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Remote Selling: Making the Fast Transition From In-Person to Online Selling

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We're all in a time of great upheaval, and one of the biggest changes is being stuck inside. If you're new to remote selling, there's a lot to learn. In this episode, I'll cover the basics of what you need to know. 

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Remote Selling: Making the Fast Transition From In-Person to Online Selling:

Full Transcript

In 1991, someone thought it was a good idea to point a camera at a coffee pot. It wasn’t just any camera, it was a webcam. Still, not very exciting. Surely we can agree on that. In 1989, two years prior, the World Wide Web was invented. 1983 was the year the internet was invented. In 1975, the personal computer came into being. In 1972 was when Ray Tomlinson invented email. Modern Sales, the podcast, and the actual practice of selling today, wouldn’t be possible without any of this. But all of that happened over the last 48 years, plus many more inventions, of course, that I haven’t talked about.

On Monday, March 16, 2020, was the day many people started staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic. On that same day, people who had never sold remotely or did it only in limited fashion were suddenly expected to start doing it 100% of the time, and they were expected to do it in the most difficult selling environment ever imaginable, certainly in my lifetime. So in this episode of Modern Sales, I’m going to give you a crash course in remote selling. I’ll cover the differences between in-person and remote selling, how to build trust, content you’ll need to make it work, and how to run effective meetings remotely.

Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast that’ll help you sell more by understanding how people buy. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, founder of Serve Don’t Sell, my sales consulting and training business. I dig through academic research, interview people inside and outside of sales, and nerd out on psychology, economics, and neuroscience to figure out how people make decisions. And please join me because I’m on a mission to change the way 100 million people sell so that buying B2B services can be just as exciting as your first cup of coffee in the morning. Wouldn’t that be nice?

If you’re listening on Spotify, hit that follow button so that you don’t miss a single episode. And if you’re listening on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, please subscribe. Leave an honest review, so long as it’s five stars. It helps me get the word out for the show so we can together change the way 100 million people sell. Thank you in advance for your help. And now to the show.

This is the first episode in the remote selling series where I’m going to give you an absolute crash course in selling your products and services online. I’m going to start high level today. I’ll be digging deeper, and deeper, and deeper as I go forward. But I want you to know I’ve been doing this for over six years operating my company and all of my work 100% remotely, including the entire sales and marketing process, so I know a thing or two about this. I’ve sold well over $1 million in services during that time. So what you’re going to hear during this episode and throughout this series is based only on my firsthand direct experience. And it all starts with the key differences between in-person and remote selling, which I’ll sum up as hi-fi and low-fi and the problem that comes with that. More on what that means after this short break.

Welcome back. Now, the biggest problem with selling your services online is I hear a lot of people saying selling remotely is just hard or selling in person is easier, and to that I would say they’re just different. There’s a lot of differences between the two, and what I want to do first is get to the core of those differences.

What’s clear is that it’s harder to build trust and sell remotely. And suddenly here you are expected to understand and react to the nuances of remote selling overnight. Even if you’ve been in the role for a while or you’ve been selling remotely for a long time, certainly there are areas that you can approve upon. Certainly there are areas that I could improve upon. I am not perfect by any means.

But the reason it’s so hard to build trust and sell remotely is that, number one, it’s a lower fidelity situation, meaning there’s less information. When I’m in person with someone, I get to see them come to the office. I get to see how they sit. I get to see what their clothes look like, whether they’re nervous. I get to talk to my coworkers and other people in the office and see how did this person behave when they weren’t talking to me.

As a seller, of course, I get to see a lot of that stuff, too. I observe a lot about the company culture when I’m going somewhere in person. I get to observe a lot about how tuned in the other person is to me and what kind of impact I’m making, and I can adjust faster on the fly. So certainly less information comes through online, and that’s one of the big differences.

