TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Step 1: Embrace The New Normal
- Step 2: Maximize The Benefits Of Online Events
- Step 3: Prepare A Checklist For Attending Virtual Events
- Step 4: Optimize The Value Of Digital Networking
- Step 5: Warm Up With Online IceBreakers
- Step 6: Keep Your Prospects Engaged
- Step 7: Practice Effective Remote Follow-Ups
- Step 8: Close Deals In The Digital Landscape
- Step 9: Adopt Agility & Flexibility
The emergence of the coronavirus has affected businesses worldwide with organizations canceling events and shifting to remote work to flatten the curve. This in turn impacted sales in all industries, bringing a more adverse effect on trades that were reliant on face-to-face networking.
However, even though social distancing measures may still be in effect for the coming months, you can still maintain a strong engagement with your prospects and clients through the digital space.
To help you to maximize online sales and relationship-building, Management Events has compiled tips and strategies on taking full advantage of the benefits of virtual events and remote networking.
Over the next 9 chapters, we will guide you on optimizing digital conferences and meetings with best practices on online icebreaking, keeping prospects engaged, following up and closing deals remotely, and more!
STEP 1: EMBRACE THE NEW NORMAL
Coined as the ‘new normal’, virtual events have increased significantly since the first online trade show in 2000.
From digital conferences to online career fairs, the cost-effectiveness and high accessibility rate of the virtual world have given rise to a growing number of online events.
But virtual events have come a long way since its day of one-sided single-content sharing.
Today’s online programs have transformed into engaging experiences that rival physical events with interactive features and virtual interactions.
So how can you maximize on new and innovative elements that are fast becoming the norm in digital events?
While live discussions are not entirely new to virtual events, the ways to discuss, chat, and share opinions in online conferences have become more varied with the onslaught of digital technologies.
For example, many digital conferences and webinars are incorporating communication apps, live polling, interactive Q&As and audience interaction tools, such as Slido and Pigeonhole, where participants from around the world can ask questions and provide opinions on the topic.
Many virtual forums are also utilizing social livestreams, social media walls, live tweeting, video workshops and panel discussions between sessions, such as Management Events’ Campfire, to drive engagement.
As a salesperson or solution provider, you should take full advantage of the audience participation to connect with them, generate leads, and gain valuable insights on their interests and thoughts.
Simulive, or simulated live, events implement pre-recorded content that are played in a live format. In essence, it simulates a live conference by playing a recorded presentation or similar content at a specific time during the event, and is complemented by a real-time chat room or live Q&A session.
Simulive automated webinars are seeing an increase due to its many benefits, such as its flexibility in allowing speakers to review their content before it’s presented, and ability to bypass any timing and technical issues on the day of the online forum.
This ‘new normal’ also increases ROI as the recorded presentation can be reused in other channels and subsequent events, as well as reshaped into on-demand content after it airs.
For businesses, having your content available in multiple channels, during events and post-events, helps to spread your solution further and increase brand exposure.
Many new-generation online events are applying the concept of virtual reality by focusing on experience creation and maximizing the virtual space with digital booths, exhibition halls, meeting rooms and more.
From showcasing a virtual exhibition hall complete with individual vendor booths to a visually rich keynote stage or meeting room, these recreate the feeling of a physical event while ensuring continuous engagement.
Implementing such virtual networking areas also enable the attendees to navigate freely to connect with other participants, the event organizers and vendors while enabling solution providers to utilize the digital booths to showcase content and even have games and prizes.
Such integration is valuable for both the event participants and businesses in gaining the latest insights and trends, and in expanding their business network.
More and more digital events are seeing the importance of one-on-one networking, and finding new and innovative ways to include remote meetups for their attendees.
For instance, Management Events, which has always emphasized on human connections, is bringing its advanced business matchmaking technology into its ‘Beyond Tech’ virtual series, enabling pre-scheduled one-to-one virtual meetings between business leaders.
With online networking on the rise, you need effective digital meetings to connect and engage with decision makers, especially when they are exploring solutions during times of crisis.
Though not commonly used in current digital events, it’s estimated that as more events move online, gamification features will increase.
In fact, there are already vendors who gamify their virtual booths, such as setting up simple games for attendees to win prizes, vouchers or discounts. This aids greatly in attracting the participants’ attention and increasing the engagement rate.
Avatar is another gamification feature that adds a further touch of realism and connected event experience.
Through 3D interactive avatars, individual event participants can customize and create a digital self, and use it to communicate with the vendor and navigate the virtual environment.
One such example of avatar utilization is Teeoh’s recent avatar social platform.
Virtual events are not just a great way to engage with global audiences, but to also establish connections across the globe in the virtual space. And with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic driving remote work and online conferences, digital events are fast becoming the new normal networking platforms for many solution providers and business leaders.
STEP 2: MAXIMIZE THE BENEFITS OF
There are many advantages to attending a virtual event, whether you are a business leader or a salesperson. But how do you maximize its benefits to the fullest?
Utilize Real-Time Insights
Virtual conferences are a mine of information. Not only do you have industry experts giving keynote presentations and sharing their knowledge, you also have attendees joining in discussions and giving opinions.
With many online events encouraging live dialogues and virtual campfires, you can be sure that there is a considerable amount of knowledge and information being shared. These will provide valuable insights to you, and will help you to get to know the innermost thoughts of business leaders which you might not get in a meeting.
So make full use of the event agenda:
Select the topics that are relevant to you and your solutions, and join in the panel discussions and Q&A sessions to gain an understanding of what the event participants are looking for.
