Many of my customers stayed highly profitable through Covid, and one way is how their sales teams differentiated the virtual experience for their customers.
Recently I circled Kansas City sampling BBQ between soccer tournament games. My GPS told me how to get to restaurants, hotels, and venues. In the past I would’ve used printed maps and had patient people telling me to ‘take a left at the fork in the road’. GPS is awesome!! We’re at a technological fork-in-the-road today – Do I tolerate or thrive with virtual technology? What would your customers want you to do?
Even before COVID, 92% of all customer interactions occurred over the phone (Brevet Group), and with travel and habit changes this will grow. It’s a win-win! We have reduced commutes and dry cleaning bills, and get to use our own bathroom. We save money and time, and have better access to customers.
But it only pays off if we have consistently productive meetings that start with the customer’s comfort first!
‘Zoom fatigue’ is no longer about technology, it’s about bad meetings. By now most of us have adjusted to technical issues and managed kids and pets in the environment. The grace period is over. Productive virtual meetings build our energy, bad ones drain us, and our customers expect the former. It’s our job as sales people to demonstrate a new level of Propriety...the state or quality of conforming to conventionally accepted standards of behavior. (Oxford) Propriety makes the customer comfortable, and today’s world requires new Propriety behaviors.
Time to adjust.
Today’s fatigue is about two dynamics: we don’t take control and we haven’t embraced the new norm. I asked my customers – chemical, construction, food production, and nonprofit, and all had strong bottom-line growth in 2020 and each differentiated themselves virtually. Their advice is below.
Embrace the New – Client comments in quotes
- Lean in. This is your chance to differentiate. “We tripled the # of client ‘visits’ from 2019 during COVID by ensuring productive meetings by the customer’s definition. We got better every week once we learned that ‘productive’ meant brief, focused, with clear value.”
- Your energy is contagious. “Be about high energy and engagement...join the meeting at LEAST 5 min early and have your camera on.”
- You are how you show up, as is your company. “If your customer can’t see you, they assume they are secondary to you...that they’re not worth cleaning up for.”
- Wear clothes that fit the meeting. “I now use a ‘meeting wardrobe’. Shirts just for virtual screens that are complemented by my background.” “I ask customers to send me their polos, and I sometimes wear theirs when we meet. They know this moment is about them.”
- Customize our virtual background to your customer. “Place your customer’s logo or building pic as your background. Show them you think about them beyond the meeting.”
- Confirm what you want out of the meeting, however small. “Get an Action Plan Ready – You want to make this meeting worth your time and theirs.”
Take Control – If you are running the meeting
- Provide an agenda and intended outcomes. “Send an agenda in advance, and post the agenda in the ‘chat’ as you start. Openly confirm desired outcomes and the meeting length. We produce the desired outcomes 100% of the time I state them up front.”
- Be a good host. “Welcome everyone individually, and give new people a chance to introduce themselves. Start on time (maybe two minutes late if waiting on key people) and absolutely finish on time or before.”
- Document outcomes on the screen before you close. “Use the Chat, or note taking software.” “Virtual meetings feel more productive when decisions and next steps are written for all to see before sign off. “Also, write clear next steps and owners of the takeaways.” A bonus is having this clarity and ending on time.”
- Decide you’ll be the best Zoom meeting of your customer’s day! “We ask the customer what is the best use of your virtual meeting time, and we deliver.”
- Schedule the next meeting before the end of the current one. “Confirming the next meeting date creates deadlines, solidifies progress, and pragmatically manages calendars. Good meetings beget more meetings, so this especially works when you’re ending on time.”
- Use the technology to enhance productivity. “Polls and annotations engage everyone but they’re most valuable when used to establish priorities or focus. Everyone gets a vote and everyone sees what matters most.” “We use Mentimeter and Kahoot tools to engage and educate small customer teams. At first it feels a bit hokey but if you make it light and informative they lean in.”
Take Control – If you’re not running the meeting
- Prepare to be productive when invited to a meeting. “Request an agenda for every meeting you’re asked to attend, clarity of what’s expected of you, and request materials 48 hours in advance. They know you’re serious when you do.”
- Leave the meeting when you must leave. “Don’t allow a long meeting to disrupt the rest of your day. Let everyone know you have a hard stop and want to be sure of meeting results before you leave.”
Good virtual meetings are energizing and contagious, and your Propriety behaviors make it happen. The best are clear in purpose, forward moving, bring value to the supporter, and run with the efficiency and clarity of a GPS (with or without the Australian accent). If you embrace the advantages of virtual meetings and take control to ensure the experience and results you need, your fatigue will be replaced by energy and fulfillment, and your customer will look forward to the next one. Promise!