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KEEP CALM AND SELL ON! PART TWO: SELLING FROM A DISTANCE – HOW TO UTILIZE VIRTUAL TOOLS TO ENGAGE CLIENTS

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Even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing amount of selling was taking place in the virtual world through online tools like email, chat and remote conferencing services such as Zoom.

Now, in our new world of lockdowns and self-isolating, companies unable to move into the virtual realm are going to struggle to survive. There’s no way around it. This is the reality that we all now must face. And, that being the case, the question becomes how to adapt and deliver a sales strategy that will allow sales professionals to continue to engage with customers and prospects in an effective way.

In this article, I am going to focus on how to effectively use remote conferencing tools to continue to thrive during this difficult time in our history. Under normal circumstances, a lot of these tips and tricks would be considered common sense but these are anything but ordinary times and moving online is an adjustment that should not be taken lightly. I trust you will find them useful as we enter what can only be described as the new normal. Good selling!

State objectives and set the tone

If you are the host of an online meeting or sales call, take control as if you were running a meeting in the conference room at the office. Include an objective for the meeting and a rough agenda in your invitation and then keep everyone to that schedule during the call. It’s going to be tough to stop people from getting sidetracked (e.g. talking about the pandemic) but it is important you don’t allow side conversations to derail your meeting.

Make introductions and keep it light

There’s a very good chance you’ll have new people on these calls a high percentage of the time. Have everyone share their name and their title at the start of the meeting. It’s also a good idea to have everyone share a “fun fact” about themselves as research has shown workers who share an amusing story about themselves produce more ideas in meetings than workers who don’t.

Speaking of lights…

Make sure everyone is in a well-lit room, ideally with the source of the light being on their faces (i.e. not from behind them or the side). Also make sure everyone has their Video turned on as this helps keep people engaged because they know everyone can see what they’re doing.

Use polls

Many online platforms allow users to do multiple choice polls and quickly show results. This is another great way to make sure everyone is paying attention and staying engaged.

Make sure everyone touches the ball

Another great way to keep everyone on task is to ask them to perform a portion of the presentation – even if all they do is read one slide to the group. As with hosting a face-to-face meeting, it’s important to give everyone a role in the meeting but as online technology eliminates some of those roles (e.g. recording the meeting), you might need to get creative. Other roles you can assign include facilitator, presenter and timekeeper.

Wear a headset

It is highly recommended that you use a headset that you plug into your device. A good headset eliminates background noise and makes you sound better. Additionally, headset will reduce the amount of noise others hear if you need to do any typing during the meeting.

Wear pants

This has become my catch-all expression for remembering to pay attention to my surroundings during online meetings. It’s important you still treat your workspace as an office even though you’re in the comfort of your own home. Ensure your background is neat and professional or use the alternative background tools available on most remote conferencing platforms. Remember to shave, comb your hair and dress professionally.

Speaking of wearing pants

You will often be called upon to share your screen during these meetings and it’s important you don’t have sensitive documents on screen when it’s your time to share. It’s also important your desktop is tidy and well organized. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and a mess is a mess.

Improve your presenting skills

Find a way to weave your content into a story as people tend to lose focus when presenters talk in bullets. Keep it brief by limiting your presentation to only what your audience needs to know. Be more interesting to listen to by varying your tone and volume. And, above all, don’t forget they can see you so be animated with your body language.

Use other features to drive discussion

For example, many online meeting platforms have a Chat function that you can use to “queue” people who want to talk. As they’re not able to raise their hands, have attendees type, “I have a question” into the Chat so everyone – including the host – can see the order of people who have comments.

Close the loop

Leave time for at least a two-minute “wrap up” to the online meeting. Remind everyone what the objectives were and double-check that everything was covered. Then, take a moment to go over objectives, tasks and responsibilities that have arisen as a result of the meeting. Thank everyone and give everyone a big hand for participating so enthusiastically.