Participating in the keynote presentations will also prove useful to gain some eye-opening information, especially with the live polling and real-time chats that run concurrently with the talks.
Many digital events promote their events by having hashtags, social media walls and similar uses of online media platforms. Keeping an eye on the contents that are generated there by the attendees is another way to discover hidden opportunities and findings.
Optimize Virtual Networking
Similar to physical events, the digital conferences of today provide ample, or even more, networking opportunities. From icebreaking sessions to virtual meetups, the ways to connect with prospects have increased significantly, and should be taken full advantage of to generate leads.
Optimize the networking options available to you:
As mentioned earlier, roundtable discussions, icebreaking sessions, Q&As and other virtual dialogues are a good source of insights. At the same time, they are also valuable in expanding your business network. Joining in the conversation will not only put your name out there, but can act as the base of establishing initial connections between you and potential clients.
Some digital events, such as Management Events’ ‘Beyond Tech’ series, provide one-to-one virtual meetings with the attendees. Look through the list and select decision makers who will benefit from your solutions for the meetings. Ensure that you arrange the meetings efficiently to make full use of your time.
If you are able to set up a virtual area to showcase your brand and solutions, assign a real-time vendor who can answer any questions that a visiting attendee might have. Implementing a chatbot, or a chat app that allows interactive communication, enables you to connect with interested prospects.
When networking, virtually or physically, remember that you shouldn’t be sales-focused. Instead, all your communication should be solution-focused, such as how to help the client reach their objective and how to alleviate their pain point.
Set Up Online Booths
If the event platform provides a digital booth or online exhibition hall where you can display your brand, make full use of it to market your company and products.
Leverage on the virtual space:
Prominently display your logo, and make sure that all images are high-resolution to prevent distortion or pixelation.
If the area has customization features, you can also put in keywords of your solutions, short descriptions or other graphic elements that will entice visitors to click on your booth. However, keep in mind that you should keep a clean design with minimal wordings.
Offer on-demand content for prospective clients to browse through or download. These can include links to your website, product brochures, videos, testimonials, and short presentations.
Gamify your booth by setting up virtual contests, drawings or prize wheels where they can win prizes. You can even have them scan QR codes to obtain points or conduct social media contests, where visitors share your product or tag you in exchange for vouchers. Gamification is growing increasingly popular and helps to entice event participants to engage with you.
Provide a chatroom where interested prospects can connect with you and send enquiries. Being able to respond to clients in real-time will increase conversion rates as well as generate leads.
Allow online transactions or offer a wish list cart for clients who wish to make a direct purchase. Generate urgency by offering discounts and promotions that are valid only for purchases performed by participants during the virtual event.
Bonus tip: to attract more attendees to your booth and to connect with you at the digital conference, promote your participation in the event on your website and social platforms, and provide a sneak peek of your event-exclusive offers.
Pay Attention To Digital Content
Content is king, and the statement is especially true when it comes to virtual events. Depending on the platform you are using to communicate with event participants, you should ensure that the content you’re sharing is easily accessible and digestible.
While you might want to share as many details as possible about your product, overloading the prospects with irrelevant and lengthy information might cause confusion or possibly drive them away.
Choose wisely on what content to share and how:
Videos – Demo videos are a great way to showcase the key points of your product, especially in one-to-one meetings. But keep them short and catchy with only the main features or points to maintain engagement level.
Brochures – Digital brochures, pamphlets or one-pagers are concise methods for introducing and explaining your solution, which you can share in sessions, chats and meetings. For virtual booths, instead of sharing it as a downloadable file, have it as an image that the prospects can view instantly.
Infographics – Another graphic visual representation to clearly and quickly share product information, infographics are a good way to show a summary of your solution in short chat sessions.
Slideshow – Presentations and slideshows are commonly used in virtual meetings, but for an optimal session, design the slides to be minimal in wordings with a clean look and high-resolution images.
Ebooks – Whitepapers, case studies and other lengthy documents should be shared as links that the prospects can view at their leisure. Have the links direct them to a landing page where they can fill out a form to download the reports or articles.
Make a ‘briefcase’ of useful information that interested prospects can download all at once, instead of having them download multiple different documents. This saves them time from combing through an abundance of materials and ensuring that they receive all the important particulars.
Leverage On Teamwork
With virtual events saving you on travel and accommodation costs, have more than one person from your company to attend the conference or forum.
Utilize your teamwork throughout the event:
Divide and conquer between the different keynote presentations so you can compile even more data and increase lead generation. You can do the same for the panel discussions and Q&As.
Have more than one person to handle your company chatroom, if any, so you don’t keep prospects waiting too long for a response.
If the event organizers permit it, make the most of the one-to-one meetings by scheduling more meetups and spreading it between your team.
Share notes and review key data and takeaways after the event. Be sure to also share any issues that arose during the event or strategies that can be used by other team members.
There are many other advantages of online conferences that you can fully leverage on, but the most important thing is to have a well-thought out plan that makes the most of your time attending the digital event.
STEP 3: PREPARE A CHECKLIST FOR
ATTENDING VIRTUAL EVENTS
Just like attending a physical event, you should have a checklist of steps for an efficient day at the virtual event. A checklist is also useful for those who are new to digital events as it will help you to fully prepare for the online conference, and check that you don’t miss out on anything important.
Maximize the event and assure a smoother experience with the checklist below.
