How should sales professionals rework their content in the shift to virtual meetings? Cut down on the quantity of MS PowerPoint slides in your presentation.
- I suggest you present no more than 15-20 during a 1-hour web meeting. It is likely your attendees have been on video conferences most of the workday and may be video fatigued. “Death by PowerPoint” is a meme and should be avoided. Each slide must be evaluated as to their value to the meeting and all non-essential slides should be deleted, I use the “so what” test on every slide and bullet item. Each is meaningless unless they are tied to your value proposition. Brevity is supreme, especially in a virtual meeting. An agenda slide should be included and it should be validated at the beginning of the meeting.
- Stories are effective, both theirs and yours. People like to talk about themselves and their company and this should not be discouraged in the interest of time. Your stories should include customer success stories and should be specifically chosen for each meeting, so that you do not present any that are irrelevant to the buyer.
It’s harder to detect some of the non-verbal signals I used to observe in the meeting room. Can you give me some creative ideas on how to detect engagement?
- Add more probing and questioning to keep the attendees’ attention. Encourage the attendees to participate more by occasionally stopping presenting and asking thought-provoking, open-ended questions. These could be about their current state and their desired solution. If they still do not speak up, keep asking them questions, but do not act like an interrogator. Their responses will also help you better assess the buyer’s level of interest.
- I use something called Steve’s presentation word meter. It is a fictitious invention I created. Its purpose is to count the words spoken by each person during a meeting. If the word meter indicates that the buyer’s attendees spoke more than 50 percent of all words during the meeting, it was likely successful. If the buyers’ spoke less than 20 percent, then it was probably sub-optimal. If it was under 10 percent, then it was probably a disaster. The attendees were just letting you speak, and they were not participating in the meeting. Their mind was elsewhere – but you did not know it.
- A mistake that I often saw salespeople make is assuming that they need to fill empty spaces during the meeting with their words; in fact, the opposite is true. You should be economical with your words during a web meeting and not try to “out talk” or talk over the buyer. Do not try to fill the silence with chatter.
What else should I do during the meeting to help my chances of moving the conversation forward?
- It is important that throughout the meeting you solicit verbal assurances from the attendees that they understand your value proposition. Thinking that they seem to be following or understanding you is not enough. They believe they are being polite by not saying they do not. Do not ask “does everybody understand what I am explaining?’ In that case, few people will say “no, I do not.” Instead, put it on yourself and say “Have I made myself clear?” Then, if they do not understand what you have explained, they will readily answer “no,” and you can try harder to provide a better explanation.
- Reinforce the important takeaways that were presented or obtained through questioning and conversation at the conclusion of the meeting. Repetition increases retention. What five things do you want them to remember from this meeting?
- Allow sufficient time at the end of the meeting to ask closing questions and define the next steps. I have seen many meetings run over the allotted time and then everybody leaves the meeting, or shuts off the video conference, without important questions being asked, such as “Did the meeting meet your expectations today? If not, why not?” and “Are there any reasons why you could not purchase our product or service?” It is more important to do this than completing the PowerPoint deck or even demonstrating a few more features. Bonus: there are no planes that you need to catch.
Adaptation is the key to re-calibrating your presentation. We all need to be continuously growing and adapting to new technology and new circumstances. Use Steve’s tips to help you take an objective look at so you can improve your next sales meeting. A special thank you to Steve for sharing his time and advice.