How to Create Highly Effective Virtual Client Interactions

This is a Guest blog post by Chris Tully.

How to Create Highly Effective Virtual Client Interactions

In this seventh month of social distancing, client communications seem ever more remote – less accessible and a bit aloof as well as physically distant. How in the world can your sales force stay on top of their game and meet their goals? Now is the time to reassess your sales team’s online skills, and teach them how to create highly effective virtual client interactions.

Recent research about how sales have changed during COVID-19 tells us that sales teams need to adopt new skills in addition to adapting the old ones. It’s similar to losing one of our five senses – when we can’t see clients’ body language during a virtual meeting, for example, our other sales-senses have to learn to pick up on different cues.

When you are making a virtual presentation to clients in a group setting, remember:
• People have shorter attention spans
• Key decision makers often go missing
• Attendees are more reluctant to say what they’re really thinking, so you could get blindsided in follow up.

You definitely don’t want to wing it! Here are some guidelines to follow, based on Gartner’s Framework to Enable Effective Virtual Selling. These will make your client interactions more engaging and highly effective.

Pre-Meeting Planning

Iron out your rough spots. Most people’s presentations have one section that generates a lot of questions or sparks debate, maybe because it isn’t crystal clear. Role-play with sales team members acting out the client’s part until you’re satisfied you can address all concerns.

Make sure the stakeholders will be there.
 When you’re giving a pitch your all, you want the decision makers to be there! Check ahead of time to ensure all the stakeholders will be present during the webcast. If not, find out the designated proxy so you know whom to focus on.

Share your agenda of expectations.
 Give a meeting agenda to your contact ahead of time of three or four items indicating what you want to accomplish and what questions you anticipate from them. This laser-focuses your audience.

If you’re in a situation where the client also is meeting with your competitors, these focus points will make you stand out as a company that won’t waste their time.

You’ll be prepared for a very productive virtual meeting!

Client Presentations

Before the Meeting

Limit your meeting to 45 minutes, including the time for open discussion. Clients often schedule meetings back to back, on the hour, and often schedule you on the same day as your competitors. One thing I’ve learned over my career is how appreciative they are when you give them some down time!

Commit to starting the meeting 15 minutes after the hour, or ending 15 minutes early. Sharpen your presentation to 20-30 minutes and end the discussion a little early. Remember, less is more.

Insist on key players in attendance.
 You’ve already checked on the key decision-maker’s presence or proxy in your pre-planning. What if you log onto the meeting and they’re not there? You can ask if they want to reschedule – if the absence is last minute, they just might want to.

If it’s professional and polite to continue, then make sure to follow up directly with the person who missed your presentation to share your materials and your ideas.

Have your material up and ready to share.
 Make your presentation interactive by engaging your audience with questions. Encourage collaboration by using electronic white boards if you think that will help people better understand the concepts (particularly if it isn’t the audience’s main area of expertise).

Don’t be afraid to bring in “experts” via live link or a recorded testimonial – the more tools of engagement you use the better, as long as the content is relevant and not for theatrics.

During the Meeting

Test for understanding as you go. Using live polling if you can to get quick feedback or see what your audience is thinking – it works really well if you’re presenting to a large group logging in from multiple devices.

Zoom, GoToMeeting, and other platforms have a polling feature. This is a great engagement tool that lets you find out if people are tracking what you’re saying.

Call on audience members. 
When you get objections (expected from your pre-call rehearsal), pull out potential support by calling on specific individuals to share their perspective.

For example, “Tom, you had some thoughts when we talked last week – can you share your perspective?” This can backfire, but you should be smart enough to know who to call on and how to address any negativity.

Get consensus on next steps.
 Have specific next steps in your presentation and get agreement on these before you end the meeting or revise them to suit the situation. Email those next steps along with a proposed timeline to all in attendance following the meeting.

