Virtual sales consultations are a new and important reality for in-home service providers. They allow sales to flow even when businesses, showrooms, and in-home selling are restricted or undesirable for some buyers. And while the heart and soul of the sales process remains consistent between in-home and virtual selling, there are some important considerations to keep in mind in order to make virtual consultations as successful as your in-person interactions.
At their core, virtual consultations are meant to close sales, but closing the sale doesn’t only happen at the end of the sales process when you ask for the business—it happens throughout the process and starts well before you fire up that video conference.
Remember the old adage about not judging a book by its cover? Well, unfortunately, clients can—and do—judge you by your cover, which in this case is the way you present yourself in the first few moments of your interaction with them, even if that’s in a video call. Yes, you can recover from a bumpy start, but it’s so much more powerful to make a great impression from the very beginning.
Here are five success tips to help you avoid the common pitfalls of virtual consultations that could rob you of sales. These tips will give you the confidence and structure you need to transform your virtual consultation from a simple conversation into an actual sale.
When you’re in a client’s home, you have the benefit of offering a tactile experience with the materials your client is considering. You can hand them physical samples to touch and feel and demonstrate three-dimensional features and functions.
When you’re running a virtual consultation, you don’t have those luxuries. To compensate, you’ll need to work harder to create more visual impact in your virtual consultation.
Visuals are essential. During your virtual consultations, you need to show pictures of your actual work. This includes a large repertoire of before-and-after photos and close-up product shots to convey the important details that you typically highlight through touch and in-person examination.
This preparation is about stocking your own visual content vault with all the things you may need to present. Give careful consideration to everything that you have ever shown a potential client: every sample you typically carry, every item in your physical portfolio, every brochure or magazine you use. What images do you have—or do you need to get—to represent that physical item in your virtual content vault?
If you don’t have a rich library of photos yet, your vendors and fellow business owners are a great place to start. Check their websites, and ask if they have content you can use.
While high-quality photos are important, keep in mind that homeowners are used to seeing candid, nonprofessional shots on social media and review sites, so the very best of your own photos or those taken by past clients can do a lot of the heavy lifting in your virtual consultations. Just be certain that every image you use is in focus, well lit, and clearly shows the product, method, or other aspect of the item or job that you want to highlight.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the image galleries available on vendor or supplier websites—they’re typically a gold mine of high-quality product images, staged on their own and also installed in inspiring settings.
2. Be ultra-organized
Sometimes a salesperson with a great personality or a highly effective sales process can get away with mild disorganization.
That’s not the case when you’re leading a virtual consultation. You have to be extraordinarily organized—particularly with all of the images and marketing materials you’ll need to use during your consultation.
You will lose your potential client’s focus—and respect—if you waste a lot of time leafing through your electronic files or clicking around a vendor website. You need to spend time organizing your images, web pages, and files—using folders, albums, tags, and/or bookmarks—in a way that makes sense to you and that allows you to intuitively and quickly navigate or search to find exactly what you need right when you need it.
Taking the time you need to get organized before your virtual consultation will give you confidence on the call and help you make that great first impression.
Part of the art of the virtual consultation is also getting used to navigating between connecting with the client face-to-face (through video, of course) and sharing visual content with them. In order to jump from images to brochures to website content and back to video without missing a beat—and while keeping the connection strong and the conversation flowing—you have to know where things are, and you have to become an expert in your technology platform.
3. Tame your tech
Technology should help you create the connection, not stand in the way of it.
Whether you’re starting off as a master of technology or getting into this as a novice, you need to know the ins and outs of the specific platform you’re using for virtual consultations. Naturally, as the leader of the meeting, you must be able to run the controls with ease—that’s non-negotiable—but you also need to be prepared to help your clients manage the platform on their side.
If they’re struggling with audio or can’t get their video to turn on, your meeting won’t run well. You need to know your video conferencing tool well enough to help them troubleshoot their issues and to suggest things to try if the standard setup isn’t working for them.
For example, what happens if audio usually streams over the internet but it’s not working for your client? Maybe their speaker volume is off or maybe the audio is working but it’s going to a Bluetooth device in another room (yes, that happened). Because there are so many variables, spending your precious time figuring out exactly what’s wrong is a waste if you know there’s a quick and easy alternative option: have the client dial in with their phone for the audio portion.
These types of details matter. They can save your consultation and make your client feel like they’re in especially good and capable hands.
You don’t need to be a technical whiz or spend a lot of time studying to make this happen. You just need to test it out. Run some mock appointments with friends and family members. Play around with the tech until you are familiar and comfortable with it.
Practice both as the leader and as a participant so that you can master the platform from both perspectives: as the leader who’s running the show and as someone who’s familiar enough with the participant experience to help clients resolve any basic issues that could get in the way of a successful virtual consultation.
4. Connect early
Being ready with your video on, lighting set up, background looking good, and desktop organized with everything you need open is essential to rocking your virtual consultation. Just as you wouldn’t speed up to a client’s home with only seconds to spare, sweaty and smelly with wrinkled clothes, you don’t want to jump onto the video call frazzled at the same time as your client. Give yourself some breathing room for possible tech issues, and use the extra time to get settled.
By logging in a few minutes early, you will be calm, collected, organized, and ready to win when your client dials in.
If you want to create a “wow factor” for your virtual consultation, log in to your video conference extra early, and then, five minutes before your meeting starts, call your client on the phone. Tell them how excited you are for your virtual consultation and then simply check in to see if they’re all set for the video call. This creates a low-pressure opportunity for them to voice a need for tech support if they have one.
If they don’t need support, you look professional and excited and can tell them that you’ll see them in a few minutes. When they join the meeting, you already start with positive vibes. If they do need support, however, you can stay on the line to help get them into the video call. It catapults your credibility right from the start and sets you apart as a helpful, supportive, and knowledgeable sales consultant. It’s a huge trust hack: simple but powerful.
5. Amp up the volume
Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, soft-spoken or loud, chatty or not, your energy level during virtual consultations has to be a little bit bolder than it is in person.
Over a video call—which is the backbone of your virtual consultation—you still have the benefit of facial expressions and some limited body language. However, just as you lose the benefit of three-dimensional product demonstrations, you also lose some of your own personal presence. To compensate, you have to elevate your energy and excitement a level or two over your natural state.
You shouldn’t hype yourself up to an unsustainable or overbearing level, but you do want to be excited and express that excitement (verbally and nonverbally) more than you might do in person.
Use energetic vocabulary
Don’t be afraid to talk with your hands
Make eye contact with the camera (not with your own image on the screen)
In a word, engage.
That authentic, enthusiastic engagement will help soften any of the little bumps that could show up at the beginning of a video interaction and will give you a solid start from which you can naturally flow into the stages of your sales process.
With a strong visual content vault to support you, confidence in your technical ability to run the meeting well, and the creation of a powerful first impression, you’ll be well on your way to building trust through a virtual consultation that ultimately leads to the sale.
About the author: Madeleine MacRae is the creator of FastTrack Sales Systems and the CEO of MM MacRae Coaching & Consulting, an international learning, coaching, and consulting firm out of Scottsdale, Arizona.