Prevent video hijacking

The Better Business Bureau recently published an excellent article about how to prevent “Zoom Bombing.” This is when hijackers acquire the correct URL or meeting ID for a public video conference giving them access to the feed. This is a growing issue and the article highlights two examples where the FBI was called in to investigate. The article expands on the following tips to keep your e-meetings secure:

Use a unique ID for large or public Zoom calls

Require a meeting password

Don’t share the unique ID publicly

Allow only hosts to share their screen

Create a waiting room

Create an invite-only meeting

Lock a meeting once it starts

Remove attendees or put them on hold

Disable the participant’s camera

Keep Disable File Transfer settings active

Do not share your Zoom meetings on a public calendar

SUMMARY: The more I speak with industry leaders about the current situation and how they’re leveraging online tools to stay relevant, the more I’m beginning to understand the increased role these tools will play in our professional lives after the pandemic. I believe this new approach to selling is here to stay and this mass re-adjustment period we’re in is the perfect time to hone existing skills and learn new ones. I don’t think there’s any doubt that this is an opportunity for early adopters to separate themselves from the herd and come out ahead in the business world of the future.

About the Author: Doug Dvorak – CEO at The Sales Coaching Institute: Under Doug’s expert leadership, the Sales Coaching Institute provides sales productivity training and motivational sales excellence management workshops to everyone from small to medium-sized businesses all the way up to Fortune 1000 corporations. Doug is a certified management consultant, sales trainer and executive coach who holds a BA in Business Administration, an MBA in Marketing Management and a Doctor of Laws, H.C. Named one of the Top 10 Sales Professionals in America by Personal Selling Power Magazine, Doug’s business ideals have garnered national and international attention from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, CNN and CBS.

Keep Calm and Sell On! Part One: The 10 Commandments of Working From Home

Whatever your opinion on employees working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it the new normal for most American companies.

The good news is there is a slew of research out there that shows at-home workers are actually more productive than their prairie-dogging contemporaries.

However, working from home requires a different motivational skillset than simply getting up every day and heading into the office where managers and peer pressure play a key role in maintaining and improving performance.

Most companies with successful work-from-home programs carefully wean their employees off coming into the office to give them a chance to develop new work habits while still receiving regular doses of supervision.

In the face of COVID-19, the potential for gradually migrating your employees to their new reality has been eliminated. It’s not an ideal situation but neither are the circumstances we now find ourselves in as a nation.

In this article, I’d like to offer you the next best thing: The tried and true 10 Commandments of Working from Home I’ve developed during my decades-long career in sales and sales leadership.

I’m sure following these important steps will help you and your employees adjust to your new world more quickly than going through all the trial and error I had to over the years. I’m also certain that by following these steps, you’ll come to love your new “workplace” and the high levels of productivity it inspires. Here are my commandments:

1. It’s time for a family meeting

Talk to your family about what the boundaries are while you are working from home. Make sure they understand that you are at work. While it may be cute to have your son or daughter interrupt your meeting internally, it’s important you can stay focused on the task at hand. Be as far away as possible from where they play. You can’t expect small children to be quiet all day. The same logic applies to pets and you might want to think about covering up the doorbell.

2. A home you call an office

Create a dedicated workspace that has a door, if possible. When the door is closed during the day, you are at work. No disruptions! Treat this area as you would your workspace in an office setting. Keep it clear of clutter and other distractions. Make sure you have plenty of internet bandwidth and good cell phone service

3. Set a schedule and stick to it

We are creatures of habit so set an alarm and do something every morning to get yourself in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. Make your bed. Ever wondered why the military does this? Leaders recognize the importance of starting every day with a consistent accomplishment. It also helps creates normalcy.

4. Act as if you were going into the office

When you feel more professional, you will act more professionally. Get up, take a shower, shave and put on what you would wear if you were going into the office (e.g. no baseball caps). Eat a nutritious breakfast and then go to work. Clean out your email before you start the day.