Prepare A Digital Name Card
Even though the world has gone digital, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, a name card is still a must-have for any business professional. And a digital name card is the new-age way to share your contact details with clients.
A digital name card, or e-business card, is the digitized version of your business card, which you can share through your mobile, email, chat apps and other online platforms. Rising in popularity, the perks of having a digital name card range from customization of design and ease of updating contact information to receiving data on the number of views.
Business-wise, your e-name card can act as a virtual icebreaker with new prospects, and is particularly useful in easing the start of the meeting and establishing a connection with the client.
There are many free apps which you can use to create your own digital business card, whether you prefer a VCard QR Code or a standard digital card. However, keep in mind that your e-name card is a representative of your company and yourself, and should be designed to give a lasting and good impression to the client.
Have The Right Mindset
What is the goal of attending the event? Is the main purpose for lead generation? Is it to build relationships and expand your business network? Or are you seeking to introduce your product and increase brand awareness?
Before attending an online conference, you need to know the intentions and objectives of participating in the event.
Once you confirm the goals you are trying to fulfill, set your mindset to achieve them. This assures that all the steps you take during the event are working towards those goals, and prevent you from straying from your objectives.
But keep in mind that your goal shouldn’t be about getting sales. Work your way to increase sales by building relations with the attendees of the event.
Plan Your Agenda
Use the event agenda to plan your time efficiently. Take note of the speakers or topics that are relevant to you and your product.
Join in the discussions during and after the session to gain valuable insights from the attendees. You’ll find that many hidden business opportunities may present themselves at these exchanges.
If the digital conference has networking sessions, such as one-to-one virtual meetings, plan out the schedule of your meetups with prospects who might be the most interested or in need of your solutions.
Remember to arrange the meetings with some space in between for you to gather your thoughts and prepare for the next session.
Map out a timetable to keep your day organized. Have a contingency plan incase of any unexpected situations, and prioritize which speakers or meetings take precedence if those circumstances occur.
Ready Your Content
Make sure all your documents are within easy reach and ready to be shared at a moment’s notice. Consider having both a digital and hardcopy version of your information. The hardcopy, such as bullet-proof information, will make it easier for you to refer to without having to open multiple windows or programs on your computer, which might cause lag.
If you’ll be presenting in your meetings, time yourself to see how long the presentation will take.
Is the presentation lengthy or repetitive? Can the message be more concise and impactful? Are there any important details that you missed?
Most professionals tend to be lengthy in their presentations with unnecessary ‘noise’, so be objective when reading through your slides, or get your colleague to give their honest feedback on the presentation.
For your meetings, you should also conduct prior research on the prospective clients. Prepare a set of questions to ask them so you can gain insights into their needs, or discussion topics to interest them in your solution.
Check Your Equipment
When attending a virtual event, there is a list of necessary equipment that you should get ready and make sure are in good working order.
Internet – A strong Internet connection is a priority for online conferences, and hardwiring your Internet connection or using a wired network can help you avoid unstable Wi-Fi.
Headphones – While you might have a computer speaker, external noise might disrupt you from listening clearly to the speaker or prospect. Consider using a headphone for optimal listening quality. Earphones or earbuds are also good for video meetings as they are less visible and will not distract your prospects.
Microphone – Setting up your mic for your virtual meeting or presentation is about checking its audio quality, its placement and your voice level. Is the mic too close to your mouth? Does the mic pick up on noise interference? Are you speaking too loudly or too softly? Test-call another team member before the event to see if there’s an echo or glitch in the sound.
Video camera – Whether you’re using your computer’s camera or a video camera, review the settings to ensure high-quality image with no blurriness or pixelation. Use a plain backdrop and set your camera to show you from the chest up.
A good impression goes a long way, and a smooth, trouble-free online meeting will show a sense of professionalism to your prospects.
Have Support On-Hand
Even the best of plans can go wrong so have the event’s support contact details on hand for quick consultation and assistance incase of any issues.
Unexpected problems might also arise on your end, which is why teamwork and a solid contingency plan are important.
List down possible concerns, and discuss with your team on how best to handle these scenarios and develop back-up plans.
With the right preparation in place, you can experience the full benefits that a virtual event has to offer for your company. Developing a checklist is a useful strategy to ascertain the most opportunities to network and generate leads at any online conference or forum.
STEP 4: OPTIMIZE THE VALUE OF DIGITAL NETWORKING
From in-person gatherings to virtual events, from handshakes to video conferencing – COVID-19 has significantly changed how the world networks. But the need for human connections is still of vast importance, even at a time when people are physically distanced.
In this section, we will go in-depth into establishing online connections in digital events and the steps you can take to fully optimize virtual networking.
Research Your Prospects
A virtual conference with 1-to-1 meetings would usually provide a list of attendees for you to schedule meetups. Management Events, which offers online meetings between service providers and C-suites, also shares key investments and projects of the attending business leaders.
Conduct prior research on the prospects to discover their pain points and business objectives, and see if what they’re seeking aligns with what you’re offering.
Shortlist attendees who will benefit from your solution, and prepare your meeting notes and questions.
As each prospect might have different goals, consider developing a template of your presentation or documents which you can personalize according to the business leader’s needs.
Establish Pre-Event Connections
After confirming the prospects you would like to meet with at the event, try to connect with them on their social media platforms prior to the digital conference.
LinkedIn is one of the best platforms to network with professionals. If they’re actively writing articles or posts, read through them to gain an understanding of your prospect.
What are they writing about? What is their thought process in the posts? Comment on their posts to establish an initial conversation.