Because of that, buyers are putting more weight on less information. They still have to make a buying decision. And now, in a remote setting, they’re going to be making that buying decision on relatively less information than they would have in person, which means we’re turning up the volume on every single thing you do. It’s that much more important now because, let’s say, in-person buyers have 100% complete information, or at least the most that they can have. In a remote setting, maybe they have 60, 70, 80%. so there’s a gap there, right? And what we really want to do is close the gap. We want to give as much additional information as we can to the other person to replicate or at least emulate an in-person buying experience.

The other thing that’s true is that culture matters. Now, in normal times, “normal times” when there’s not a pandemic, and I don’t take this lightly, some companies are reluctant to do business with people remotely. And that’s just a reflection of culture. Even some of the most popular remote tools don’t have remote businesses. They still expect everybody to come into an office, and this can be a challenge normally. Now in this setting, I don’t think culture will be as big of a deal. But in the long run, culture may matter in terms of how you do business online and how reluctant or willing a company will be to do that.

And really, the solution here is to recognize that there are some key differences and make adjustments. That’s what I’m going to be telling you about today, and I’m giving you four main areas to adjust. The first is building trust. The second is the technology, hardware and software you’ll need to do this really well, content you need, and then running effective meetings.

I want to mention two things before I get into this. If you want to see this presentation as a webinar, I do have it on my website. All you have to do is go to servedontsell.com/remote and you can get that webinar as well as all the other resources I’m putting together. There’s also a long article that contains links to everything that I’m mentioning today. So you can get both of those things on the site servedontsell.com/remote.

Now to building trust. The first big thing I want you to take away from this episode … In fact, if you only take one thing away, it’s to use video. So if selling in person is superior, obviously, one of the reasons for that is that you can see the other person and how that person behaves, their mannerisms, how they act, how much eye contact they’re making. All of that is because of our visual sense, right? If you use the phone, you’re taking away the visual sense. If you use video, you’re giving back a lot of what that visual sense would tell the other person. So definitely use video.

Zoom communications, which I do recommend, did a study that showed 82% of meeting attendees felt that the other person was more trustworthy when they were using video. And if you just do a quick thought experiment about phone versus video, think about having a conference call. I want you to imagine five people sitting around a conference table. What are they wearing? How much are they keyed into you? And how much are they checking their email? Do they have laptops in front of them? Are they taking notes? What is their relationship with each other? Where are they seated? Where is this conference room in the world?

All of these things. You would just intuitively pick up immediately if you were using video. You would see them. You would see some of their relationships, and their interactions, and who’s officially in charge, and maybe who’s unofficially in charge. You’d see their faces. You’d see their eyes. You’d see their facial expressions. So that’s why I really want you to use video, is there’s so much more information we can pick up from it.

The next thing is to make remote easy. Now, if your client is operating on less information, there’s an information gap when we’re selling remotely, one of the ways that they’re going to start making decisions about you is how apt and able you are to run your business remotely. Whether that’s fair or not, I have no comment on it, but it does show that you’ve put time and effort into making this easy and seamless. So make people think that you know what you’re doing. I’ll get to the hardware and software momentarily, but that’s the next thing, is really just make remote easy.

In terms of building trust, I’d also recommend that you bring the energy. Turn your energy up. 20% more is a good rule of thumb. And again, the reason is it’s just more engaging if you’re more energetic. Now. If you don’t feel that you have that in your personality, I totally understand. But I got to tell you, if you were sitting across from me right now, I would not be talking like this. I would not be doing so much variation in my voice. I’m exaggerating a little bit because this is an audio only medium. Same thing with video. There’s less information coming through. So if you can turn up the energy a bit, it’s going to be trust-building. It’s going to be attractive for the other person in the meeting.

The next thing I’d say for building trust, and this is a big one, and this applies to both in-person and a remote setting, but again, the volume’s turned up, do your research. Go to their LinkedIn page. Go to their company’s website. Go to the company news. Read their personal blog if they have one. Check out Twitter. You should be able to do all of that in five minutes or less, not a big deal. Go do a fundamental baseline amount of research so that you can understand who this person is and show up and knowledgeably have a starting point in the conversation. Because again, if you show up more prepared, if you show up taking more time … You didn’t have to use that time commuting, so I think it’s no problem to spend five minutes just doing your research.

