4 Buyer Engagement Tips for Virtual Sellers Learn how to capture and maintain buyers' attention during online meetings.

By Andy Springer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For many, the transition to virtual selling went something like this: One minute you were a basketball superstar with pretty good moves and a decent field goal percentage. Then you were thrust into a baseball game, handed a glove and told to win. On a completely different field. Requiring a completely different skill set.

Sound familiar?

Where you may have succeeded in person before, buyers are now harder to connect with, more easily distracted and more likely to multitask in a virtual environment.

A virtual selling study found that 91% of sellers said "gaining a buyer's attention and keeping them engaged virtually" is challenging. So, here are four tips to keep buyers engaged during virtual sales meetings:

Related: 4 Essential Imperatives of Virtual Sales Success

1. Use tools

Before 2020, you would've found yourself in a conference room with five to 10 people. A few represent your sales team, including subject matter, technical and industry experts. The rest are with the prospective client, including your internal champion and the decision-makers.

With everyone in the room together, you could jump up to the whiteboard at a moment's notice, engage, collaborate, bounce ideas off your team and remain fairly agile as you reacted to questions.

In virtual meetings, we're limited to a very small box — and, in many cases, buyers have already been focused on this small box for much of their day. It's also much easier for people to opt not to attend virtual meetings or even duck out early.

You must be much more deliberate in how you show up, capture attention and ignite engagement in virtual meetings.

The key here is to plan. Arm yourself with the tools needed to make the meeting collaborative and interactive. You can:

  • Turn on video: Using video in virtual meetings helps create a personal connection, deepen relationships and build trust.

  • Share something on screen: From slides to stats to video, there are several supporting materials you can use to demonstrate your talking points.

  • Collaborate with virtual whiteboards: Use virtual whiteboards to take notes, collaborate, demonstrate ideas and more.

  • Use digital sticky notes: Sticky notes can be used to list agenda points, as a way to remember to go back to questions/topics or for something else entirely.

  • Launch surveys and polls: Especially if you have several buyers in the virtual meeting, anonymous polls and surveys are a great way to get a pulse on what's happening at the organization.

Takeaway: Practice with and plan to use available tools. Doing so on the fly increases the chances of tech issues, awkward silences and poor buyer experiences.

2. Use visuals

Adult attention spans are shrinking. Keep videos to less than 30 seconds. You must capture attention in the first eight seconds of an email.

Most of us have heard these ideas in some form in the last several years. The truth is that people pay attention to 1) things they care about and 2) visually stimulating things. Think along the lines of action movies, scrolling through social media, the opening ceremony at the Olympics, etc.

Your goal is to manufacture this in virtual sales meetings. We cover the first point in the second half of this article. For now, let's focus on visuals. In virtual sales meetings, the easiest way to use visuals is by illustrating your talking points. But this isn't limited to the design-savvy. Consider:

  • Movement: Incorporate movement in both yourself and your content (e.g., animation in PowerPoint or on-screen annotation).

  • Face: Watch your facial expressions, and don't forget to smile.

  • Body: Use body language to signal interest (sitting up and forward), and use your hands to talk naturally.

  • Space: Use the available space in both your video and on your screen.

  • Timing: Frequent screen movement spikes dopamine and keeps people engaged.

Most importantly, don't overcomplicate it.

Takeaway: Keep things simple by stripping back text and increasing visuals and the frequency at which visuals move on screen to keep buyers engaged.

Related: 7 Ways to Avoid the No.1 Virtual Sales Meeting Mistake

3. Use templates

When selling in person, you're typically sitting in a controlled environment with your buyer. You don't have to worry about your internet connection, video and audio quality or the tidiness of your background. You can keep a list of the questions you want to tackle at the ready in your head.

But when there are already so many things to focus on in a virtual meeting, it's best to keep talking points, questions, slides to present, etc. at the ready in a pre-made template.

RAIN Group's Buyer Change Blueprint, for instance, is easy to pop onto the screen and fill out live while you're discussing each area with the buyer.

Even if you use a different template, the goal is to learn everything you need to create a differentiated solution. It's even better if you can use a platform that allows the buyer to add their ideas directly to the template. For example, you could share a list of common needs and have buyers put checks next to their needs.

After the meeting, you can clean up any documents shared and send them to the buyer. It's then easy for them to share with their team or to generate additional questions for your next conversation.

Takeaway: Use a template to ensure you capture all necessary information, collaborating when possible.

4. Use collaboration

As noted earlier, people pay attention to things they care about. That's where collaboration comes in. Seven out of 10 buyers are open to collaborating, yet only 34% of buyers say sellers are effective at it.

When sellers don't collaborate, they diminish their opportunity to:

  • Build rapport and relationships

  • Discover and solve needs

  • Inspire buyers with new ideas

  • Change buyer perceptions

  • Gain and maintain the engagement threshold

  • Win more deals

As suggested in the previous point, one way to collaborate, drive attention and maintain engagement is to use templates during needs discovery.

Think about it: In person, you'd be having a conversation, making eye contact and signaling with visual and verbal cues (nodding, making affirmative sounds, etc.), but now you're limited to your little black box, listening to what your buyer is saying and taking diligent notes on the notepad in front of you — while the buyer looks at the top of your head. In person, they'd know you're taking notes. But in a virtual meeting, they have no idea what you're doing.

Related: How to Build Rapport With Customers Online

Use this opportunity to collaborate. Open your template, Word doc, text pad or virtual whiteboard, and write on the screen in real-time so buyers:

  • See if what they're sharing is being captured accurately

  • Remain engaged by reading the screen and making sure how you describe what they're saying captures what they mean and how they feel about it

  • Collaborate, as you can go back and forth, addressing deeper questions and bringing new information to light

Takeaway: Be mindful of the buyer's experience, and look for ways to collaborate at all stages of the buying process.

Again, keeping buyers engaged in virtual sales meetings is not an easy task. However, with these four tips above, you can effectively capture and maintain their attention. In your next virtual meeting, use tools, visuals, templates and collaboration to boost your chances of success.

Wavy Line
Andy Springer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Client Officer at RAIN Group

Andy Springer is co-author of the bestseller "Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely" and Chief Client Officer of RAIN Group, a global sales training company helping clients improve sales results through training, coaching, and reinforcement.

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