Another way to connect with them is to join the same social groups. This not only provides insights into their business interests, but you also have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded professionals as your prospect, thus increasing lead generation.
Ensure Effective Scheduling
While you might want to pack as many meetings with as many prospects as possible, make sure to have some leeway in between the sessions.
If the meeting goes on longer than the estimated time, you don’t want to leave your next client waiting for you and start the session with a bad impression. Nor do you want to abruptly cut your current prospect off to rush to your next session.
Scheduling in short breaks will also give you time to mentally shift from the previous client and prepare for the next prospect.
Be sure to empty your mind from earlier meetings so you can place your full attention on the upcoming discussion.
Remember to also factor in toilet breaks, having a drink, making adjustments to your appearance or meeting equipment, and other minor tasks.
Maintain Personal Discipline
Treat the virtual networking as any normal physical meeting, where you have to dress cleanly and conduct yourself professionally. The only difference is you have to set your own meeting area.
Eliminate any potential distractions for you and your prospective client by placing yourself in an isolated room with minimal external noise. If you’re having a video call, set the meeting in front of a plain or neutral background with good lighting, and remove any decorations that might shift your prospect’s attention away from you.
Make sure all your online notifications are switched off so you can fully concentrate on the meeting at hand. You should also put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or ‘Silent’, as opposed to vibrate which can still be picked up by your mic.
Ensure Stable Connectivity
In case you face Internet disconnection or computer lag, make sure that you provide an alternative way to connect with the prospect at the beginning of the session. Send them your digital business card and if possible, get their contact details as well.
To ensure a steady Internet connection, test your Wi-Fi stability and speed. Check if there are unessential programs or hardware that are using up your bandwidth, and turn them off.
One of the best ways to ensure a strong Internet connection is to use a wired network with Ethernet cables, which have lower latency and are generally faster than Wi-Fi.
There are many things that can go wrong no matter how careful you plan your virtual networking sessions. From blackouts to faulty equipment, have a contingency plan to prepare for any hiccups.
Always Ask Questions
Asking questions shows that you are sincerely interested in knowing your client’s pain points. Make full use of the meeting by asking open-ended questions that can get you the most information out of your prospects. Questions will also help to clarify your understanding of the client’s case.
However, your questions should be specifically phrased
and focused on what’s important for your client.
Avoid general questions and use fact-gathering ones, such as “What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?” and “What challenges are you facing while trying to solve your concern?”
You can also ask thought-provoking questions with statistics or rising trends to make your prospect think, such as “Did you know virtual events are expected to be the top trend this year?” Sharing information will establish you as a credible thought leader while piquing their interest.
Follow-Up With Your Prospects
Get your prospect to verbally commit to re-engaging with you, and ask what follow-up method they prefer, such as by email or phone call.
Additionally, determine the content of the follow-up – Will it be another meeting with in-depth discussions? Will it be a product demonstration?
Establish a clear agenda for the next communication with your prospect, and regularly follow-up with them to maintain their interest in your solution.
You should also send a thank-you email along with a brief recap of the meeting. Make your email stand out from the rest of their inbox with a distinctive subject.
Remember, your key goal in virtual networking is to build relationships. Practice active listening, maintain a positive and confident attitude, and share your knowledge to build strong and long-lasting business relationships.
STEP 5: WARM UP WITH ONLINE ICEBREAKERS
Every meeting, even online meetings, should begin with an effective icebreaker to ease the start of the discussion.
When done correctly, breaking the ice can:
Break down social barriers;
Establish a sense of connection;
Lead to comfortable and productive conversations;
Motivate people to get to know each other; and
Leave a memorable impression.
However, Kai Stabell, the founder of the Consortium for Conversational Conflict Resolution (C4CCR), states that most people approach icrebreaking wrongly, thus ending up with shallow questions or statements, such as “How are you?” and “The weather is nice today.”
To start a meaningful conversation, try our tips below on breaking the virtual ice:
Dive Right In
Take the initiative to open the conversation in 1-to-1 meetings, instead of waiting for the other party. Start by introducing yourself but keep it brief and interesting, especially if the conversation is message-based.
For public dialogues, such as roundtable discussions and chat rooms, it’s best if you have a schedule of the discussions you would like to join.
This way, you’ll be able to participate from the beginning and get to know the participants from their introductions.
If you happen to jump into a video discussion group while they are in mid-conversation, give a wave and wait until there’s a lull in the discussion. If there’s a moderator, they will usually welcome the newcomers and give you the chance to introduce yourself.
Prepare An Elevator Pitch
Plan out your introduction with a few sentences about yourself, including your experience and goals, to use in your networking sessions.
It’s also a good idea to craft your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a quick overview of your background and business, which should be powerful and intriguing to make the other party want to know more about you.
Develop more than one elevator pitch so you have variations that will cater to different people.
But remember to keep your elevator pitch conversational with a clear, well-paced and lively tone.
Ask Deep Questions
As the conversation goes underway, pick a mutual topic and ask deep questions on it.
For example, with COVID-19 impacting the whole world, you can mention the coronavirus and lead the topic to ask how the other party has dealt with the effects of the pandemic.
This will give you valuable information on the possible pain points of the prospects, which you can use to move to more business-related topics.
As you all are participating in the same virtual event, you can also use the conference itself as an icebreaker. Share your expectations of the conference, and ask what they hope to learn or achieve from it or why they chose to participate in this particular event theme.
