Stop. Collaborate. Listen.
Sellers of a certain age know that rapper Vanilla Ice was actually onto something when he uttered those words at the start of his song, “Ice Ice Baby.” Years later, the concept of collaboration and a seller’s ability to work with buyers, instead of speaking at or simply selling to them, to close a deal has become more important than ever.
We now live in times when in-person options for meeting with buyers are non-existent. And yes, it’s more difficult to collaborate virtually. But as our RAIN Group Center for Sales Research data has shown, collaboration is still critical to sales success both offline and online.
In fact, in Virtual Selling, we learned that more than two-thirds of buyers are strongly influenced by sellers who show them what’s possible or how to solve a problem. Those same buyers said that only one-third of sellers are highly skilled in doing so. One of the best ways to show buyers how to solve a problem is to Collaborate with them.
That’s why Collaborate is one of the 4 Virtual Selling ImperativesSM, the key tactics most critical for virtual sales success. Collaborate is an aspect of selling virtually—the others being Connect, Engage, and Influence—that’s most markedly different from a blended or exclusively face-to-face approach.
There are three key areas of Collaborate: Facilitate Interaction, Master Technology, and Enable Breakthroughs. Let’s take a look at how to make each of these easier in a virtual sales setting.
There’s no doubt, it’s much easier to interact and collaborate live than virtually, but virtual collaboration is both achievable and, if done well, can be even more powerful than in a live setting. It’s up to the seller to Take the Lead and make sure it happens.
Buyers are looking to sellers to have answers, but they want to make sure those answers are relevant to them.
The best way to make the sales process relevant is to involve buyers in an interactive, two-way conversation, not a one-way presentation. Sellers need to collect input, personalize, and present expertise and solutions. In that spirit, you can’t present in a generic, cookie-cutter fashion. Draw the buyer in so they feel involved in the process, not like an audience member listening and watching.
Since the sales process is almost completely reliant on technology right now, it’s incumbent on sellers to ensure they’re comfortable using a variety of tools for sales interactions and that they have a stable internet connection, so that the whole process can run smoothly.
This doesn’t mean every seller must be a technical expert. Instead, sellers must be able to use technology to the fullest to get the best outcomes for buyers and from the sales process.
This includes choosing a presentation tool that allows for interactivity and has, at minimum, video capability so buyers and sellers can see each other. When that visual element exists, you present yourself as more authentic, you can more easily connect with and engage buyers, and you can more easily earn the trust of your buyer. Equally important: when everyone can see each other, collaboration happens more naturally and easily.
But don’t stop there. You can collaborate with buyers through screen sharing, virtual whiteboarding, and annotating. None of these tools are hard to learn to use. A bit of time on YouTube and playing around, and you’ll feel confident using them to collaborate during your virtual meetings.
One result of successful collaboration is breakthroughs and realizations on the part of the buyer that change is needed (and that the seller is the one to make it happen). Breakthroughs often happen with time, when people are working together, and there’s a pause for silence and thinking.
While the energy that exists when people are live in the same room can be a benefit, breakthroughs are not limited to offline meetings. They can happen virtually too, but the seller must create the conditions so they do.
Here, it’s up to the seller to rely on pace and style. You may only have a limited time for your meeting, but make sure you let the presentation breathe so buyers can think and ask questions, and they’re not just being bombarded with information. Asking strategic, open-ended questions can prompt breakthroughs and direct buyers to think about their situation in new ways.
When done well, collaborative meetings can lead to breakthroughs that, ultimately, positively affect decision making.
The Power of Collaboration
When sellers Collaborate well virtually, facilitating interaction and leveraging technology, they not only capture buyers’ interest and attention, they capture buyers’ imaginations. They’re able to introduce new concepts and create a willingness to move forward on a journey the buyer may not have even considered.
Indeed, when you stop, collaborate, and listen, you have much greater sales success, both in-person and virtually.