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February 11, 2021

Virtual Meetings? We’re Making Virtual Heroes & Helping Them Grow Sales

Tony Treadway

Virtual Meetings article

When COVID slammed the door on business travel and trade shows, Creative Energy helped brands big and small begin their pivot toward fresh solutions as early as March of last year. We’ve learned and shared a lot in a very short time. We have helped our clients become virtual ninjas in front of their laptops. We’re building cult brands virtually and helping sales teams close more deals. But they may be wearing house shoes or flip flops instead of dress shoes. How? We will give you a peek behind the curtain.

Invest a few minutes and you’ll learn:

  1. How to Get Your Virtual Corporate & Personal Brand Game ON
  2. How to Connect to Sales Targets Virtually
  3. Getting More Out of Sponsoring A Webinar
  4. The Best Way to Score Big with Small Groups of Buyers

First, We Teach Sales Teams How to Get Their Virtual Game On

Selling to someone while staring into that silly red dot on a laptop requires skill that had to be honed. A year into a pandemic, we still counsel clients on bringing their laptops up to eye level, have proper lighting, know when not to check e-mails on camera, and yes, “Turn your mike on Bob!”

We have helped scores of sales teams master the art of logoed backgrounds and practicing endless hours on how best to represent their corporate and personal brands. No matter how great folks have been at one-on-one selling, virtual selling is something new winners must learn and master.

Replacing Trade Shows with Virtual Selling “Events”

Every company created its own policies regarding sales and marketing team travel during the pandemic. A year into the shutdown, most of those prohibitions remain. That means neither the salesperson nor their targets, are traveling to trade shows even if they still exist. Many corporate targets are working remotely. Sending them a printed brochure doesn’t work because they might not visit their office for months. Most buyers aren’t even taking sales calls. Instead, they are leveraging existing relationships or searching on their own for solutions online.

Videos instead of PowerPoint slides
We’ve replaced PowerPoint slides with video and graphics to share insights in virtual selling events.

The “new normal” became evident quickly. Trade publication websites loaded with insights were witnessing 300-500% increases in traffic. One-on-one meetings were being replaced by a virtual world driven by web browsers in a new home office environment. Meanwhile, most companies held on to budgeted trade show dollars with few alternatives for activating sales teams who too were sheltered away from customers.

Sponsored webinars became the next alternative. Registrations soared from 100 to 1,000 attendees in a matter of months since potential buyers had time on their hands. Millions of employee hours continue to be spent surfing from one webinar to the next in search of fresh ideas. They are looking for a few nuggets of insight that might help their company’s recovery from the pandemic. Webinars are great for building awareness and capturing leads but lack the intimacy of a salesperson speaking directly with a customer to solve a problem. Sifting through hundreds of leads who have varying interests in buying a product or their authority to make a purchase can be daunting in closing a deal.

“Smaller is better when you can master the art of target recruitment…”

Our approach was to work with trade industry publication editors to pre-qualify small groups of 6-10 targets as “share groups.” Geographic separation among regional companies who don’t directly compete is one of our criteria. Their expressed interest in addressing a particular challenge with urgency and the authority to buy are others in recruiting targets for a share group.

Trade Publications
A respected trade publication editor moderates the discussion in this share group as a third-party expert who controls the flow of discussion.

Smaller is better when you can master the art of target recruitment and matching convincing and valuable insights and solutions that are delivered in a “roundtable” environment.

We strategically pepper these new share groups with our client’s best sales team members. They must be smart, know when to speak and when to listen, and have the charisma of an insightful problem solver – not a salesperson.

To set the stage, we opted to bring a bit of showmanship to the game. We traded endless PowerPoint slides for gorgeous videos with graphics, stunning product photography, or quick interviews of peers who are using one of our client’s solutions. We invite experts to share their insights based on respected third-party data or recognition for overcoming a challenge. Ten minutes into the event, we call for breakout sessions.

Chef Charlie Baggs
Chef Charlie Baggs serves as a spokesperson from a breakout session reports back to the share group on their 10-minute “findings.”

These breakout sessions are smaller groups of three-to-four people who have 10 minutes to discuss ideas for solving a shared challenge to their businesses. Each breakout team reports back to the full group to share each team’s idea. The breakout session includes a member of the client’s sales team to further build the selling relationship. A salesperson will hear a target customer’s pain points that might not be shared with the larger group. This learning in multiple 10-minute relationship-building experiences is powerful in closing the sale.

Targets within these smaller groups can speak up and share their own insights instead of simply listening. It is the most important element that makes this a brilliant way to sell.

Another tactic we use is to invite a C-level member of a target customer to serve on a panel of “experts” to discuss the problem. These executives add value to the experience with their own real-world experiences that might shed important learnings. This works great because those reporting to the c-level executive who frequently has the true buying authority want to be part of the shared group experience.

What Does Success Look Like?

For our most recent share group event, the results were crazy good. One absolute “yes” for purchase and two very strong purchase inquiry phone calls to salespeople by targets within an hour of the event’s sign-off. That’s out of six targets. Those are great odds for closing large volume sales!

Using video rather than still images
Replacing boring still images with a beautiful video of pouring maple syrup over a breakfast solution is a secret to showcasing a client solution.

From an ROI perspective, the client built more high-volume buying relationships in a couple of hours than it might have done in days at a trade show. No travel, no late-night entertaining, or trade show booth to erect and take down.

We’re Still Re-Inventing the Wheel

This virtual selling thing continues to evolve – and will continue long after the pandemic subsides. We will see a mixture of smaller live events that are streamed to other locations and fed to others who have registered or been recruited. There will be fewer conventional booths and more live or streamed demonstrations. Expect more small group breakout sessions where challenges meet solutions. Sales staff will be smarter in their preparation because they will know who they are pitching instead of an endless stream of passersby on a trade show floor. The future will see deals closed either with an in-person handshake or a virtual elbow bump.

What will remain from today’s virtual environment will be increased reliance on video. These videos will share insights or product demonstrations that can be reused after the virtual event. You will cut those videos into smaller digestible pieces and use them in e-mail marketing, on LinkedIn, and through trade publication e-newsletters.

Lastly, there will be new platforms for selling that supplement sales teams and trade events. These will be mobile platforms that will offer value to a target for downloading an app while offering products to be purchased in an e-commerce environment.

Managing the Moving Parts

There are a lot of moving parts to pull off what we do for our clients to set the stage for virtual success. It requires the talents of strategists, videographers, techs who know the advantages of a Zoom® vs a Microsoft® Teams platform and how to “run the show.” If you need some help in pulling off sales successes for your company in the middle of a pandemic, we’re ready to share our expertise.