5. Video proof your room

Buy a good video camera with a mic. Use a video tool like Webex or Zoom to conduct online meetings and calls. Don’t forget you’re on camera and everyone can see you. Wear pants! Clean up the clutter behind you or better yet, use one of the program’s available digital backdrops. Use a headset or earbuds; they reduce outside noise. Make sure you look as professional as you would for a team meeting at the office. Even if it’s just audio, act as if you were on camera and stay out of the bathroom.

6. Prepare for Online Meetings

Just because it’s not happening in person doesn’t mean it requires any less preparation. As the salesperson, you are responsible for creating an agenda. Have a goal and take notes so you don’t miss any key takeaways. Keep attendees engaged by asking questions and sharing screens. Encourage your customers and prospects to interact with each other (remember, they aren’t together). Make yourself relevant. Eliminate distractions by turning off your phone and keeping your email Inbox closed or minimized. After the meeting, send out an email summarizing next steps for everyone who attended and suggest shorter (less than an hour), follow-up meetings to see everything through to resolution.

7. Invest in yourself

In an online work environment, it’s important you stay on top of your own professional and personal development. Fortunately, there are a plethora of personal and professional self-help and training platforms. Join Audio Books. Set aside some time daily to listen to or read a chapter or two.

8. Give to others

Just because you’re all not in the same building doesn’t mean you should forego teambuilding and camaraderie. Have a virtual happy hour. Select a self-help book that you can discuss with each other. Think of those people on your team that might be struggling more than others because of isolation or family issues. Make the effort to stay in regular contact with your team to maintain as much normalcy as possible.

9. Reach out to your prospects and customers NOW

People don’t care what you know until they know you care. Reach out to prospects and customers to see how you can help. Listen to them. Help them prepare to get back to business. Educate them on how the supply chain could have tremendous bottlenecks once this crisis has passed. Work through what they may need. Work on having orders ready to place to be first in line. Taking the time to find out what they’re going through personally and professionally will show them you care and help develop a lasting relationship that may be beneficial for both sides over the long haul.

10. Get energized

Take regular mental health breaks. Maybe dust off the exercise equipment in the garage or go for a walk. Take a YouTube yoga class. Watch something funny or inspiring. Help a friend or a neighbor with a quick chore. The possibilities are endless!

SUMMARY: Within reason, working from home lets you be the master of your own schedule so you can plan how to use your time to achieve peak professional performance. Following these commandments will help provide you with a whole new set of skills that will stand you in good stead when the COVID-19 crisis is over.

About the Author: David Sanders – Vice President of Strategy & Talent Acquisition at The Sales Coaching Institute: From small VC-backed firms to some of the world’s most successful technology companies, David has a stellar history of sales leadership success. He is passionate about leading sales teams and has a well-earned reputation in IT as a catalyst for growth. In environments characterized by constant change and organizational restructuring, he consistently raises the bar by optimizing salesforce productivity leading to double-digit year-over-year growth in newly created and integrated sales organizations.

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6 Most Common Sales Prospecting Email Mistakes You Need to Avoid

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In today’s fast-paced business world, sales prospecting is hard work as trying to pick the right method to communicate with existing and potential customers is not easy. That said, email is still one of the best ways to reach your target audience if you get it right.

While there are plenty of strategies to remember when writing emails, there are also plenty of mistakes you need to avoid. Bringing in the right sales coach to work with your team is the best way to address this issue but, in the meantime, here are six of the most common mistakes your business needs to stop making:

 

1.  Not Personalizing Your Emails

It’s essential to make sure that the emails you are sending are personalized to the reader and do not read like a generic copy that you’ve sent out to people in bulk. Otherwise, it won’t look like you’ve tried, and people don’t like this.

Instead, make sure you’re researching the name of the person you’re sending your email too, and customizing the content to suit their industry or business. The more concise your email is, the more attention it will attract.

2. Not Including Calls to Action

It’s all well and good writing email copy that gets a potential client interested, but if there’s no easy way for a client to take the next step, they’re not going to go out of their way to find one.

Always make sure you include a call to action for the reader to follow to take them directly to where they need to be when it comes to working with your business or company.

