Co-authored by Seema Jain, MURAL & Ashley Welch, Somersault Innovation
The other day a friend said about their colleague, “he literally fell asleep in front of all us on a Zoom call!” Are people falling asleep on your calls? Or, do they get excited when they see your meeting coming up on their calendar?
Remember the funny videos of terrible conference calls? Not so funny anymore, because it’s become our new normal.
Take advantage of this time to build upon your sales talents to become every bit as polished virtually as you are in person – make this your new superpower. A superpower is a unique talent you have. It’s what you do well, better than most, what is admired by others and why you excel. Superpowers tend to create value for others when they experience it from you.
Virtual brand considerations:
- How do you show up in the virtual environment? Do you use your video-- always?
- Do you make others feel welcome, heard and engaged?
- Are you skillfully facilitating your virtual meetings?
- Do the virtual tools you use make collaboration simple, even fun?
Just as you’ve built your professional brand throughout your career, you’re now doing it for your virtual presence. How do the two measure up? Your ability to foster trust, build relationships and add value for your customers must now extend into the virtual space.
The R-F-P Virtual Brand Superpowers:
Relationship: Cultivate relationships online right from the get-go so that people feel connected and are game to contribute.
Facilitation: Engage meeting participants through skillful facilitation that is efficient, and outcome driven.
Platform: Co-create with customers visually to drive connection and collaboration.
It’s harder for human beings to connect when they’re not physically together. Full stop. Because we are in the "relationship business" it is absolutely incumbent on us to reach across the digital divide through conscious effort and actively overcome virtual separation. This is so important, we’ll say it again: It is a critical part of your responsibility to make an effort to build rapport virtually. This is your brand!
- Turn on your camera—always! Even if the customer doesn’t reciprocate, they’ll be able to see you and your facial expressions. That's connection, and it’s too valuable to exclude from your calls.
- Check in. At the start of EVERY call, check in with each person. Ask them how they’re doing. If you want to make it more fun and lighter, ask them for their favorite quarantine activity in their home office. Or use a number of any ice breakers.
- Be transparent about how you’re doing in this new environment. Be yourself. This could involve being honest about the difficulties of keeping your children occupied. It could be self-deprecating humor about the need to wear more hats.
A good facilitator is a gift to a group; someone who confidently keeps a group on track and makes sure outcomes are met. They allow people to relax, be their best selves and have their voice heard. We can all do a few simple things to get better at this role when we are working with our customers. Here are a few tips:
- Agree (or co-create) desired outcomes at the beginning of the call and ask open-endedly for input before kicking off the meeting.
- Use a boomerang to keep people engaged. We all know how much easier it is to multi-task when we’re on a virtual call versus in person. Keep people engaged by sending a topic or question around your virtual room (boomeranging) and asking people to weigh in.
- Leverage visual collaboration to democratize voices, giving the quieter ones in the group a chance to have their voices heard through digital stickies. Remember people will likely be on mute so help them out with that by asking if they might be muted in a kind way.
- A new one we just learned is to create “Buddha time”- working alone together. Give people individual work time to think when appropriate. Many of us are running from meeting to meeting with little time to think and transition between. Allow time for meeting participants to collect their thoughts or brainstorm before answering or contributing to a new idea.
Check out MURAL’s ebook, The Definitive Guide to Facilitating Online Workshops, for additional tips.
You increase engagement with your customer to the extent that you can co-create with them. Collaborating on a common platform is one way to do this.
- Master and model your own platform. Know how to use your chat and screen share functions for your meeting platform and model this by way of encouraging your customers to engage with them as well. Be prepared to give mini commercials on how to do it in order to help people overcome any misgivings.
- Use a common visual space. People need a common visual focus to help them think and to foster engagement and collaboration. MURAL's virtual whiteboard enables everyone to immediately collaborate before, during and even after your call.
- Collect a set of pre-made frameworks that you can easily select before your call and then use with your customer. Where you are in the sales cycle will guide your choice in what framework(s) to use. Are you in Discovery, learning new things about your customer? Are you working to understand their process and what works and what does not? Or are you trying to agree on the final solution that adds mutual value? We have created a number of these templates to guide sellers through facilitating remote sales workshops. Access Somersault’s free MURAL Discovery Template here to get you started.
Template available here or by visiting http://mur.al/customerdiscovery. Click “create canvas from template” and unlock all elements to customize the template to fit your own process.
During these challenging times, the way you show up at sales meetings greatly influences customer engagement. Enhance your virtual sales brand by leveling-up your online meetings and workshops by leveraging the RFP virtual superpowers.
About the Authors:
Seema Jain is Head of Solution Design at Mural, partnering with organizations to bring human-centered design to scale through high-impact visual collaboration solutions. Seema is a certified Design Thinking Practitioner by the LUMA Institute and IBM.
MURAL enables innovative teams to think and collaborate visually to solve important problems. People benefit from MURAL’s speed and ease of use in creating diagrams, which are popular in design thinking and agile methodologies, as well as tools to facilitate more impactful meetings and workshops.
Ashley Welch is Co-Founder of Somersault Innovation. She has spent her career in sales and now partners with organizations to put the tools and practices of Design Thinking into the hands of sales professionals in order to drive human connection and grow revenue.