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.