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The Sales Japan Series - 201: Virtual Selling - How To Master The First Impression Online

201: Virtual Selling - How To Master The First Impression Online

The Sales Japan Series

We now sell in the Age of Distraction and the Era of Cynicism. When the client is talking to us online, they can be so easily distracted and can be secretly multi-tasking in the background, not paying any great attention to what we are saying. There has always been a lot of client scepticism about salespeople claims, but with the “fake news” catch phrase being tossed around with wild abandon, buyer cynicism is being added to, rather than diminished. So for our first impression, when we come online to meet the client for the first time, it is critical to grab, keep and deepen their attention. How do we do that?

When the meeting starts, I will assume you have the proper logistics in place. The camera lens on your laptop is slightly above eye line height, that the lighting is such that you are easy to see and that you are wearing a headset, with a microphone attachment, to compensate for the poor quality audio these online platforms provide. Naturally you are sitting up straight, leaning in about 15 degrees, rather than slumped back in your chair.

Please, please, please do not open with “how are you today”. This type of fake interest in the buyer’s well being has zero impact and makes you sound like those sleazy telephone sales dogs calling buyers at weird hours, trying to sell them weird stuff. Start with some appreciation instead and say something intelligent and meaningful like, “Covid-19 has really added a lot of stress to everyone’s workloads, so let me begin by thanking you for making time to speak with me today”. That is a highly credible opening statement that shows we are all in this together, you understand their world and you are appreciative of them. You continue by adding value, “The object of my call today is to understand whether the results we have been able to achieve for other clients are also possible for your firm. I have no idea if that will be the case or not, but I am very keen to see if we can be of some meaningful assistance to you”. We are telling them that we have a track record of getting results, we are not going to a pushy, pushy salesperson and we are focused on helping them, rather than ourselves.

We then bridge into the agenda for the call. Depending on the situation we may have sent the agenda ahead of the meeting or we may be pulling it up on screen at the start of the meeting. You don’t ask for a “yes” or a “no” and as you are doing it, you just say “please allow me to bring up the agenda for our call today so that we can make the most efficient use of our time together”. We are being assumptive about using an agenda and we are telling them we are not here to waste their valuable time.

The first item on the agenda should crystalise the strategic value of the meeting, establishing why this call is going to helpful and not a waste of their time. “The purpose of our meeting is to discuss your goal for building revenues as quickly as possible, given the disruptions to the market because of Covid-19”. We next go into an overview of the agenda. “Things are changing fast, so let’s start with a review of the current situation, then discuss your goals and how this fits into your overall strategy and then together look at some next steps, if that in fact makes sense”. We are referencing change is taking place, hinting that whatever they were doing before may not be what they need to be doing now and here we are to help them make that adjustment. We want to understand their needs in the context of the direction for the firm, so that we can tailor what we have in our solution to match that direction.

Finally, we mention the solution creation will be a joint effort , where they will have some ownership of the crafting. Again we underline we are not going to be pushing any square pegs into round holes here. To show this is a joint effort we then ask, “What else would you like to add to the agenda?”. This is a very critical step, because they will probably have something very specific in mind, which will take us quickly beyond the generalities we have been mentioning.

Once they have added to or accepted the existing agenda, we have tacit approval to dive into asking them about their current situation. “Thank you, so let me begin by asking you for an update on where are the problem areas and barriers you are facing at the moment?”. We are now off to the races with our questions.

If we have a Japanese buyer in front of us, we should add an extra step and get permission to ask questions. “Thank you for helping with the agenda. I am not sure if we have what you need, but in order for me to understand if that is the case or not, would you mind if I asked you a few questions?”. In Japan, this is important because every buyer has been trained to receive a pitch from the salesperson, so being asked questions by lowly salespeople, can seem a bit uppity and rude to buyers.

How we start has a huge impact on how we finish, so mastering ...

09/01/20 • 12 min

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