Remember when we could hold meetings in person? In those times, a seller’s dynamic personality was all that was needed to keep buyers focused.
In this new world we find ourselves in, distractions are everywhere. When buyers are staring at a screen during a virtual meeting, they can more easily multitask.
- Working on other projects
- Responding to emails
- Chatting with colleagues on Slack
A lot of this is happening during your virtual sales meetings without you even realizing it.
The reality is, the virtual world is full of these distractions—many more than there are during live meetings. This means sellers have a much higher bar they need to cross to capture and keep buyers’ attention. We call this the Engagement Threshold.
That’s why we include Engage among the 4 Virtual Selling Imperatives shared in our book “Virtual Selling.” No surprise, Engage is one of the aspects of selling virtually that is most markedly different from a blended or exclusively face-to-face approach.
In fact, nearly all sellers (91%) report that gaining buyers’ attention and keeping them engaged is a challenge when selling virtually.
Engaging virtually with buyers means you have to be more strategic, more deliberate, more focused, and more dynamic if you want to keep the attention of your buyers and move them forward in the sales process.
There are three key areas of engagement during a virtual selling process: capture attention, maximize engagement, and inspire visually.
It’s critical for sellers to open strong in meetings, and to be incisive in communications, to make sure they get buyers to focus on them and only them. If you’re more engaging at the start of a meeting, you start off at a higher level, and it’s more likely you’ll hold buyers’ attention for a longer period of time.
Start the meeting in lukewarm fashion and you’re already at a disadvantage, meaning it’s likely you’ll lose the attention of your buyers sooner. And once you do, it’s even harder to get it back.
To open in a compelling fashion, start by asking questions, making strong connections, and letting buyers know your intentions. If they feel this meeting will be a waste of their time, they’ll look for distractions. If, however, you capture their interest, and do so in the first 30 seconds of the meeting, you’re much more likely to keep their attention as they’ll consider it time well spent.
Once you’ve captured the attention of your buyers, you need to keep capturing it. It’s all too easy to fade after a good start by droning on, talking too much, or going off topic.
Asking questions and keeping your meetings conversational is a good way to engage. Calling on individuals who seem disengaged to get their input will put everyone on alert that they may be called on next. A good rule of thumb is to check in every three minutes.
Presentations and visuals have always been a part of the selling picture. But when you lose the option of employing an in-person, live presenter, visual elements become even more important. In fact, virtual selling is more reliant on visual elements than live, in-person meetings are.
Making smart use of graphics, diagrams, movement, and interactivity is a good way to maintain attention. Graphics can help describe your viewpoint and elicit emotions. The movement also helps to recapture attention as buyers’ brains crave motion and they attend to new imagery.
But be careful not to overdo it. A presentation of bullet point after bullet point is likely to repel buyers more than compel them. Use graphics wisely. Become comfortable with on screen annotation and master a few simple graphics you can draw to keep buyers engaged and drive your point home.
Taking Your Buyer on a Journey
When sellers successfully Engage buyers virtually, they take those buyers on a journey. Buyers aren’t looking for exit ramps or distractions, they’re drawn into the promise and reward of the selling experience.
When buyers’ eyes are open to what’s possible, their eyes and ears are focused on a shared agenda, and sellers are more likely to be successful.
Andy Springer is chief client officer of RAIN Group, a Top 20 Sales Training Company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching and reinforcement. He is the author of “Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely.”