Your questions should show a sincere interest in getting to know the person, so keep in mind to phrase open-ended questions that relate to the other party.
Share Your Knowledge
Another way to break the ice is by sharing a piece of thought-provoking knowledge. Pick a fact or statistic that you think might be interesting to your prospect. It could be a detail related to the event theme or it could be a general business-related fact.
Some ways to start your information-sharing can be “Did you hear about…”, “Did you know that…” or “I heard that..” For instance, you could say “I heard that a majority of businesses estimate their daily operations to return to normal within 6 months after the lift of government COVID-19 restrictions” and wait for their response or follow it up with a question related to their business.
Sharing information can also establish thought-leadership, and show the prospect that you are knowledgeable and updated on the latest news and trends.
However, make sure that your information is not superficial. It should be useful to your prospective client and help to move the conversation along.
Another thing to remember is to keep your tone informative and conversational, not scripted or patronizing. Many salespeople tend to start the conversation wrongly and put their clients off by ‘showing off’ their expertise.
Create Positive Energy
Smiling is one of the best icebreakers in your arsenal so don’t be afraid to smile. The act of smiling not only relaxes you, but can also help to put your conversation partner at ease, who might be feeling as anxious and nervous as you.
People respond to positive energy, and the same is true even in the virtual world. In fact, enthusiasm is so contagious that even if the other party can’t see you, they can still feel the energy coming through your words.
Have A Conversation Starter
In an interview on the lost art of conversation, Kai Stabell recommended wearing a ‘conversation starter’ piece that is noticeable and will intrigue the other party to ask you about it. Stabell himself, as stated in the interview, used to wear a knotted gun as his conversation starter.
If you don’t have any conversation starter that you think will be appropriate or distinguishable, you can also try to find a conversation starter in your video call with the prospects.
It could be something that they’re wearing, such as a decorative pin, or it could be a decor in their background, like a plaque or picture.
Even a drink can be a conversation starter.
Although you can’t have a drink together physically, sharing a drink virtually can create a relaxed ambience and ease the flow of conversation.
At the end of the day, virtual networking is all about creating real and meaningful connections, and breaking the ice is the best way to smoothen the start of a conversation. But keep in mind that, aside from your introduction, the focus and content of the icebreakers should be on the other person, not about you.
STEP 6: KEEP YOUR PROSPECTS ENGAGED
Whether you’re connecting with prospects physically or virtually, generating and maintaining their engagement level is key in creating a solid relationship. As the business landscape moves meetings and client relations further online, engagement strategies must also adapt to better fit the virtual environment.
But with the absence of face-to-face interactions, how can you ensure that people stay engaged in virtual networking?
Video Call Whenever Possible
Put a face to the voice. What keeps face-to-face meetings still relevant in today’s high-tech world is the human need to see each other. And with video conferencing technology, there is no reason why you can’t have a virtual face-to-face session.
With a visual to focus on, video calls are more effective at keeping a high engagement level than audio calls. Furthermore, as both parties are able to see one another’s facial expressions and certain body language, it also creates a more personal and trusting connection.
Another key reason to use video calling is the humanizing of yourself and your company. Customers want to know who they’re buying from. They want to see the person behind the product. Thus, showing the face behind the voice helps to establish a higher level of closeness and intimacy.
So encourage your prospect to have a video meeting with you, instead of an audio call or a message-based chat.
Use An Interactive Approach
Long-lasting relationships are built upon two-way communication, where each party is able to mutually discuss and share their viewpoints.
To keep your prospect engaged, don’t go on a long monologue.
Many salespeople make the mistake of viewing a meeting, online or live, as a one-way sales pitch, which ends up with them sharing vast information to their prospective clients but not receiving any valuable insights in return.
Instead, ask questions. When you’re briefing them on how your solution can alleviate their pain points, ask your prospect if that’s what they’re looking to achieve or if there’s another concern that they’re looking to solve.
You can even use thought-provoking questions that are related or will lead to your solution, such as “What is the number one worry among CFOs during a crisis?” or questions that create suspense, making the prospect feel the need to know more.
Asking questions will not only keep them absorbed in the conversation. It also shows that you sincerely value their input and thoughts, which is essential in building a solid connection.
Think of the most boring discussion you’ve ever had, and list down why your attention was waning throughout the session. If it’s not the conversation topic that bored you, the reason behind your lack of interest is most likely due to the speaker’s presentation method.
With the human attention span getting shorter and shorter, you need to develop ways to keep your prospect actively present and in the now during your meetings. One tip is to use different elements in your presentation.
Don’t concentrate on using only one presentation method. It doesn’t have to be just a text-based PowerPoint slide, and it doesn’t have to be filled to the brim with words.
Change it up by using visuals, such as graphs or infographics. Not only do they present information in an easy-to-understand manner, but the colors will help to add some pop among the words.
For a more creative approach, you can also use a short video, music or sound effects to add some spice to the presentation.
If your information is primarily presented on your slidedeck, try not to conduct a majority of the meeting with your slides. Limit your screen-sharing so you can gauge their expression and interest level. They want to see you, not your screen.
Keep An Eye On Emphasis & Tone
To highlight the previous point, the engagement rate of your presentation is also heavily reliant on your delivery, which includes your intonations, pace, volume and enunciation.
Corporate communication agency, the MOXiE Institute, emphasizes on the use of dynamic vocalization to “pique interest and sustain attention.” Your tone sets the pace of the meeting, whether it’s energetic or steady. If it’s low and slow, high chances are your prospect will barely pay attention to you.
