Jan 25, 2021
It’s now a given that more sales meetings will be virtual for the foreseeable future. But keeping people engaged and focused while virtual is a challenge. Too many people turn off their camera and multitask. While people may commit to attending a meeting but they don’t necessarily attend with purpose or feel energized when attending.
There’s an opportunity for salespeople to flip this around. Most people take their foot off the pedal once a meeting is scheduled. But there are things that you and your sales team can do between getting a meeting scheduled and making sure the time your buyers invest with you is engaging and useful.
Whether it’s a meet and greet, a kickoff meeting, a critical sales pitch, or a discovery call, you need to define the parameters that make a successful meeting and help your salespeople skill up in their teaching skills. What’s surprising is how seldom sales teams define meeting facilitation as a critical sales skill to be taught, reinforced or observed in salespeople. There is a need for a systematic process to upskill your people on those critical behaviors that make for a successful virtual sales meeting. They should be part of your onboarding experience and your coaching cadence.
You can’t ever over-prepare people on how to put the ACTIVE in interactive presentations. You have to help them build their mindset and skillset so they have hardened muscles in terms of the core selling skills and habits that apply to greater influence in a virtual world. One that doesn’t require technology, but enables all to benefit from it.
The perfect sales meeting
There are four factors that define a successful sales meeting:
- Being on time, prepared, and ready with an “ENGAGEing” presentation
- The next meeting is scheduled
- Checklist of outcomes reviewed
- All standing items are resolved
Without all of these in place, you will probably not get a next meeting.
We are increasingly in a complex buying and selling cycle. Today’s buyer is not a single entity, it’s actually many people working with the buyer – procurement, finance, the user, process owners. Similarly for the seller, the sales experience has gone well beyond simply the account executive.
At the meeting, every member of your sales team has to be on message. They need to know exactly what their role is in the meeting, what specific skill sets they’re going to need and what content they need to bring to the table. This all needs to be completely aligned. Aligning all of your sales team, not just your account executives, is crucial because you need to help them understand their audience and empower them with the right content with the right skills to conduct a successful virtual sales meeting.
Engaging virtual participants
Too often, salespeople can sound robotic as they focus on pitching rather than engaging their buyers. You need to make sure you understand the persona of your buyer and tailor your content, pitch, pre-work and facilitation to engage and add value in the time you have with them.
To engage them, design your meetings so people feel like they are the center. This means you also need to know your technology so it’s seamless for you. You can then really focus on the people and deliver in a way that brings out the brilliance of your product, service, and how you are solving the buyer’s unique challenges.
When designing your sales meeting, you can engage buyers by thinking about it differently. You’re not running a sales meeting, you’re training your customers. This means your salespeople aren’t selling, they’re teaching. This is a big differentiator. If you have a 20-minute sales call, your mission should be to teach your buyers everything you can.
A seller may spend most of their time thinking about what they want to share and very little thinking about how to share it in a way that resonates. You need to flip that equation and spend most of your energy designing your virtual meetings so that the buyer is fired up. You want your buyer to spend 30% of their time learning the content and 70% practicing.
When people log into a sales presentation they want it to be all about them. That requires some very powerful shifts. You want to let people talk and open up to you. This flips the design of a typical sales meeting where the presenters usually do all the talking and the buyers are processing.
You want your buyers to have a high level of involvement. To engage them and prevent them from multitasking you need interactivity every two to three minutes. This can be listening to other voices, talking themself or doing fun stuff.
There are lots of ways that you can do this virtually, and I’ll explain some of these in more detail below.
To help you achieve this, I’ve identified six steps to holding an engaging virtual sales meeting.
1. Energize participants
Really engaging participants starts by energizing people. Data tells us the average human attention span is 20 minutes, but for online video interactions it’s about 60 seconds. We’re competing for attention span from buyers trying to get work done on a 10 by 12 inch screen.
The faster you energize people when they log in, the faster they’re involved. Ask them a tough or interesting question and get them to type their answers in the chat box. You want them to realize that it’s important that they show up to this meeting, they can’t just sit back passively. A hint, don’t start with a super tricky question. Perhaps start with a simple question, like where they’re dialling in from and then move to more complex questions.
You can also energize people ahead of the meeting. Send out a book, article video or even an online survey, and ask them to take a look at it if they have a few minutes before the meeting. This activates the reticular activating system in their brain so they come in already energized and excited to learn.
2. Navigate content
Before you share the information that you want to share, you need to be crystal clear about what your objectives are. What do you want your buyers to do differently as a result of the time with you?
