Does it seem self-defeating that when less than 52% of salespeople are making quota that 85% of companies say they're raising quotas for 2010? Well, that's just what CSO Insights found in their 2010 Sales Performance Optimization Survey. Add to that the economic constraints many companies have initiated to curtail travel, and salespeople are facing an uphill battle.
So what's a sales rep to do?
Embrace online collaboration tools.
Part of what makes salespeople successful is their ability to build relationships through face-to-face meetings with prospects. When that opportunity is removed, relying on a telephone and email does not make for a comparable exchange. If companies want their salespeople to reach new heights, they must prepare them to scale the mountain.
Platforms such as WebEx, GoToMeeting and others put interactive tools in the hands of salespeople to help them get more "face" time with their prospective customers. That CSO Insights found only 36% of companies were utilizing these online collaboration tools means those that do can gain advantages over their competitors that don't.
But, using online tools for collaboration requires a few different skills, or more emphasis on select existing skills. These include:
Deeper listening. Without body language, it's imperative to listen for changes in tone, hesitations, abrupt changes in subject or the way one person may interrupt another. All of these can be "tells" that indicate your prospect's comfort level, or lack thereof, with the discussion. They could also be indicative of an obstacle that may be hindering their next steps toward purchase.
Salespeople need to act upon what they hear to discover the areas where prospects have less confidence. Confidence and knowledge are necessary for buying. You know what happens when we "assume," right?
· Focused Slides. When your sales rep is presenting information to prospects via online collaboration tools they can't see the prospect checking for messages on their smartphone or doodling in their notebooks when their attention wanders.
Consider creating two decks. One with company informational slides and one that contains only prospect specific slides that address the problem. Only bring out the company slides if the prospect asks you to. Plan your presentations - all of them- to include frequent check-ins with your prospects to ensure their attention is on the conversation, not the 200 other things on their to-do list. It's much easier to keep prospects engaged when everything you say is about them.
· Coordinated Conversations. If you bring other team members to the call, make sure the parts they'll play are defined. Be respectful of expertise and invite your team to share their knowledge as appropriate. Prospects are looking for partners with expertise, not products.
The beauty of online collaboration is that it makes increased participation from your team easier to facilitate, regardless of location. Sharing expertise, as needed, can increase the effectiveness of sales meetings as well as the pace of next steps. It saves you from having to put meetings on hold or reschedule while you take the time to find the answers to questions needed to move the deal forward.
· Use the Tools. If you're going to use online meeting platforms to facilitate buying conversations, then you need to learn how to use the tools they provide. Develop ideas that can be enhanced with participation, such as putting a diagram or workflow on an online white board and then enabling both sides to add input.
Use surveys to gauge interest levels. For example, when talking about priorities, load them into a survey and ask your prospects to rate just how important they are. If each participant has the ability to respond from their own computer, all the better. You can get an idea of how every stakeholder on the call perceives the problem. Think about what you can do with that information.
· Record the Meeting. The ability to record the meeting can offer a lot of downstream benefits. You've got a record of what everyone has said. You can review the call for nuances you may have missed in real time, but need to address to keep the deal moving. The recording can also be shared with your prospects, enabling them to share it with stakeholders who couldn't attend. Any promises made won't become misunderstandings down the road, because you've got exactly what was said on record.
These are only a few thoughts about how salespeople can use online collaboration tools to help them improve their meeting effectiveness when face-to-face is removed from the sales equation. If your company is raising quotas and trimming budgets, you've got to proactively improve your skills as a means to success. Reduced travel budgets could actually turn out to be a good thing.
What other ways have you used online meetings to help drive deals?