Instead, maintain a lively flow and add energy to your voice by emphasising on certain keywords and varying your pitch and pace. Injecting some humor will also help to keep the prospect captivated and break up the monotony of an otherwise serious discussion.
However, there’s a fine line between sounding professional and domineering. Be aware of your volume and tone to avoid sounding superior, which can be off-putting and disrespectful to your client.
Include Pause Points
Every meeting needs a quick break, and just like physical meetups, you should work in short pauses during your online discussions with the prospect.
Moments of pause are important in many ways:
They give time for your client to absorb your points;
They indicate the transition into the next point or topic;
They allow your prospect to make a comment or ask questions;
They help you to regain your thoughts and mentally prepare for the next phase of your presentation; and
They’re impactful in bringing back the attention to you.
Keep in mind that your prospect might not be able to give their full attention for long periods of time. So avoid rambling on in your presentation, and create natural pause points for an immersive and powerful meeting.
Ensure Recency & Relevance
Trends change by the day, especially in today’s current unpredictable times. With business directions shifting constantly to accommodate new rising objectives, it’s crucial that you are updated on the latest industry movements.
To keep your client’s attention, make sure that the data you’re presenting is recent and relevant to the prospect. You want to establish your company as a thought-leader and expert, and that you are well-prepared to help them with their pain points.
Giving outdated information to a prospect who’s constantly informed will not only give a bad impression of your brand, it also arises distrust.
At the same time, providing data that is not relevant to your client will make them feel that you’re inefficient and wasting their time.
All these might end up with the client either zoning out from your meeting or ending the discussion prematurely.
Constantly stay updated on the latest movements of your target client’s industry as well as your own field so you can offer them real value and keep the conversation going.
Build Emotional Engagement
One of the success factors for many international brands in maintaining their customers is their ability to engage with their buyers emotionally.
As mentioned in earlier topics, your product should be a solution for an issue that is causing concerns for your prospect. Your solution should make them feel relieved in solving a problem, experience success in increasing profits, or feel secured and satisfied in managing tough situations.
Capture your prospect’s attention by figuring out what emotionally motivates your target client and connect to them through those emotions.To further intensify your presentation, speech coach Gary Genard recommends using emotional language, where he explains swapping certain words will move your prospect better.
While facts and figures may be the mainstream in business meetings, they should be used in tandem with emotional messages for a personalized and effective meeting.
Ultimately, the human connection is still of utmost importance in keeping a high engagement level. The other person needs to feel that you are interacting with them as a person, and that you view them, their time and their feedback as highly important.
Your prospect might not remember all the points of your presentation, but if you succeed in keeping their interest high throughout the meeting and connecting deeply with them, they’re sure to remember the engaging experience they had with you.
STEP 7: PRACTICE EFFECTIVE REMOTE FOLLOW-UPS
Following up with a prospect after a virtual meeting is probably an experience that is new to many salespeople. But regardless whether you had a live or online meeting, a follow-up is vitally important to keep the momentum going.
In this section, we’ll share with you the best follow-up practices to build relationships after your virtual meetings.
Prepare The Follow-Up During The Meeting
To effectively follow up with your prospects, you need to establish to both you and your prospect that your conversation is not a one-off meeting. Oftentimes, salespeople will either allow the prospect to determine whether there will be a subsequent meeting or fail to follow up after the meeting, letting the lead go cold.
Thus, it is imperative that before the end of the virtual meeting, you take a few minutes to summarize the major topics of discussion and confirm the next steps with your prospect. This can include items such as:
When will the follow-up meeting be?
Will the follow-up be a phone call, another virtual meetup or a different method?
What points will be covered in the follow-up?
Be as specific as you can with the agenda of your subsequent meeting,
and ensure that your prospect is in agreement with the follow-up
before ending your virtual session.
Don’t be discouraged if your prospect is not committing to a second meeting. There could be other factors in play that are preventing them from continuing the discussion, such as looking at alternative solutions or relaying information to other stakeholders.
In cases such as this, ask your prospective client if there’s anything that is making them hesitant from considering your solution or if there’s any product concerns that you could help to alleviate. Getting a straight answer from them can help you to determine if they’re ready to move down the funnel.
If the follow-up is not confirmed by the end of your meeting, you can still carry the relationship forward by sending your prospect a follow-up email.
Send A Meeting Recap
C-suites’ schedules are usually packed with meetings, and with the effects of the coronavirus pushing meetings online, details of their online discussions can end up jumbled or blended together.
For that reason, sending a meeting recap is a useful reminder for both you and your prospect on the discussion and to stay updated on expected deliverables.
It’s advisable to send meeting recaps, which are usually in an email format, immediately after a meeting. However, when you have multiple online meetings scheduled during a virtual event, doing so is not possible.
The optimum time frame to follow up differs among salespeople, but it’s recommended to send your follow-up email within the first 24 to 48 hours after your virtual meeting. This will not only help to keep the relationship building but will also keep you fresh in the prospect’s mind.
Your email should include:
An attractive subject line – Write a subject line that will pull your prospect’s attention while reminding them of your meeting, such as “Thank you for the virtual meeting at Beyond Tech CIO. As promised, here are the solution details.”
A note of appreciation – Always thank your prospect for having a video call or online meeting with you. This shows that you appreciate and value their time.
Important discussion points – Summarize the main points of your meeting and highlight the next steps, such as promised deliverables or information.
