Four Keys to Virtual Selling Success

By Dave Shaby, COO, RAIN Group
Two arms coming out of two computers shaking hands.

Many sellers have been chomping at the bit to get back to face-to-face with buyers. Virtual selling just wasn’t their thing, and they’ve been anxiously waiting for the pandemic to pass so things can return to normal.

Unfortunately for those sellers, virtual selling isn’t going anywhere. New studies show that both buyers and sellers prefer the new digital reality. According to McKinsey & Company, 89% of B2B decision makers say they’re likely to sustain these new sales models into next year.

If you haven’t embraced selling virtually, you’d better do so – and do it fast!

But success isn’t as simple as turning your video on and approaching sales and conversations the way you’ve always done in the past. The dynamics and implications of selling in a 2D environment versus face-to-face are significant.

I’ve found four key areas differ the most when it comes to selling virtually. Work to master these areas for the greatest success.

1. Connect

Building relationships and connecting with buyers virtually is a major challenge. Even with video on and a charming personality, interacting with buyers in a 2D environment is wildly different from being live and in person.

First, you need to project professionalism. It’s hard for buyers to take you seriously if your audio is cutting in and out, your video is fuzzy, and it looks like you’re calling from your unfinished basement. Attend to your video and audio quality, background, and your appearance to deliver a good first impression and connect with buyers.

Next, you need to orchestrate your virtual sales conversations for the greatest success. When selling face-to-face you can read body language in the room, longer pauses are more natural, and, in general, there’s a more relaxed environment. When selling virtually you need to lead the conversation more purposefully. In your conversations, be sure to:

  1. Open strong.
  2. Collaborate with buyers.
  3. Check in frequently.
  4. Close with next steps.
  5. Follow up with a summary.

And finally, you want to create time and space to build rapport. Building rapport virtually can be a challenge, so it’s important to be more deliberate in your rapport building.

2. Engage 

Ninety-one percent of sellers report that gaining and keeping buyers’ attention is challenging. Distractions are everywhere. Buyers are often multi-tasking during your virtual meetings. You must work hard to capture buyer attention early and often.

Visuals and animation are a great way to keep interest and engagement. One study found that visuals increase engagement by as much as 94%. Show your screen; add videos, photos, and charts; use digital sticky notes; or build an impact case using a virtual whiteboard.

Use the 30+3 rule to maximize engagement. Capture buyer attention in the first 30 seconds (with a strong opening) and re-achieve it every three minutes by checking in, asking questions, and creating intrigue.

Here are some other ways to capture and maintain attention during your virtual sales meetings:

  • Center your discussion on the buyer. People are more interested when they’re the focus of conversation.
  • Keep any talking to three minutes. Don’t speak longer than five minutes before asking a question or pausing to check in.
  • Call people by name. Ask them questions. For example, you might say, “Laurie, what do you think about that?” Using attendees’ names will put everyone on notice that they could be called on.

3. Collaborate

Collaborating with buyers is critical to sales success. In our study, 82% of sellers said collaborating and interacting with buyers virtually is challenging. To close deals, sellers must be able to work with buyers, instead of simply selling to them.

There are several technologies sellers can use in their virtual meetings to collaborate with buyers. Some of them include:

  • Virtual whiteboarding
  • Curated document sharing
  • Surveys and polls
  • Screen annotations
  • Demos

Make collaboration in your meetings a priority.

4. Influence

Selling is a process to drive change. And sellers are change leaders. Driving change virtually is more challenging than it is live, but, when done right, sellers can be highly influential in driving action (and results) for their buyers.

The three key things to do are:

  • Persuade Virtually: Sellers must be able to make five cases to drive change. They are the same cases they’d make selling face-to-face, but what’s different is how they make cases virtually. The five cases are:
  • Priorities: Sellers need to make sure that buyers choose the right top-of-agenda priorities. Make sure buyers know they should: “Do this, not that.”
  • Approaches: Once buyers choose the right priorities, they need to tackle them the right way. Make sure buyers know they should do things: “…this way, not that.”
  • Impact: Sellers need to make the case for impact, as impact drives buyer urgency and action. Impact is emotional and rational, typically focused on the ROI case. Make sure buyers believe in the most powerful reasons, or, “because.”
  • Decisions: Buyers must act and do so with urgency. They need to know what to do next and when. In other words, “Act now, not later.”
  • Partners: Finally, once buyers plan to act (do this), in a certain way (this way), to achieve excellent results (because) with urgency (act now), they need to choose their partner. Thus, finishing the flow: “…with us, not them.”

“Do this, not that…this way, not that…because. Act now, not later…with us, not them.”

  • Strengthen Relationships: When buyers and sellers are together in person, the bonds of relationships deepen. The same serendipity can happen virtually, but it’s up to the seller to take the lead and make it happen.
  • Amplify Reputation: How you show up online is critical for building and maintaining a reputation that positions you as a true person of interest to senior-level buyers. This takes deliberate, focused effort over time.

When sellers influence well virtually, they become change leaders.

Attend to each of these four keys by prioritizing connection, engagement, collaboration, and influence in your virtual meetings. Do this and you may see great success.

About the Author: Dave Shaby is co-author of the Amazon best-seller Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely, and COO of RAIN Group, a top sales training company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching, and reinforcement. Dave and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 75 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential.