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Post Pandemic Relationships

Business · 5 min read

Making Digital More Personal

B2B sales meetings have been dramatically altered by Covid-19. So, how can you make virtual meetings personal, find new ways to connect with your customers, and keep the conversation going?

Think of B2B sales and you’ll probably picture a field sales rep visiting a prospective client and rolling out a well-rehearsed presentation. Yet, the traditional role of the B2B sales team is changing…

B2B e-commerce – which was already growing thanks to the advent of B2B sales platforms with all the functionalities and convenience of B2C websites – has been given an extraordinary boost by the pandemic. Many more B2B buyers discovered the ease and convenience of self-serve purchases, with big implications for how business will be conducted in the future.

In fact, two interesting statistics were revealed from some recent research McKinsey & Co. conducted into the future of B2B sales1. Firstly, only 20% of B2B buyers say they want traditional in-person sales to return post pandemic. And secondly, 70% of B2B decision makers are open to making self-serve or remote purchases in excess of US$50,000 (27% said they were happy to spend over half a million online!)

So, is this the end for the traditional B2B sales process? Not at all. They just need to adapt a little.

There is a great opportunity for smart businesses to get ahead of the selling curve and develop a new kind of customer relationship that combines face-to-face contact with digital technology. But relationship building has always required a degree of ‘personal chemistry’ that can be hard to replicate via a Skype or Zoom call. What can you do to overcome this?

1. Ask your client how they would prefer to chat. Are they more comfortable with a video call or would they prefer to meet face to face? Showing you care about their personal choice says a lot about your business and how customer-focused you are.

2. Get the fundamentals of your call right. Wear what you would to an in-person sales meeting. Use your screen background to create ambience – an image of your own HQ, or your prospect’s – just ensure it’s not distracting. Test your lighting – too dark and you’ll look like you live in a cave; too bright and you’re the ‘star’ of the show. All these tips for video conferencing bring some personal touches into the digital world. 

3. Ask new prospects how they like to be addressed – the same courtesy you’d extend in a physical meeting.

4. Keep it short – but personal. Schedule video calls to be shorter than face-to-face meetings but add in a little time to build rapport. And leave time between calls in case your client wants to run over.

5. Don’t just work off a script. People buy from people. Your customer wants to know who they are dealing with, so use your notes to steer the meeting – not as a read through. Your sales pitch will seem more authentic.

6. Listen more than you speak. Ask lots of questions and truly listen to the answers. Exaggerate body language to show you’re interested (nod, smile, keep eye contact).

7. Avoid transactional conversations – you know the kind: You speak. Then I speak. Then you speak. Then I speak… The main difference between video and face-to-face sales meetings is in the dynamics. When you’re both in the room, you can interrupt, interject and bounce the conversation around. Video tends to be more transactional. Good online sellers use their time to get prospects talking.

8. Leave pauses when you’re speaking. It can be difficult for your customer to ask a question if you’re pitching at high velocity. Slow down, leave frequent pauses for them to jump in, and ask regularly if what you’re saying makes sense.

9. Don’t hide behind a shared screen. Use PowerPoint to present but if the client asks a question, switch to face-to-face to chat it through.

10. Carry on the conversation. You might not always be able to close the deal via video link. Distance takes the pressure off, but keep the client onboard by pointing them to your website – preferably specific areas that enable them to find out more on the points that matter to them.

These tips for video conferencing should get you off to a good start, but remember that the video call is just one tool in the salesperson’s workshop. Selling is about building a relationship and earning trust. So, how can you demonstrate this in little, meaningful ways?

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Make it personal. When you’re pitching to a new client, do your research and tell them why you, personally, want to help them rather than just the products or services your business can provide.

Keep emails low-key, friendly and informal. Use first names and, if possible, mention a small personal detail made during a call – not just the sales objective. But make sure it’s something that resonates with you. No one wants an overfriendly salesperson who’s trying too hard.

Pay attention to your website’s analytics. You can track when your client has visited and then follow up with a call or email to check whether they found what they needed or what more you can do to help them.

Show your clients you’re thinking about them by sending them new content from your website or social media posts that might be of interest to them via email, WhatsApp or similar.

Host a virtual event and invite your clients and prospects. This could be a wine tasting, a seminar, a demonstration of a new product or just a really interesting and entertaining speaker. Remember to keep it short and sweet (no one wants to spend all evening at a virtual party).

Put pen to paper. Before the advent of modern technology, businesspeople used to write to each other using paper and pens. We’re not suggesting a complete return to these days, but a small gift with a handwritten note or card has a way of staying in the memory longer than a fired-off email.

As we move into the future, the effects of Covid-19 will continue to unfold on B2B sales, leading to a hybrid of digital, physical and innovative touchpoints, the fundamentals of successful sales will still remain: find common ground with your clients, invest in the relationships, and use all the tools at your disposal to keep the conversations going.

1 -  McKinsey & Company, October 2020

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson Discover content team

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