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How COVID-19 Forced Everyone into Sales

Sales Process Development

Before COVID-19, winning new business in the qualified plan space consisted of getting the right handful of people on a plane or in a car, sending them to the prospect’s location, and allowing them to work their magic in person. 

That might consist of a boardroom pitch, nice dinner out, and taking in a ballgame. Those involved in this traveling sales team were chosen for a reason, both in title (salesperson, account manager, C-level if the account is big enough) and in personality. Spending multiple hours in both a work-related and social setting needs the right kind of demeanor.

As business development has moved to a video-centric focus, we’re no longer relegated to bringing a finite amount of people to the sales party. Because everyone is accessible via a click, those normally uninvolved in the sales process are now expected to be on Zoom/WebEx client pitches. Often, this will consist of those in more technical fields (plan design, recordkeeping mechanics) and those who are more junior at the company. Why is that? Two reasons:

First, given the efficient nature of video calls, clients can consider more vendors than before. Instead of spending a half a day each with two potential suitors, clients can interview four vendors by lunch and spend the afternoon evaluating their offerings. Increasing the quantity of competitors forces those pitching their wares to refine and focus on their distinct value proposition. Adding a technical team member to a meeting though a video call allows clients to ask directed questions to the subject matter expert. During in-person presentations, technical questions would sometimes be answered by the salesperson saying, “We’ll have to get back to you on that.” Now, because everyone is accessible instantly, those queries need not be deferred.

Second, more people on video means more reputability. Pretend you’re doing an in-person presentation, and you and your other two team members are sitting in the waiting room. Out of the conference room comes your competition, seven people strong, after their presentation. How does that make you feel? Inadequate, and wishing you brought more people to the meeting. There are many implications to the quantity of individuals involved in a pitch meeting, and all of them affect the confidence of those in sales. What better way to inject the element of “Here’s the large team that will support you,” than to add more people to the call? Even if the more junior people don’t say a word, they’re still there.

Gear Up!

When the work-from-home initiatives really hit their stride in early spring, most video gear was suddenly backordered for months. Now, though, inventory is available for WFH additions that—simply and inexpensively—will help your team step up their game. Marginal improvements in video and audio will make you appear all the more professional than the competitors against whom you’re pursuing business. Purchase these three items for those who will spend a lot of time on video:

  • An HD webcam. Upgrading to a 1080p webcam (most cost less than $75) will both improve the look of the subject on camera and give an option for a wider degree of view. Confidence on camera will improve performance.
  • A ring light. As we approach winter, natural lighting will be more difficult. An inexpensive ring light (sometimes called a selfie light) for about $100 will help illuminate you and your team members.
  • A professional microphone (around $100). This will make the biggest difference on video calls for two reasons. First, the mics in laptops or desktops are horrendous; a professional mic will yield a noticeable increase in sound quality. Second, pro mics have built-in headphone adapters that allow you to hear yourself talk in your headphones. Instead of the approach “I need to speak louder than normal to ensure people hear me,” you and your team can use a natural conversational tone.

3 Presentation Tips

Now that we have everyone looking good, let’s ensure they perform well. Since sales training is expensive, those in technical fields and those who are more inexperienced at a company oftentimes haven’t been taught what the business development process looks like. Your pitch team, previously limited, has now grown to encompass many more individuals in your organization. Have you taken to time to show them what sales feels like?

Read more commentary by Spencer X Smith here

Following are three simple tips you can share with those who are newly involved in sales.

1. Objections during a meeting a really good thing.

If the client didn’t care about what you were presenting, or had no interest, they wouldn’t prompt your team with questions. Objections are an opportunity to both answer the specific query, but also to expand to the subtext of the question. This is an important point upon which to focus, particularly with technical people. A technical person can simply answer the question presented, but it’s critical for the more experienced salesperson to follow-up with another question, that of which gets to the core of what the prospect is asking. For example, if a prospect asks, “Why don’t you integrate with ABC software?” a technician will answer with the specific reason. The salesperson can then ask (on the prospect’s behalf), “Why have we built our existing integrations to work the way they have, and why could that make sense given their situation?” During the pre-meeting meeting, teach the technical people on your team why objections are a prospect showing his or her desire for knowledge, and not him or her saying, “No.”

2. Simple is best. 

“A confused mind will say no.” Technical people pride themselves on their prowess in their field, and rightfully so. Your prospects, however, only need the details they’re ready to understand. Encourage your technical people to practice succinctly explaining difficult concepts, and the best way to practice this is through a pre-pitch trial video call. Your now-expanded pitch team can easily do this together the day before the big meeting.

3. Everyone on the team is important.

Just because the junior people might not be expected to say anything, this doesn’t mean that will happen. A savvy prospect might “call on” one of the people from your group who hasn’t said anything with something as broad as, “What do you think?” Preparing your more inexperienced people with elevator pitch-worthy responses will pay off when queries like this come their way.

Spencer X Smith is the founder of AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies. He’s a former 401(k) wholesaler, and now teaches financial services professionals how to use social media for business development. This column originally appeared in the Winter issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.