Next, I want to talk about the technology. So first I’ll talk about software and then hardware. Again, all of the links and things that I’m mentioning and particular products, software suites, all of that will be in the show notes. There’s a link in there to an article that I’ve written so you don’t have to take notes here. You can go refer to that later.

First up is software. The first suite of software I recommend is all around making communication delightful. So you’re going to need a video meeting software. I prefer Zoom. I also have used everything you can imagine, Skype, WebEx, LogMeIn, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, everything. Nothing in my experience compares to the stability of Zoom.

Now, one thing you’re going to hear me talk a lot about is maintaining stability of these meetings. Because fundamentally, what we want the tech to do and what you should be prioritizing is making sure that the meetings are stable. Think about it. If you’re in person sitting across from someone, they can’t just disappear out of your vision, but online that can happen. So I want you to take every possible step to prevent that, and the first one is choosing which software to use, and I would prioritize stability over features. Zoom has great features, too, but definitely prioritize stability.

I also recommend G Suite or Google Suite for documents, sending in collaboration. It’s fantastic. It’s very cheap. Sure you’ve used it. I also recommend Calendly to help people book times to meet with you. One of the big differences between in-person and remote selling is there’s less spontaneity when you’re selling remotely. Just about everything needs to be planned. And one of the things that you can do to help take some of that planning load off of your shoulders is to use Calendly in order to let people book meetings with you.

Next up is a tool called Loom. Loom allows you to shoot quick videos with your webcam and send them to someone as just a link or drop them into an email. It’s fantastic. It is an absolutely delightful experience for the person receiving it. One thing I like to do is the first time I get an email from someone I’ll just record a quick Loom video. I’m completely set up for it so it takes me maybe a minute or two. Often it’s faster than typing a response. And when the person receives that, it’s just delightful for them to see. Number one, it’s different. They’re not used to getting video responses to their emails. Number two, again, way denser communication channel because they get to see me. They get to hear my voice. It’s just different, period. So I really recommend Loom. Awesome company, awesome tool.

Next up, few optional things. Making proposals, contracts, and payments easy. I like PandaDoc for proposals. Xero is my accounting software that I also invoice from. MoonClerk is great for payment processing. In particular, if you do recurring or subscription-based payments, it’s fantastic. And then of course Stripe for payment processing.

Now on to hardware. The number one thing I recommend with hardware is you don’t need to go expensive for your hardware setup to be much, much better. There are four basic things that I recommend you do. Number one is get a microphone. Number two, have a nice webcam. If you’re on an Apple computer, which I am, unfortunately, the webcams they put in their very expensive laptops really suck so I recommend getting an external webcam. Number three, the lighting is really important. And number four, going wired.

If you want to do this the absolute cheapest way, if you’re on an Apple computer, what I recommend is just using the Apple headphones, the wired headphones. Plug them in. You’ll be able to hear the other person through the headphones. There’s a built-in mic in there. You’ll sound a lot better than you would otherwise. Please, it is rude not to have a decent external microphone.

If you’re on PC, I recommend the Sennheiser PC 7 headset. It’s like 30 bucks. Again, it’s linked in that article that you can check out in the show notes. Very simple setup. Just a USB thing that you plug into the laptop or your computer and it’ll do the trick. You’ll sound much, much better.

For the webcam, the standard is the Logitech C922. It’s fine, nothing special. I use the Logitech BRIO. It’s a big step up. It’s about $200. The picture is much better. It can shoot up to 4K. I use it as a 1080p webcam. But, it’s clear. It’s got a very wide lens and so more of me is in the frame, which is kind of nice.

Then there’s the lighting. You can make the quality of any webcam much better if you’re just evenly lit. The easiest way to do that is grab your laptop, sit in front of a window that has good natural light, and you’re going to look about 10,000 times better on camera. I personally don’t sit in front of a window, so I have an LED light permanently mounted on my desk above my monitor. Lights up my face. I can adjust the warmth of that light and so I don’t look blue and sickly, which is good.

