The art of selling is tough, but the art of virtual selling is tougher. When COVID-19 struck, sellers were forced online to continue their trade. With sophisticated tech and multiple eCommerce sales channels available, the opportunity to sell remotely was a godsend.
However, the transition to virtual selling has been far from smooth. With blunders occurring left, right, and center, too many sales reps have got it wrong. The result? An awkward and embarrassing experience that leaves customers unconvinced.
Fortunately, some consumers may forgive small mistakes and sympathize, as virtual meetings are new to them too. But this kindness won’t last forever.
So, if you’re a virtual seller in need of a little guidance, you’re in the right place. Follow this guide to discover - and avoid - nine virtual selling blunders that make customers think twice.
Virtual Selling Is Here to Stay
In times when robotic process automation is our reality, the move to online virtual selling should be no surprise. The pandemic simply accelerated this process. During the first lockdown, 163 percent more sellers turned to virtual selling to keep their businesses going.
Once the world got used to virtual selling as opposed to face-to-face, there were many benefits. For example, travel costs went down, customers felt more relaxed in their own space, and, above all, it showed a business’s ability to survive online.
For those who haven’t already or are teetering on the brink, entering the world of virtual selling may still seem daunting, but with some guidance, you can avoid the mistakes made by others. Read on for nine virtual selling blunders that make customers think twice.
1. Background Noise
We get it. You’re working from home, and not every home is a peaceful sanctuary. Screaming kids, neighbors mowing the lawn, even just the TV in the background…
But having too much background noise is going to distract both you and your prospective customer and gives off an air of unprofessionalism. Do they really need to listen to Cardi B’s latest x-rated song while you try and sell them the benefits of your product?
Before starting any virtual sales call, take steps to limit background noise. If you can’t prevent it, try and mask it or at least apologize upfront. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many get it wrong and fall short of expectations.
2. An Inappropriate Setting
Now you’ve limited background noise, think about what your prospective customer sees. Even though you’re selling from home, the setting still needs to look professional. Customers won’t feel confident buying if they can see last night’s takeaway or a pile of dirty washing behind you.
Try to get your background as clean and minimalist as possible. One great technique is setting your home space up to look like your office at work. This provides familiarity for you, while also giving your prospective customer confidence in your professionalism.
If for some reason you can’t improve your setting, try digital backgrounds. Whether it’s using a green screen or utilizing a virtual background built into your video conferencing software, you can transform your virtual selling environment. Experiment and see what you can find.
3. Talking Too Much
You may feel an urge to overtalk when virtual selling. Perhaps there are awkward silences you want to fill? Maybe you only have 10 minutes to spurt out all of your product’s benefits? But overtalking can hinder your prospects.
A successful sales pitch mustn’t be a one-sided monologue but a conversation where the prospective customer has a chance to ask questions and outline their needs. Letting them talk is a great way to show you’re a good listener and can take their problems on board.
Remember, selling is about providing solutions to problems. You may have the best product on the market, but unless you’ve heard your prospect’s problems, how can you know it will work for them?
4. A Lack of Relationship Building
According to a recent study by the RAIN Group on virtual selling, over 50 percent of buyers said their purchase decision depends on their relationship with the seller. Unfortunately, the same study found that only 25 percent of sellers build and maintain effective relationships.
In the realm of virtual selling, sellers must work even harder to connect. The problem? It’s harder to do virtually than face-to-face, especially given that sellers are more likely to rush remote meetings, resulting in less time to build a rapport.
So, take extra time to get to know your buyer, ask them questions, make them feel valued, and always follow up your meeting with a callback to check in on them. These small steps will make all the difference in building a productive and profitable relationship.
5. Failing to Prepare
Failing to plan your sales pitch will make the whole thing a waste of time, and nobody likes their time being wasted.
Too often, the comfort of selling from home leads to complacency. To avoid this, plan a structure for your meeting beforehand and include your customer in this. At the start of your pitch, explain briefly the outline of your plan and ask if there is anything else they’d like to know or see.
By having a plan, you will appear more professional and can strike a rapport with the prospective customer from the word “go”. This keeps you on the same page and increases the likelihood of that all-important conversion.
Remember, a meeting with no direction is going nowhere, and your prospective customer is sure to be put off.
6. Technical Glitches
Technical glitches are a nightmare. Prospective customers aren’t going to enjoy staring at a frozen screen or painfully listening while you’re fixing your mic echo. Sometimes, technical glitches can’t be helped, but there are steps you can take to avoid them.
Before logging onto your virtual selling meeting, give your system a test to make sure it’s working. Check your webcam, microphone, audio, and internet connection to avoid embarrassment during the actual interaction.
A pitch that can’t be delivered properly because of issues isn’t going to be any good to your or the prospective customer.
7. Staring at Yourself
Too many people prefer to stare at themselves to make sure they look ok during a virtual meeting, but this is bad (and vain!). Failing to focus on your prospective customer is going to create problems. How can you read their body language and facial expressions if you’re looking at yourself?
Keeping eye contact with your prospective buyer is another important part of the remote selling process. But how do you keep eye contact through a screen, we hear you ask? It’s easy - just make sure you’re looking into your webcam. This creates the illusion of eye contact and brings you closer to the prospective buyer.
By paying attention to your would-be customer, you can take hints and use them to steer the conversation in your favor.
8. Showing Sensitive Data
There have been numerous horror stories involving the accidental leaking of sensitive data. You must be careful, because revealing this can land you and others in serious trouble.
As a seller, you likely hold customer information, payment details, and other sensitive data that shouldn’t be seen by others. Quite often, you will have these open on your desktop, but in case of an accidental screen sharing or webcam mishap, you need to take precautions.
Before entering a virtual selling call, make sure you close all of your browser tabs and any software not being used. There have been known glitches in certain video conferencing suites which have allowed a user’s screen to be unintentionally shared.
9. Not Knowing How To End Things
Just like a good story, a strong virtual selling meeting needs a positive ending. You’ve spent the last 15 minutes outlining the benefits of your product or service. Things are going well. The only thing that can go wrong is the ending.
Too many sellers undo all their hard work with a poor finish to their virtual selling call. The result? Prospective customers lose faith and trust in your services. So how do you close it the right way?
Ask your prospective customer if they have any questions. This is their chance to respond. If you’ve been working on your online visual merchandising, link them to it. Offer them 15 percent off. Do whatever it takes to keep them on board. Also, include your contact details in case they want to get in touch.
With video calls, remote working, and even robots that can automate your entire content marketing strategy, there’s no reason you can’t prosper from home in 2021.
This guide should have given you enough good advice to avoid the virtual selling blunders that make most customers think twice. Get it wrong, and you risk losing your prospective purchasers, but commit to getting it right, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards.
Read more about how to avoid virtual selling challenges.
About the author
Tammy Wood has been involved with SEO for two decades. Her current role is Director of Technical SEO, for Automation Anywhere, an intelligent OCR technology platform. While not chasing keywords Tammy enjoys reading, buying shoes, and writing articles about both cloud native systems and SEO. Here is her LinkedIn.