However, I’m not a big fan of the backward ball cap and the printed t-shirt, and you’re like, “Wow, did you just roll out a bed?” And oftentimes the answer is, yeah, they did.

 

Ray Makela:

So, I think you need to show up, and you need to think about your professional image. That’s one of the reasons, and in our blog and in our offering, we talk about, “How are you booking those meetings? Do you have transition time before those meetings to really prepare, to get your head in the game?” Because if you were driving across the city, or getting on an aeroplane to go make that call, boy, you’d be thinking about it, and you put in that preparation, you’d be planning. Well, now we can pack six or eight of those meetings back to back. All of a sudden it could be the most important meeting of your quarter, and you’ve finished five minutes before with some other meeting. And you just roll into that. So I think we really need to think about how are we showing up, what image are we projecting?

 

Ray Makela:

Then as you mentioned, I was going to get there, but completely agree, lighting and audio, spend $30 on a ring light. You can clip it on your desk and it completely changes your lighting options. You can tune it up, you can tune it down, and you don’t get that blur from behind if you have backlight. So, yeah, completely agree. They’ll remember that, right? How are you looking? One of the things I’ll add to that, there’s certainly debate about virtual backgrounds, clean backgrounds. What are we doing with that? To me, that’s a little bit of a personal preference.

 

Ray Makela:

Also what do you have to work with? I don’t have a great room with a nice oak desk, in a big studio that I can use for that. But a grey, white, black background works perfectly for doing video and for engaging, and it’s not distracting. There are good virtual backgrounds, but I think something that they look at and they go, “What the heck are you doing? Are you trying to make a joke with it?” I think that is distracting. Or if you have the play room in the background, it’s going to throw it off a little bit. So I think, that’s a bit personal preference, but show up how you want to be perceived by your client.

 

Will Barron:

I will say this, Ray, I think every virtual background looks stupid, because the technology to differentiate between you and the background just doesn’t work very well, unless you’ve got a very well lit and polished green screen. So I personally think it looks dumb. I think it looks amateur. I think it looks like you’re trying to do some weird news casting from the ’90s. Most of the time, as you said, just a plain wall looks far better. If you look back at our YouTube channel, four or five years ago, when we first started, I didn’t even paint the whole wall. I just painted a big blob of grey on the wall. We got hundreds of thousands of views on those videos. Of course you don’t see, you can only see in the frame of the shot, the grey, and I just, I just slapped it up there.

 

“There are very simple and easy ways to go about creating a nice clean environment. Versus, as I said, I think these virtual backgrounds just look cheesy and very amateurish.” – Will Barron · [24:02] 

 

Will Barron:

And maybe if you renting, you don’t want to do this, but if it’s your own place. Or have a big board or something I don’t know. There’s far simpler, and there are very simple and easy ways to go about creating a nice clean environment. Versus as 

 

Ray Explains why It’s Crucial for Salespeople to Invest in their Careers by Paying for Training or Upgrading the Technology They Use · [24:13]

 

Will Barron: 

I said, I think these virtual backgrounds just look cheesy and very amateurish. 

Look we’re professional sellers, we should, we can debate whether the company should be paying for some of this equipment or whether we should, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to invest into your career, whether it’s by buying training, or a little bit of technology or a little bit of a studio light environment, so that you can get that results. I don’t think that’s … Is that unreasonable to ask of Sales Nation, Ray?

 

Ray Makela:

No, I think it’s absolutely critical, and I appreciate what you’re saying. Because the next thing we’ll hear as well, “But my company won’t buy this for me, or I can’t get a expense for that.” Hey, look for less than a $100, you can up your game. How many deals is it going to take you to recoup that investment? And I think it true, a simple headset microphone, clip-on lighting. I actually have two standup desks now, because I like to do any interviews or meetings standing up. We talk about that a little bit in our course as well. It used to be, “Of course, you’re going to stand up for that sales presentation in the boardroom.” Well, now we’re leaning back and slouching, we’re at our desk. That’s the same meeting, it’s just the venue’s changed. So let’s stand up. That brings energy. That gives you a chance to move a little bit, and it really does change your voice. It changes your energy, there’s research that supports that. So yeah, even a standing desk, if your company doesn’t provide one, think of it as an investment in your career.

 

How to Keep the Buyer Engaged During a Virtual Sales Call · [26:06] 

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. I’m glad we’re on board, on the same wavelength for that, Ray. Right, so to wrap up the show now, we’ve got, we’ve added value, we built rapport, all the good stuff. We built empathy at the top of the sales conversation. We’ve now booked a meeting. We’re set in the studio, we’ve perhaps had 15 minutes to get ourselves, to kick the dog out in the garden, throw the kids over next door, and we’re ready to rock and roll. What can we do in the actual conversation itself? I like standing up, I love that bit of advice. What else can we do during the conversation, the presentation, the meeting to keep the buyer engaged? We’ll assume here that they’re on video as well. So they’re at least half-watching us. They’re not just, I don’t know, they’ve left the computer on while they go outside, and have a cigarette while we’re still talking away.

 

“If you’ve ever delivered virtual training, you know how critical it is to really engage the audience with specific questions, with opportunities for them to engage and participate in that meeting. If we don’t, they will start multitasking, guaranteed.” – Roy Makela · [26:51] 

 

Ray Makela:

Right, yeah. And I think it’s spot on. So we talk about energy? We talk about empathy, which we’ve covered, and this is the engagement piece. So three E’s, pretty easy to remember. But on top of all the other selling skills, so engagement, and we actually leverage and bring in a lot of our virtual sales training practises into our selling as well. What I mean by that, is if you’ve ever delivered virtual training, you know how critical it is to really engage the audience with specific questions, with opportunities for them to engage in and participate in that meeting. If we don’t, they will start multitasking, guaranteed. They’ll bring up the other screen, they’re checking their email. So I think we need to build those in, those checkpoints and speed bumps into our presentation, into whatever script we’re following. And not just those closed-ended or cliche questions like, “Well, does that make sense to you, Will?” Or, “Is that okay?”

 

“Ask an open-ended question to a virtual meeting and you get crickets. Direct it to an individual, and you’ll get a response.” – Ray Makela · [27:57] 

 

Ray Makela:

What we’re going to get is, “Yeah, fine. Move on.” Versus, “Will, help me understand how that would work in your environment? Do you see any issues with that? What problems do you see? How would this work as you go forward with implementation?” So we’re really forcing them to put their selves into that proposal and think about how it’s going to work. So building those questions in, engaging all of the audience. So if we have multiple people, we’re calling them out by name, just like we do in training. So you ask an open-ended question to a virtual meeting and you get crickets. Direct it to an individual, and you’ll get a response. So call them out, run around the room, however you have to, to get their engagement.

 

Ray Makela:

And the last piece I’ll mention, if it’s a large meeting, the virtual technology is great these days with polling and chats and ways to keep that group engaged. So we’re using, if it’s a larger group meeting, we’ll use chat and say, “Hey, love to get your feedback. Please add in.” If we have multiple people on the call, they can be monitoring and responding, or even doing a poll and saying, “Well, which one of these would you say is most important?” Like, “Oh, that’s really cool. I hadn’t thought you could use that.” It takes about 10 seconds to learn that in Zoom or Teams on how to leverage that.

 

Will Barron:

Something that I do in all the webinars that we’re putting out at the moment, and these webinars can have anywhere from 300 to five, 600 people. Dead simple, I just ask people to give me a one, if they agree, or a two, if they disagree. Now, if you’re presenting to three people in a room, you probably just ask their opinion. Or you can ask them to actually map out their answers. But when, as soon as I ask this question with two or 300 people in the room, then I start to see engagement between the individuals. Then I can comment on the engagement, and then it brings it full circle of, there’s not just me showering people with content. There’s actually a conversations going on behind the scenes.