Immediately After the Meeting

Debrief with the decision maker. Ask the most senior client rep to stay for a debrief at the end of your presentation (“Could you hang out with me for a couple of minutes to clarify a few of things?”). Since you’ve kept your meeting short, you have a good chance that person will have time for you.

Email your “leave-behind” of the presentation after the meeting. Many clients will ask for a handout ahead of time, but don’t do it. You want them to listen to your emphasis and elaboration, not follow along on the handout and perhaps miss the point. Emailing the material after the meeting also gives you a chance for an extra touch point with clients.

Follow Up

Within 24 hours after your presentation, do these three things:

Thank the client for the meeting in an email.
 Include a recap of your key points and the agreed upon next steps.

Confirm the next meeting date.
 Also confirm who will be attending and the objectives for the meeting.

Include a specific call to action to continue their engagement with you.
 An example might be to, “Please complete a 1-3 question survey about our discussion.”

100 percent of your sales team’s time is trying to influence others or engaging with someone trying to influence them.
Your job as a leader is helping them get good at handling both of these roles with a focused, genuine manner. Then they will be able to create and participate in virtual client interactions that are highly effective, as well as productive for your company.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Make the Move to a Virtual Sales Force

This is a Guest blog post from Chris Tully

Tips for Hiring a Virtual Sales Team | Lucidchart Blog

 

As we start our sixth month of quarantine across America, it is time to come to grips with the fact that some version of “virtual selling” is here to stay. What this means for leadership is that just adapting in-person techniques to digital/virtual sales will no longer get the job done.
Instead, teach your team how to make the move to a virtual sales force.

Leaders are preparing for a greater virtual sales presence than anticipated earlier in the pandemic. A recently released Gartner study reports that in June, “a remarkable 23% of CSOs reported plans to permanently shift field sales to virtual sales roles” with another 36% unsure whether or not to do the same.

The study provides a framework for leadership to enable virtual selling. Here are key skills and tools to help your team effectively sell from remote settings.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Tools

High-speed Internet – This is mandatory for smooth virtual communications and presentations. You should consider funding team members’ Internet access upgrades since they are working from home by necessity. Salespeople represent your company – do you want potential clients to equate poor quality audio/video with the quality of your products or services? Spend the money, and upgrade those plans to gigabit internet, where possible.

High-end wired or wireless headsets
 – Salespeople are keen observers of body language. Without the advantage of being in the room with clients, it’s even more important for them to be able to hear the nuances of everything that’s said.

A reliable meeting platform
 – Zoom, MSFT Teams, Mitel MiCollab, GoToMeeting, Cisco Enable, Google Meet, and more: these are what companies are using and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Standardize the best solution for your company based on your existing technology stack. Be prepared to train your sales people on several platforms – they’ll need to be nimble enough to navigate clients’ preferred platforms, too.

Get your CFO onboard that these are all essential purchases right now and for the foreseeable future.

Tightly Integrate Sales and Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital B2B buying and selling. A McKinsey & Company survey report and infographic highlight the shift from in-person to digital, and what B2B sellers need to do to adapt.

Integrate sales and marketing processes
 – You need a demand generation strategy across platforms. The strategy should have well thought out social media, email, and outbound telesales support, and well-defined sales processes once a lead arrives. Make sure all your sales channels are incentivized to collaborate.

Optimize your e-commerce channel
 – For buyers’ ease and convenience, re-design to address top buyer frustrations with company websites. These are difficulty finding products, a long ordering process, hard-to-find contact information, and technical glitches.

Utilize online sales-enablement functions that intersect with buyers
 – AI-based conversational analytics help manage the full sales pipeline. Solutions such as sales chat bots, which reach back into your product database and answer questions, are becoming quite popular. These tools exist to improve customer experience and aid client problem-solving. They also improve the leads you capture from site visitors and help build your knowledge about their buying preferences.

Provide a robust CRM solution – 
Make sure both sales and marketing can access the same data. Customer relationship management (CRM) software should give your teams access to a full sales and marketing mix such as contacts, accounts, opportunity management, and campaigns, so both teams can work seamlessly toward increasing your revenue.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Training and Readiness

Sales people have limited attention spans (just like clients). So here are some hints for re-thinking sales training.