And finally, I recommend you go wired. So plug into your ethernet connection. I know it’s weird. You’re probably thinking, “Okay, wireless works really well.” It’s true. But again, let’s prioritize stability. So go wired with your ethernet connection. Do not use a Bluetooth headset. Do not use a Bluetooth microphone. Go wired with both your internet connection and your mic and speakers.

Next step is content. I recommend you have three buckets of content: during the sale, nurturing those people who are not ready to buy from you, and then referrals. So during the sale, the whole goal is to enable good buying decisions. That means you’re going to need content like a sales deck, like case studies, like product or service descriptions, things that make it easy for people to interact with you and really enrich the buying experience given that you’re doing it remotely. For those people who are not ready to buy from you, you want to be an educator for them. So nurturing them with emails, with content, like podcast episodes maybe or webinars, that’s the kind of stuff you want to use to nurture people.

And finally, as you’re asking for or seeking referrals, I really think you should make referrals easy. One of the best ways to do that is to have a landing page on your website or even have a PDF or some email templates that make referrals drop-dead easy for anybody who wants to give you one. I know that’s a lightning round. I will be diving deeper into content in a future episode on this remote selling series.

Next up, effective meetings. So I’m really big on this because I think people make a lot of subconscious judgments about your ability to do business based on how you conduct yourself during the meetings. How easy is it to understand how to do business with you? How well do you surface their problems and connect your solution to their problems? How easy is it for the buyer to understand how to buy from you? A lot of that can be solved with effective meetings.

Now, if you want to take a deep dive on how to run effective meetings, I have four entire dedicated episodes to the subject, episodes 102 through 105 in your feed. You can go back and listen to those. But, here’s the short of it. You need a plan for before, during, and after the meeting. Before the meeting, send your prospect a quick agenda and also walk them through information about how to join the meeting. If you’re using Zoom, tell them where the Zoom link is and whether or not they need to allocate some time to download anything. Make sure you give an average person enough information in order to get on that meeting without a problem.

Now, some people will still have tech issues. One thing I always do is when people book a meeting with me I ask for their phone number, which, great, I can add their mobile phone to my CRM, which is awesome. But more importantly, if something goes wrong with the Zoom meeting or whatever video conferencing software you’re using, you can call them up and work it out on the phone and just use the phone as a fallback if need be.

During the meeting, there are five main parts of every single meeting: one, rapport building; two, setting the agenda, which is the same as the agenda you sent them before the meeting; number three, the actual content of the meeting, what you’re going to cover; number four, recapping what you covered; and number five, setting and agreeing to next steps. And finally, after the meeting, make sure you always send an email recap and you go and execute on the next steps that you said you would.

So the key takeaways for this very fast crash course in remote selling is that remote selling is different, mostly in that it’s a lower fidelity communication channel. Your job is to close the information gap as much as possible. Focus first on building trust remotely. And yes, use video. This is non-negotiable. Use video. That will make a big difference. Get your technology in place, a solid video meeting software, webcam, microphone, and good lighting. Be sure to have content to enrich the meeting and sales experience. And finally, run the meeting like a pro with an agenda, a tight meeting structure, and clear next steps to make the entire sales process easy to understand and keep it moving forward.

That’s it for the first episode in the remote selling series. Next week, I’ll be diving deeper on how you can build trust faster and more effectively and what you need to understand about body language in a remote setting. If you aren’t already subscribed to this podcast, please do so by clicking the subscribe or follow button. You can also get notified of all podcast episodes by visiting servedontsell.com/newsletter.

Thanks to everyone who makes this podcast possible. Juan Perez is our editor. Mary Ann Nocum is our show assistant. Our show theme and ad music is produced by me on my iPad, Liston Witherill. And all other show music is by Logan Nickleson at Music for Makers, as well as Epidemic Sound. Thanks so much for listening. I’m Liston Witherill of Serve Down Sell, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

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Up next…

Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual.

And check out the SDS method if you want to improve your sales process.

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