If you know where you want them to get to, then you can work out how you’re going to get them there. When you’re face to face, it’s pretty clear because you can see people nodding, but virtually you have to put in interactivity along the way. You can do this by asking them questions or putting them in a breakout room with a buddy and ask them a powerful question that you need to know so you can position your solution. You could also get them to experience what you’re selling and then go back and deconstruct it.
When you’re presenting, you want to use multiple modalities so you can connect with multiple senses. Every time you shift the modality or the sense, you’re activating a different part of the brain which captures and keeps attention as well as helps people retain what you are sharing.
3. Generate meaning
Generating meaning is about letting your buyers know what’s in it for them. If you just keep sharing more and more information, their brain tries to work out what’s important to remember and what has no relevance to them. By generating meaning you stop people from checking out, reengage them in why it is valuable to pay attention and it allows you to move to the next step.
You can do this by overtly asking your buyer questions. What does a tool like this mean for you? What does it cost you not to have this tool? What are you currently doing?
Buyers can put their answers in the chat and you could then call them out by their name and ask them to tell you more. This not only generates meaning but it also helps you make a connection with the buyer. For other people on the call, it also engages them. They’re hearing different voices and they realize they may be called on to speak soon.
You can also use breakout rooms as another way to build interaction. Ask them to tell each other their stories.
What I’ve noticed in a lot of sales calls is that salespeople often tell buyers why their tool is important. When you ask the buyer to tell you what’s important, it flips it around and their answer allows you to fine-tune your sales approach.
4. Apply to the real world
When you generate meaning you can see how your buyer will apply what you’ve taught them, or your solution, in the real world. Help your buyer practice what they’ve learnt immediately by popping them in a breakout room immediately.
You can also structure your questions so they see the need for what you’re selling without realizing it. This is tricky but you can do it.
For example, I’m working with a group that teaches people how to use cameras and systems in the operating room. They ask a range of questions to help the buyers understand how they would apply their solution in the real world. Does your patient need a stent? Do they need open heart surgery? What if you saw this with the camera, what would that mean?
These questions position their product. They can then let the buyer practice with their product so they can see how it would apply to them in the real world. Anything you can do to have them demonstrate that they learned something from you in your sales presentation, and can apply it in the real world will help you.
Other things you could try include giving your buyers a mini case study and letting them go into a breakout room to figure it out. The more they apply the information you’ve taught them with you, the better the questions they’re going to ask and the more you can refine how you’re going to train them next time. Your buyers will also feel more excited and engaged with the learning experience they’ve had.
5. Gauge and celebrate
The next step is to gauge what your buyers have learned and celebrate it with them. You could do this by having a little Jeopardy game or quiz where they test their new knowledge. This gives them a chance to feel empowered that they’ve learned and sets both them and you up for success. People love to feel like they’ve achieved and it will let them log off on a high.
You can also use this approach in your own internal meetings. Ask your top-performing peers to show others what they’re doing to get those sales. All of a sudden you have a much more engaging team meeting because one of your superstars is presenting their success drivers.
6. Extend learning to action
Giving a buyer the gift of extending learning to action keeps you top of mind. This involves following up after the meeting. In this age, where everybody is multitasking, follow-up is one of the most critical things you can do to keep the learning alive and keep the focus.
That follow-up should happen the next day. It can be as simple as sending an article, book or job aid to the buyer. There are a range of things you can do to keep your organization top of mind with buyers from holding regular learning sessions to sharing success stories to email campaigns.
At the end of the day, these principles really come into play best when people have been taught, they’ve prepared and they’ve been assessed. Enable your salespeople with best practices like agenda templates, pre-meeting reminders, polls and surveys so they can go into their meetings prepared. Also give them the opportunity to drive self-confidence by developing their skills, whether it’s by role play, model pitches or accessing great examples of openings and closings.
You can also crowdsource social learning. This involves enabling your managers and top performing peers to mentor as part of your ever boarding experience – that starts with onboarding and upskilling over the journey. You can also leverage tools like artificial intelligence and embed that into your sales coaching cadence at scale to help your managers become more effective because they no longer have the luxury of shadowing or doing ride-alongs.
When building sales skills, practice really does help people make progress because we never get it right the first time. It’s not what you do once, it’s what you do better the next time. This applies to teaching in sales presentations. Teaching, in any forum, is the art and science of bringing out the brilliance that drives transformations. These tips will help you achieve brilliance in your sales presentations.
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