Deliver virtual training in tight 60-minute sessions
 – Break each session down into two parts: 50% presentation and 50% interaction (case studies, conversation, and questions). Limit training content to only the most valuable information, with a focus on understanding the client’s perspective.

Record and digitally archive sessions
 so they’re accessible to the team – This will be valuable for those who miss a session, need a refresher, and for future team members.

Role-play behaviors
 – How you talk with clients and how they respond is different virtually than in person. Role play across all stages of a sale, from first introduction to close. Have team members take turns being the sales person and the client; their calls will be more effective as a result.

Practice using presentation tools
 – Because everyone will be training from different remote locations, practice using multiple presentational tools and platforms with each other. This also helps people find the tools that are the most comfortable for them, which will support their ease and confidence in front of clients.

Changing to a virtual sales force also changes the way you think about and manage your sales team. Be prepared to reallocate your investments, and rethink sales strategies and performance metrics.

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Hire a Stellar Sales Team to Accelerate Your Recovery

This is a Guest blog post by sales and sales management expert Chris Tully.

 

 

How to Hire a Stellar Sales Team to Accelerate Your Recovery 

If there is a silver lining to the pandemic-related economic shut down, it is that a lot of excellent salespeople are now available and hungry to contribute to your business. The opportunity here is to rehire your best performers and then build a stronger team than before.

To hire a stellar sales team to accelerate your recovery, you need a plan. Here are some things to consider that will help you create an excellent hiring plan.

 

1. Are your business goals different than before the shut down? 

In the past few months, you’ve had time to really think about your company. You may have revised your strategic business plan and reprioritized your goals. If so, take a look at your new focus and figure out, “what sort of sales power will get me there?”

As an exercise, picture your previous sales team. Imagine how they would – or would not – achieve your new goals, and what sort of salespeople you need going forward.

 

2. Are you clear about the sales role?

What is it that you really want your ideal salesperson to do day to day, and accomplish overall? What specific skills would that person need? Most importantly, be clear about the personal attributes of the ideal person to represent your business.

3. Are you willing to invest in a professional recruiter? 

Sure, LinkedIn JobsIndeed, and other free job posts or low-cost ads will get responses. But you and your HR people will spend an inordinate amount of time sifting through a lot of junk to get to the few gems. Unless you’re adding entry-level people, don’t cheap out – invest in a professional recruiter, particularly if you’re looking for experienced sales professionals with a proven track record.

Talent recruiters screen against your hiring profile, verifycandidates’ work history, and validate their self-stated strengths and accomplishments. Recruiters also help you find employed candidates who are not looking for a job but who may be perfect for your business.

 

4. Do you have your sales incentive structure worked out?

Although it isn’t a jobseeker’s market right now, people are still going to ask how they get paid. That’s completely reasonable. As the job market strengthens, candidates who know their worth are going to hold out for appropriate compensation. In addition to your hiring plan, you’re going to need an incentive plan to attract and retain the caliber of salespeople you expect.

 

5. What third-party tool are you using to assess candidates?

Third-party assessment tools are a must with hiring decisions. Let’s face it – salespeople are often chameleons. They are trained to probe for needs, listen actively, and position their products (themselves, in this case) in the best possible light to solve your problem.

You need some objectivity to balance those impressions, especially if you don’t hire that many people each year. There has been a lot written about the cost of a bad hire, which I won’t repeat here. Get some help!

These are three salesperson assessment tools that I recommend: 

6. Do you have an effective on-boarding process?

It’s important to have a well thought-out plan to get new sales hires acclimated to their role in your company. For that, you need to a road map that new hires can follow (as well as trainers) so nobody gets lost.

 

7. Can you “hire slow”?

This last question is a trick one: the answer has to be “Yes.” You’ll want to take your time and think about the answers to all of the questions I’ve laid out, in order to hire superb salespeople. It’ll be so worth the time and effort when the right team propels you to reach – and exceed – your goals.

