It used to be that in-person meetings in sales were the default, and video conferencing was the exception. Now, it’s the other way around. Stop fighting this fact!
Far too many sellers are waiting for a “return to normal” with traditional face-to-face meetings, travel, and client entertaining. They’re still stubbornly averse to embracing other forms of communication, such as video. And all of their reasons are nothing but excuses.
Yes, many salespeople are extroverts who feel they do their best work when connecting personally with others. But none of that matters if your customer won’t let you in the door—or if they do, they’re deeply uncomfortable by your physical presence.
My clients are reporting to me that in-person sales meetings—if they happen at all—are very awkward and counterproductive now. Mandatory mask-wearing makes it hard to read body language and an aversion to shaking hands creates uncomfortable situations. Ensuring that everyone sits far away from each other makes it hard to share information. And limiting the numbers who can be at one meeting slows down the sales process and requires extra steps.
Why would you want to put yourself and others through more of that experience? Accept that what we are dealing with in this pandemic landscape is not going to change any time soon.
As I explained in a previous article, your success now hinges on implementing service as a strategy. Service means giving people what they want and need. And right now, a big part of that unmet need is tied to helping people feel comfortable connecting to others in a manner that respects all public-health rules.
Video is how they prefer to accomplish that job now. Given this fact, here is how you can make video your new default for doing business with others.
Your customers are embracing it: so should you.
Finding your footing with prospects via video will take a bit more time to master, so start with your existing customers. They know you well already. You’ve established and maintained great relationships with a growing number of contacts within each organization, and there’s a wealth of goodwill and trust already in place. Build on that foundation by meeting with them face-to-face on screen and your confidence with this new platform will grow quickly.
Let the customer decide.
Approach each meeting with the presumption that it will be conducted by video. Let the customer determine whether an exception to that rule is warranted. Even then, those in-person meetings should be rare and only required when you must see someone or something in person, to leave or take samples, or to do a physical tour of a facility. Managers take note: the more often you use video, the easier it is for you to hit your new expense targets. Keeping travel costs down is a critical element of the new selling landscape: sales budgets are being cut down to the bone these days.
More the merrier.
Traditionally, face-to-face meetings tended to be exclusive affairs. They are becoming even more restrictive now as companies remain very cautious. Video, on the other hand, encourages more people to join a meeting because it can safely ensure social distancing. It’s also easier, cheaper, doesn’t require travel, and is less taxing on everyone’s time. One client of mine reports that, while they used to get 4 or 5 people showing up at an in-person meeting, they’re now consistently seeing a 33% boost in attendance. All thanks to video.
Leverage this great equalizer.
Video takes down walls, crushes the gatekeepers, and amplifies your presence. More people of different ranks within an organization are inclined to participate when you issue a video conference invite. Use this to your advantage. The more people you can get involved in your meetings, the more opportunities you have for critical mass influence to go to work for you.
Create a consistent experience.
Video provides a uniform experience with multiple participants in multiple locations. That’s why it’s ideal for conducting business reviews, updates, and project meetings on a regular basis. My recommendation is that whenever you have a meeting that requires three or more people to be present, video is your best option. It ensures everyone has access to the same information at the same time, while staying focused in an environment that is their own.
Define your exceptions if necessary.
If your business has unique cases where video can’t be a good substitute for in-person gatherings, then you must name each one. Those could include mandatory site visits where your reps are expected or required to visit a facility (e.g., to conduct inventory or to obtain samples). But in this environment, treat in-person meetings as the exception—not the rule.
Here’s the bottom line: everyone, from sellers to leaders, must get serious now about using video as the primary means of connecting and doing business with others. The reason why that happened is not going away anytime soon. You don’t have to like this fact. But you do have to accept it. Once you get comfortable using video as an integral part of how you work, you’ll start to see how it puts your customers at ease and makes it easier for you and your team to sell more in less time.