 

How to Consciously Improve Your Virtual Selling Skills · [29:40]

 

Will Barron:

I can pull out then really interesting insights that I wouldn’t have known before. Our webinars are actually getting loads better as we progress, because I can see, “Oh, people don’t understand,” in this segment, “People don’t understand anything that I’ve said for the past 15 minutes. So I need to loop back and go over it.” Then the next conversation that I have improves from that. So with that said, Ray, how can we, because the first sales, virtual sales call we’re going to do, is probably going to be terrible. How can we consciously improve over time? Should we be recording these calls looking back over them? Is there any strategies to iterate on our conversations, on our skills as virtual salespeople?

 

“People are now okay with calls being recorded. They expect it. Either it pops on at the beginning and says, “This meeting is going to be recorded.” I’ve never had anybody say, “I don’t want this recorded, turn it off.” Or just let them know, “Hey, do you mind, for note-taking, can I record this call? Great to be able to refer back, to share with your team.” Also, as you said, now we can use that to see how did that go? What was the engagement? What do we need to improve next time?” – Ray Makela · [30:20] 

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, wonderful question, Will. And I think it’s a super important to continue to improve our game, right? To improve those foundational skills that are going to make us a better player, to use the sports analogy. But I think we absolutely should be one, again, silver lining is in the virtual world, people are now okay with calls being recorded. They expect it. Either it pops on at the beginning and says, “This meeting is going to be recorded.” I’ve never had anybody say, “I don’t want this recorded, turn it off.” Or just let them know, “Hey, do you mind, for note-taking, can I record this call?” Great to be able to refer back, to share with your team. Also, as you said, now we can use that to see how did that go? What was the engagement? What do we need to improve next time?

 

Ray Makela:

Then a companion to our virtual sales training that we’re doing, is really virtual sales coaching, which is how does the manager engage? What’s the opportunity to coach? And I think that’s actually a huge opportunity for frontline managers. They don’t have to fly across the country, or drive all day to join that sales call. They can pop in, they can be the virtual coach. Maybe they’re chatting in the background, or we’re adding a little colour commentary, but ideally they’re not taking over. They’re not running it, but they’re there. Or they can listen to the recording, and have a coaching conversation afterwards. So the world of virtual coaching, I think, has actually become a big opportunity for managers to get engaged in ways that maybe they haven’t been before, just because of travel and time restrictions.

 

Strategies for Effective Virtual Sales Follow Up · [32:09]

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. So we’ve covered a lot of ground here. I’ve got one final segment that will wrap up the show with, Ray. So we’ve gone from nothing to building empathy before the call. We’re looking incredible in our home studios now, and everyone’s gone and spent 50 grand on a new studio on both our recommendations, that’s a conversation for another time on all that side of things, and whether companies should pay for it and all that kind of stuff. They’ve now sat in a meeting, probably were terrible, but now they’ve got a process to iterate and to improve it over time. So fifth, six meeting, they’re crushing it. How does follow up change in the virtual world? Because if we are recording our meetings, we’ve now got the ability to quote people verbatim. And to probably share video more, and reporting more than we would perhaps from a normal sales meeting, where we would just fire off an email, or book the next sales meeting. So with that said, Ray, how does follow-up change in virtual selling?

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, I mean, I think we do have an opportunity to go back and look at that transcript or review, to really capture and say, “Oh, well you said this was most important to you.” So when you follow-up, you’re using their actual words, and it’s a great opportunity to take notes in a different way. I mentioned the asynchronous video, and I think we’re going to be seeing that more and more. We did a webinar just last week with Vidyard. So the opportunity to do that bite-sized video posted in a very easy way to consume for your customer. To send that follow-up and say, “Will, I really enjoyed the conversation. We touched on these three points, and I’m looking forward to following up with this proposal that you’ll get tomorrow.” Boom, now they remember you, they see that energy that, that smile. They make that connection and it just changes, I think, the follow-up.