3. Writing Emails That Are Too Long

Today’s sales prospecting world is all about fast-paced content that comes and goes, and everyone feels too busy to sit and dedicate too much time to something that might not even be something they’re interested in. For example, consider how quickly you scroll through your social media feeds.

The same concept applies to email. If you’re writing your copy that is too long, it’s going to dissuade your readers from reading it, and they won’t invest in what you have to offer. Statistics show anything longer than 100-150 words is unlikely to be read.

4. Not Including Valuable Information

While you may have an awesome product or service that you’re ready to share with the world, many people like the way things are and they don’t want to change. You must be proactive in providing giving customers with enough information to get them excited.

Limit your use of “hard sell” and “promo” messaging and provide real value in your email that gets the reader on your side providing them with interesting information that actually engages them.

5. Sending Too Many Emails

Many salespeople think selling is purely a numbers game and that the more emails they send, the more likely they are to get a hit. While this may be somewhat true, you need to be careful when it comes to email because you don’t want your company to receive too many spam complaints linked to its domain.

As any highly-trained sales coach will tell you, getting blacklisted is no fun. Be sure your reps are spacing out their emails by at least three days to each individual prospect.

6. Not Following Up

Okay, while this isn’t a point about writing emails, it is absolutely essential that you’re following up on the emails you have already sent. It’s important you find out if a prospect is interested in what you sent them but they haven’t had the time to get back to you yet.

You’ll be surprised how many prospects read your email, like what they see, but then get caught up in other things and it slips through the cracks. It is always a best practice to send a gentle reminder to keep them engaged (of course, don’t forget the advice laid out in No. 5!). 

Summary: It’s important to remember that nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes. To be sure you’re doing you can for your business, it might be an idea to focus on eliminating the “big misses” when it comes to writing and sending prospecting sales emails. 

About the Author: Ellie Coverdale, a marketing business consultant at UKWritings.com and Boomessays.com. She also teaches writing skills for Essayroo.com in her free time.

  

CAPTION: With people checking email on their phones than ever before, keeping your emails brief is a best practice to keep in mind.

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The Right Way to Tackle Sales Coaching

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At the risk of doing yet another blog that draws parallels between sales coaching and sports coaching, there is one quote from the great Vince Lombardi that holds true for both endeavors:

“Coaches who can outline their plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their players and motivate.”

If you’re not familiar with Lombardi, he was so successful as the coach of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in the 1960s that the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.

Lombardi became the GOAT using players who weren’t exceptionally talented running plays that weren’t particularly complicated or innovative. His singular talent lay in preparing his players and motivating them to do whatever was necessary to win.

The reason why this story is applicable to your sales team and how you should train them is simple: Few companies have a Vince Lombardi on their staff.

Ask somebody from HR to handle the team sales coaching and one-on-one sales coaching for your employees and you might get some well-researched plays on a blackboard, but they probably won’t have the sales chops to get inside their colleagues’ heads and truly motivate them.

For that to happen, you need to bring in an expert just as the Packers did when they enlisted Lombardi to bring about a change in the franchise’s sagging fortunes.

 

The Secret Is Out

A recent study from CSO Insights revealed a direct correlation between sales coaching and one-on-one sales coaching and quota attainment. Not only that, it even measured the success rates of salespeople who received exceptional coaching versus those who received average coaching.

When exposed to expert coaching, almost 95% of the reps studied went on to meet or exceed their quotas while that number dropped to below 85% for those who received average coaching.

 

A Tide That Lifts All Boatstide-lifiting-boat

From the study, it is apparent that any coaching is better than no coaching but the trick for business owners is to identify and retain highly skilled coaches to work with their employees if they hope to optimize results.

Top coaches like those at the Sales Coaching Institute are constantly evolving to stay up-to-speed with the latest results-driven ­techniques designed to sharpen the core selling skills of even the most elite reps.