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

7 Things to Do to Be an Effective Sales Leader Now

unnamed

This is a Guest blog post from Chris Tully.
7 Things to Do to Be an Effective
Sales Leader Now

 

Learning to adjust your sales leadership practices to fit these unusual times may not be an easy correction. You probably have been honing your system for years; pivoting to these extraordinary circumstances is hard for even the most limber.

My advice is to focus your attention on the definition of “Leader” as supporting your sales team, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

To get you started, here are 7 things you can do to be an effective sales leader right now.

1. Concentrate on client retention

Client retention trumps new business acquisition. I wrote about this extensively last month and it’s worth emphasizing again: Dramatically increase client communications to strengthen your personal and professional relationships.

Additionally, ask clients what assistance they need from you or what introductions you can make to help them retain their business.

2. Take care of your commissioned sales representatives

Close dates have been pushed back, and some opportunities have been cancelled entirely. Salespeople working on commission are worried right now – it would be remarkable if you weren’t hearing this from your team. So, consider what you can do to offer them some relief:

  • Consider reducing/suspending quotas for Q2 2020 and possibly Q3
  • Consider a commission floor, if it makes sense for your business
  • Reinforce their importance to your business, and give them the confidence that you’ll take care of them as best you can
Strengthening your sales team’s trust in you and your company will pay dividends in the long run.

 

3. Focus on internal communications and team dynamics

With communications 100% virtual, shift to deliberately communicating with team members.

  • Have a one-on-one with your direct reports every day or every other day.
  • Hold an all-team meeting every week
  • Get your CEO to give regular business updates, and make some of those “town hall” meetings where team members can ask questions
  • Enable “skip level” meetings to increase company transparency
  • Get these meetings on the calendar – on the same day each week, at the same time, with a set agenda and defined start/stop time.

If this seems like a lot, it’s really not. Calculate all the time you used to spend commuting to work and external meetings, and consider this “found” time well spent in building a stronger team.

4. Invest in collaborative tools

You’re encouraging your team to work together as well as with you, so invest in tools that make it easy for them. Slack and its competitors allow quick back-and-forth information exchange and easy real-time collaboration.

Use video conferencing as well as the presentation tools in your Zoom, GoToMeeting, or other account – it’s important to see your people, and it’s scientifically proven that face-to-face communication is the most effective.

Take advantage of the extra time you have to work on nagging process issues. Ask team members to help you identify cross-functional issues they’ve encountered pre- and post-distancing, and involve them in identifying, discussing, and solving those issues.

5. Plan for coming out of this current crisis

This is the time to make your plans and set (realistic) goals for Q3, Q4, and 2021 – even though we don’t exactly know what the new normal will look like. The more you can engage your team in planning for the future, the more invested in that future they’ll be.

6. Closely examine pipelines and sales opportunities

Sales pipelines and opportunities are not as robust as they were two months ago. If this crisis has taught us anything it’s this – while you can’t control the outcome you can absolutely control your mindset and your level of activity.

Dig into your sales pipeline. Pay extra attention to fully qualifying each deal. Are all the decision makers and influencers engaged? Are they bought into your value proposition? Is the economic ROI associated with investing in your solution crystal clear to them? Is the close date real?

Control what you can: increase your calls and emails to current and prospective clients, and negotiate more proactively.

7. Find ways to have fun together

There’s a lot to be said for leadership by example! So lead the pack in having fun from home, and organize a weekly activity that fits your work culture.

Examples of team activities are a virtual happy hour or karaoke night, trivia night, an online scavenger hunt, or other multi-player online game. My new favorite is Codewords, an online word-guessing game in the format of rival “spymaster” teams (similar to Codenames board game).
If event planning is really not your thing, then delegate different team members each week to choose the activity. But make sure you participate – sales teams that play together stay together!

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Visit My Website