Include the next meeting date – If you don’t have a scheduled date for the next meeting, take the initiative to invite them for a discussion.
Offer a unique value – This is one of the most important aspects of your follow-up email. Including content that can benefit your prospect, such as a case study or whitepaper, provides them value while showing that you care about their business needs.
Although it looks like a multitude of information, your follow-up email should actually be short and concise, such as the example below by Call Logic.
An effective follow-up email helps to build rapport, and provides an opportunity to leverage on your initial virtual meeting to strengthen the relationship and move things forward.
Schedule A Virtual Demo
Demo, or product demonstration, has always been a valuable sales tool that helps to stimulate a buyer’s interest and drive them towards a positive purchasing decision. Aside from that, demos are also advantageous in instilling a sense of ownership, providing tangible evidence, and answering concerns or doubts.
Instead of the traditional live demos, however, recent times have seen an increase in demo videos and virtual demos. To maximize your online lead generation and move your prospect further down the sales pipeline, send relevant demo videos of your solution or schedule a live virtual demo.
Demo Videos – Inexpensive, simple and repeatable, pre-recorded and in-depth demo videos are a good way to showcase the features and benefits of your solution. Email your prospects short videos of your product that are relevant to their objectives and that show how your solution can help their business.
Live Virtual Demos – You may also opt for a live virtual demo so you can walk the prospects through the use and highlights of your solution while instantly answering any questions that the prospect might have. Although seemingly similar to demo videos, doing a virtual demo allows for a more engaging and interactive walkthrough.
Augmented Reality Demos – An augmented reality (AR) demo, like Ikea’s app which enables their customers to test the company’s product in real-time in their own rooms, can help to bring your product to life in the prospect’s environment and deepen the experience of how your solution will work in their workplace.
You can also consider virtual reality and interactive 3D models as alternatives to virtual demos and videos.
Sample Product – Depending on your product, sending a sample can allow your prospects to test out the solution for themselves. However, it might not be feasible for you to send samples to all your prospects, so use this strategy only on potential clients who you’ve determined are close to a purchasing decision.
Know When To Stop
When following up with a prospect, it’s critical that you have a well-timed sequence to ensure you stay on top of your lead while preventing your target client from falling through the cracks.
However, it’s also important to know when your lead is not turning into a client.
While persistence is key in any sales, you need to know the difference between a prospect who might still be considering your solution and a disinterested client who has moved on from your product.
To lessen the frustrations of getting the silent treatment from your prospect, plan out your ‘moving on’ steps.
Have a predetermined schedule – Some salespeople follow the 7-day rule when following up with prospects while others have a more packed schedule. Plan a schedule that will work for you with a preset time of when you will send a ‘break up’ email and end the follow-up if you don’t receive any response.
Sending a break up email – According to an article by The Unstoppable CEO, break up emails usually get a high response rate. Prospects will either re-engage with you, give you a straight-forward ‘no to your solution or remain silent. Either way, these answers enable you to establish the next course of action, such as focusing on those who are still interested in your product and removing the others from your pipeline for the meantime.
Keep the line open – No matter when you decide to end the follow-up with a prospect, always keep the conversation line open for them to reach out to you in the future. As there is always a possibility that they will have a need for your solution later on, have a follow-up system to reconnect with lost prospects.
While losing a deal might be difficult to accept after all the hard word and effort you put in, understanding ‘why’ will help you to improve your relationship building with other prospects.
STEP 8: CLOSE DEALS IN THE DIGITAL LANDSCAPE
The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting social distancing have pushed many industries into finding new and innovative ways to close deals.
The property industry in New York, for instance, are seeing real estate agents setting up online processes and virtual showings to market their properties with remote closings being the new norm.
But virtual closing is nothing new. Many salespeople have conducted what is called ‘inside sales’ through emails, phone calls, live chats and video conferencing, closing deals from their office as opposed to going out into the field.
And due to the outbreak, virtual closing may well become a staple part of the sales process in the future.
So how do you close deals virtually?
Use Effective Closing Strategies
In virtual closing, your selling strategy will still be key in sealing the deal. As you move into the closing conversation, you need to anticipate your prospect’s response and apply effective techniques to close the deal.
Overcome objections – Prepare for common objections that your prospects might have, and be ready to counter them with a well-thought out response.
Create urgency – Know which heartstrings to pull on and create a sense of urgency by highlighting the risks and consequences your prospect’s business might face.
Pitch the solution – Focus your closing on the prospect’s pain points and how you can help alleviate them. It should be about solving their problems, not about your product.
- Question more – Ask questions to find out other underlying factors that might be delaying the prospect’s decision to purchase, and address their concerns.
Ask for the sale – If you lead the meeting efficiently towards the buy-in, the closing question will come naturally, so don’t be afraid to ask for the close.
Prepare the next steps – The finalizing of the sale should be as smooth as possible to avoid delaying the close. A time-consuming finalization might cause your potential clients to change their mind and hinder future dealings with them.
You should also ensure that you’re moving into the closing conversation with the right mindset.
It’s easy to feel dejected or frustrated when the close is not going smoothly or if you’re dealing with a tough prospect, but maintaining a professional and positive attitude will help you to assume control over the meeting’s direction and your emotions.
Remember that the best approach when dealing with decision makers is to not take their actions and responses personally.
Apply Remote Signing
It’s easier to run over the contract signing and additional paperworks when you’re meeting with the prospect face-to-face. But how do you do it through the virtual world?