 

“We need to know what we’re asking for when we go into that meeting. So not just what is our call objective, but what do we expect the customer to do? Or what do we hope, what’s our aspiration they’re going to do as a result of that call? And then afterward, we better get that commitment. So let’s not leave that open-ended or have that great virtual meeting die at the end of the conversation, but let’s make sure we get that follow-on action booked as well.” – Ray Makela · [33:32] 

 

Ray Makela:

So I do think we have an opportunity to expand that as the way that we do. And I will say, and I’ll go back to an earlier point, we need to know what we’re asking for, when we go into that meeting. So not just what is our call objective, but what do we expect the customer to do? Or what do we hope? What’s our aspiration they’re going to do as a result of that call? And then afterwards, we better get that commitment, “You said we’d have this follow-on meeting. Let’s schedule that. We’ll send a proposal, but we’re going to book that follow-on meeting to review it.” So let’s not leave that open-ended or have that great virtual meeting die at the end of the conversation, but let’s make sure we get that follow-on action booked as well.

 

Ray’s Thoughts on How Virtual Selling is Going to Evolve Over the Next 12 Months · [34:33]

 

Will Barron:

So I’ve experienced that, especially with demos of software products, where you go through it all, somewhat paying attention if it’s not the best demo. And at the end of it, you can tell the SDR, whoever was doing it, probably not a full-blown account manager, they want to jump off that call quicker than I want to jump off it. There’s there’s no commitment. So I love that at the end of your virtual sales calls, to follow up and get the next thing booked in the process. So wit that, Ray, final one mate, how do you think virtual selling is going to change over the next 12 months? Do you think that what we have right now is the methodology, the process, the training that you’re going to share with us in a second, do you think this is relevant now, forever? Or do you think this is going to continuously change over the next 12, 18 months and develop into something new?

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, I see it a bit like social selling and even LinkedIn. When it came out, it was kind of more of a shiny object. People were excited that, “Oh, there’s social, digital selling. It’s the brand new.” And now it’s actually part of doing business, right? At least people are incorporating what works into their own process. So frankly, I do see these becoming new foundational selling skills. In some cases there are things we should have been doing before, because we were having virtual calls. But I think they become, if not table stakes, at least there are skills that the best sellers will be mastering, and they’ll master their studio, and the technology, and they’ll get comfortable in the apps. They’ll really do a great job of being able to create that connection, since we can’t show up in person. So yeah, I think people are going to get better at it. I think those that do it quicker and perfect it, are going to be much more effective as they go along.

 

The Sales Readiness Group and Ray’s Training on Virtual Selling · [35:55] 

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. Well, with that Ray, tell us where we can find out more about the Sales Readiness Group and the virtual selling training that you’ve got coming up as well?

 

Ray Makela:

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. So salesreadinessgroup.com is the best resource for finding out about our programmes, our virtual offering, and also a new collaborative learning platform that we’re releasing. We’re calling it CLX, which is an opportunity to really engage in sales and sales management training, but in a social and collaborative platform, including micro-videos and missions, and following that along. So a great way in this environment, since we can’t get our sales teams together either, to deliver training, and then you can find out more about the virtual sales training offerings that are there. Certainly people can connect with me on LinkedIn, Ray Makela, also on Twitter, RayAMakela. And yeah, just really enjoy the opportunity to connect with your followers, and the success you’ve had with The Salesman Podcast. So great to be here with you today, Will.

 

Will Barron:

I’m really grateful that you came on, Ray. And with that, mate, I thank you for your time, your insights and all of this. Pushing all of the training forward is really important. I’m glad you and Sales Readiness Group are doing that. With that, I want to thank you again for joining us on The Salesman Podcast.

 

Ray Makela:

Thank you very much, Will.

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