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How to Build Great Client Relationships Virtually

By Susan Hall

How to Build Great Client Relationships Virtually

It’s my 4th virtual meeting of the day and I blink my eyes, hard, from staring at the little black camera dot at the top of my laptop. “ZOOM fatigue” – many of us are experiencing it these days. And yet, as Counselor Salespeople, we know the value of connecting and continually building trust with our customers. So,

“How do we continue to build relationships and trust with our clients when we can’t get together personally?”

We’ve learned a lot from helping world-class sales teams shift to selling virtually over the past year. But here’s the #1 difference in selling remotely versus face to face. Ready for it? The #1 difference in selling virtually is that our attention spans are shorter. Yep, that probably doesn’t come as a surprise, does it? Why is it that waiting five minutes in a lobby is fine, but waiting even a minute longer than necessary for a virtual call feels like FOREVER?!

Think about the implications of how you manage, or mismanage, your client’s time on their level of trust. With a lower tolerance for inefficient face time, you stand to build or threaten your customer’s trust in the first few minutes of a virtual meeting. While there are a number of lessons learned that we could focus on, let’s highlight three quick things you can do to connect and engage with your customers in a faster and more meaningful way, to continue to demonstrate your credibility and build trust.

1. Have a clear, agreed upon agenda. Send it ahead of time, if possible, and check in to make sure your customer is tracking with you.

For our Counselor Sales clients, that means start out with a crisp, compelling PPP (Purpose, Process, Payoff) and be sure to check in with your client to make sure this agenda addresses what they want to address.

Bonus: Ask “What would make the next 30 minutes worthwhile for you?” Be prepared to pivot depending on your client’s objectives.

2. Make eye contact. This is a little tricky, as it means looking directly at the camera, NOT the eyes of the person you’re communicating with on the screen. While it’s unnecessary and headache inducing (and a little creepy) to look unblinkingly at the little black camera dot on your laptop, be sure to at least look at the camera when you are making a point, when you want to demonstrate empathy. In short, when you want to connect. Customers are 60% more likely to turn their cameras on when you do. And, even if they don’t, they can still pick up your expressions and fabulously warm, professional, and composed demeanor if your camera is on.

3. Listen – and watch – even more closely. It’s more critical than ever to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues and ask checking questions. Are they nodding? Leaning back? Frowning? That gives you the opportunity to observe and ask “Bob, I see your expression; is there a question of concern you have about this?”

We know from research and experience that two critical elements are required to build and maintain trust: Credibility plus Empathy.

By preparing and gaining your customer’s agreement to an agenda you communicate your intent to help and make the best use of your customer’s time, thereby building your credibility. And by making eye contact, paying attention and responding to your customer’s verbal and non-verbal cues, you continue to build rapport and demonstrate empathy. When used together, these three simple tips can help jump start your meetings more quickly, and set you up for more engaging and trust-building interactions with your customers.

There are many more best practices that I’d love to share with you over the coming months. We’ve just scratched the surface, and we’re all learning. What are some of your favorite ideas for relating virtually? Contact us if you have any questions.

Published: January 25, 2021

MEET THE AUTHOR

Susan Hall

Vice President- Business Development & Performance Improvement

Susan brings over 20 years of experience working with global markets and organizations, helping them navigate through tough economic challenges while maintaining their margins. Since joining SEG in 1995, she has had the privilege of working with organizations that truly value the development of their employees and recognize the impact their people have on their bottom line results. Susan graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a double major in business management and speech communication. She has also completed course work toward her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

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