- Online documents
There are many ways your prospect can sign the necessary documents with the availability of multiple online platforms and digital document software.
You can prepare the documents on Google G Suite and share it with the prospect for their review and signature. For a safer option to prevent any edits, you can also use DocuSign to upload a pdf version of the contract and email it to them for electronic signing.
If you need personal documents from your prospects, such as their identification, ask them to send you digital copies through email.
However, you need to keep in mind if your prospect is tech-savvy, and able to create a digital signature and perform an e-signing. In this case, another route you could consider is to courier the physical document to the prospect, and have it picked up after they are done.
- Record the procedure
Contracts usually require some explanation or clarification as the prospect signs the papers, especially if there are terms that need to be pointed out. But with remote signing, you need to find a way to ensure that the contract is properly signed and fully understood.
One way to overcome this is to record the normal proceedings and explanations you go through when you meet with the target client face-to-face, and email the video or link for their reference. It can also work as a guide to help your prospect navigate the paperwork.
- Signing by video
The best option for remote signing is to have a video meeting. This way, you are able to instantly and directly answer any concerns or questions the prospect might have in real-time.
Prior to the video call, prepare the necessary documents and share them with your prospect. You can then go through the terms of the contract together with the clients via screen sharing or just the video call.
They, in turn, can have the contract opened on their computer and make any notations or signatures as the conversation continues.
This is also a good workaround if the contract signing requires multiple stakeholders’ presence and signatures or if it requires official witnesses.
Make full use of the array of technologies that are available for your business to make closing deals efficient and smooth for both you and your prospect.
STEP 9: ADOPT AGILITY & FLEXIBILITY
As the popular phrase by Greek philosopher Heraclitus goes, “Change is the only constant in life.” Crisis can occur unexpectedly at any moment, and it is evident that the coronavirus outbreak has forced many organizations to find ways to adapt to the new world changes.
However, we should not wait for a major event to initiate and implement transformations.
We have to constantly challenge ourselves to think outside the box, and not be afraid to welcome new innovations into our life and businesses.As your organization prepares for post-COVID-19 world era, what will be the upcoming ‘new normals’ for your company?
Remote working, virtual meetings, online conferences – we’re already seeing a significant adoption of these trends due to movement restriction orders in various countries.
But the utilization of digital technologies into your business shouldn’t stop there.
To prepare for the future, companies need to find more digital solutions and strengthen them further to prepare for future disruptions to their daily operations and services.
- Digital engagement
To maintain communication with customers and lead generation during the global outbreak, companies across the industries have sought digital alternatives as potential solutions to keep their business running.
Many have substantially increased their use of virtual meetings and events to continue acquiring new clients and building business relationships.
However, digital engagement, whether through social media, online sessions or web conferences, is a strategy that should be implemented and improved regardless of the global situation.
The new generation of consumers are well-acquainted with the online landscape, and with the rise of more virtual innovations, the future generations will not be any different.
Your business should continuously optimize the benefits of the virtual environment, such as meetings, events and other online platforms, to stay connected to your clients and increase engagement with new and current prospects. For some ideas, EventMarketer gave some great event concepts that you could use to re-imagine your digital interactions.
- Digitization of processes
Many industries were in the midst of their digital initiatives before the COVID-19 pandemic. But for some companies, the outbreak and its consequences were the external factors that forced the necessity of adopting digital options
For example, contactless payment has been strongly advertised by multiple brands throughout the coronavirus period. But in actuality, many competing companies had already implemented the technology into their services long before the crisis.
As mentioned in Business Today’s article, Digital Transformation in COVID-19 Era, companies that are the “most prepared for this [COVID-19] climate have begun their journey into digital transformation some time ago, with the pandemic acting as a catalyst for acceleration.”
On the other hand, the article also mentioned that businesses still debating on digitization were caught off-guard and found themselves losing out to competitors that were early adopters of digital innovation.
As part of your post-COVID-19 business strategy, consider having digital alternatives of your systems and processes, such as virtual networking platforms and online marketing models, to become permanent fixtures of your business.
As countries across the world restrict the movements of their citizens, people are researching online for goods, services and information now more than ever. At this moment, with sales, customer retention and lead generation becoming 100% virtual, companies with solid digital marketing plans will see their business rise above their counterparts.
For effective remote selling, your content is key.
Having said that, it’s not as simple as putting all your product information online. You need to implement strategic content marketing to capture the attention of your target client away from the countless similar content available on the Internet.
Some content that should be revamped for easy online access and consumption include:
Product demos, once shown face-to-face to your prospects, need to be modified into videos or visual images that efficiently showcase its benefits;
Marketing kits should be more interactive and integrate business storytelling for better engagement rate;
Product details and processes can be shown through infographics and visualizations for easier and quicker understanding.
Other adoptions to complement your content marketing strategy are blog posts, case studies, e-books, whitepapers, reports and podcasts to build trust and thought-leadership, and provide useful information to your target clients.
The goals of your digital marketing strategy should be on increasing your brand visibility while improving your search engine rankings and generating online interest. And it should continue to do so even after the crisis of the coronavirus has abated.
Preparing For Now And Beyond
These are unprecedented times in our generation, but the coronavirus outbreak has shown us that we need to continuously advance and innovate our businesses. It has driven numerous companies across the industries to exceed their current capabilities for bigger business success and better customer experience.
Embracing change will ensure that your company is future-proof to survive the fast-paced and ever-transforming business environment. So instead of planning to return to ‘business as normal’, consider returning to ‘business with new normals’.