By bringing in an outside expert to customize a sales coaching program and provide one-on-one sales coaching to key employees, businesses can lower costs and boost their bottom line.

 

Experience Matters

Sales coaching is a highly specialized area of expertise. When choosing a coach, you need to make sure the coach has the experience to connect effectively with your sales team as no other productivity investment is as impactful as sales coaching.

An experienced sales coach can teach salespeople how to pinpoint a buyer’s motivation, how to create effective action plans, how to persevere in the face of obstacles and most importantly, how to set and achieve goals. With the right coaching, your reps will learn to sustain higher levels of energy over longer periods of time and increase the number of sales they make.

Speaking of increased sales, it should not be the only reason you bring in an outside expert to work with your team. For example, professional development – and the success that follows – is proven to be a key factor in employee retention, job satisfaction, and motivation.

 

Be In It For The Long Haul

Research shows most sales curriculums don’t last much longer than employees’ memories of the initial session. Truly effective sales coaching relies on consistent, long-term reinforcement which is why you should look for a trainer who can provide highly specific one-on-one sales coaching to your managers. This enables those managers to continue coaching their teams long after the coach has gone.

The right coach will help your managers become good mentors and coaches in their own right while helping your organization to accomplish its goals by building a strategic, engaged and complete sales organization.

 

There Are No Shortcutswilderness-trail-short-cut

While there’s no doubt finding the right coach for your sales team will make your business more successful and your employees happier, it’s important to understand that you have a serious task in front of you.

 

As the great man Vince Lombardi said:

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

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Five Reasons to Be Thankful for Sales Coaching and Training in 2020

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Are you one of those companies that is currently leading the pack in your industry? Is staying on top of the most effective selling strategies one of the reasons for your success? How did you discover these strategies and who taught them to your sales and marketing people?

Obviously, what you’ve figured out is that effective sales training and coaching must be a priority for any company if it hopes to be successful. That said, if your sales managers are too busy putting out fires and problem solving to stay up to speed on all the latest strategies and techniques, you should consider bringing in an experienced professional sales coach to instigate a performance-based program to keep your sales people operating at peak levels.

In the spirit of making 2020 your most successful year yet, here are the Top Five reasons to be thankful for expert sales coaches and trainers this year:

They Improve Selling Skills

Sales training tends to focus on the development of the sales team while sales coaching targets each individual rep’s selling skills. Targeted skill areas, especially for new hires, include call prospecting and call planning. The right coach will also introduce more senior reps to negotiation skills and how to effectively present value.

They Boost Closing Rates

Sales coaching is used to improve individual sales rep’s closing rates. Normally, this involves focusing on opportunity coaching, a methodology that plays to the strengths of sales managers, especially those who previously excelled in closing sales. Just as with skills coaching, the temptation to tell the rep what to do rather than inquire about opportunities in the pipeline must be avoided. What is essential is to help the rep think through his or her closing strategies.

They Help Sales Managers Get Better

Typically, sales training and coaching experts focus on sales reps but they can also have a significant impact on managers. By working with sales managers, the right coach can help them become good mentors and coaches. Bottom line: While the sales reps are being trained and coached, don’t forget to include the managers in the process.

They Speed the Development of New Hires:

New hires invariably attend programs that often include sections designed to teach them improved selling skills. Normally, this coaching is left to the sales managers which can be hit or miss if the manager is not a particularly skilled instructor. Better to bring in an expert who can teach the new hire exactly what they need to know and leave the sales manager to focus on their primary role.

They Create Leverage

If sales managers get into a habit of just telling their reps what to do all the time, they will find themselves in a situation where the reps stop looking for their own solutions to problems they encounter. This reduces the sales manager to the role of problem solver which is not a good use of their valuable time. Bringing an outside coach is like teaching the reps how to fish instead of just giving them fish all the time. This frees up the manager to devote more time to developing sales strategies which will be far more beneficial to your company.

Sales coaches and training experts help companies develop a coaching culture. Although it may take time and patience, the result – an empowered sales force – is well worth the effort.