It’s 2020 – if your business isn’t already using virtual meetings to speak with clients, you might be missing out on valuable opportunities.
Video conferencing tools have been the cornerstone of remote communication for quite some time. Whether it be a conversation with a coworker in a different office, or a value demonstration being given to a hard-to-reach prospect, the ability to connect virtually has opened up a world of opportunity for businesses across the globe – especially those with scattered customers.
Sure, it’s a nice touch to travel from Chicago to Houston to take a potential customer out to dinner, and doing so every once in a while to maintain the relationship can be beneficial. However, if you did that with every customer touchpoint within the sales process, you would basically be living on an airplane and have no time to focus on any other work or clients.
Tips for virtual client meetings
While we use virtual meetings internally on a regular basis, there is an added layer of pressure for them to go smoothly when it involves a customer. It’s difficult to give a virtual meeting the same personal touch as a face to face meeting, and it’s going to require extra effort. Here are eight tips you can implement to make sure your client meeting goes as smoothly as possible.
Make sure the meeting is necessary
We’ve all been to a meeting that could’ve been summarized in an email instead. Nobody likes their time to be wasted, and if you want to maintain a meaningful relationship with your customers, you’re going to need to respect their time as if it were your own.
The first thing you need to do to run a successful virtual meeting with a client is make sure that the meeting itself is actually necessary. Screen fatigue is real, and you want your customers to be excited about your business, not dreading the discussion because they’re sick and tired of virtual meetings. Before scheduling a client meeting, look at your sales tools, such as your AI sales assistant, and see where you are with the client in their customer journey. Ask yourself if the content could be summed up in an email or discussed over the phone. There’s nothing wrong with moving forward with a virtual meeting, but be careful not to overload the customer’s calendar.
Choose the right technology
No virtual meeting can exist without technology.
There are numerous video conferencing solutions on the market, and while plenty of them have the same set of features (audio and video communication, screen sharing, chat boxes, recording options), the options available and user interface might make or break your virtual meetings with customers.
With the right solution implemented, it’s crucial that you first make sure you have all of the kinks figured out well before your virtual meeting. You want your customer meeting to run as smoothly as possible, and to make sure that happens you need to identify any issues beforehand. Run a test meeting with a coworker, and then a friend or colleague at an external business. Any problem you can think might present itself, have a solution ready at hand. There will always be things you can’t control, but it’s important to be as prepared as possible.
Pick the right setting
A simple yet effective tip for running a virtual meeting with a client is to carefully choose the setting in which you hold it on your end. If you decided that holding the virtual meeting was necessary, it’s likely that there will be discussion involved, and you don’t want to miss out on anything because you were in a noisy environment.
Within your home, find a quiet, carpeted room (hardwood floors can tend to make meeting audio echo and difficult to understand). Sit in front of a neutral background so the meeting goers on the other end aren’t distracted. Make sure the lighting in the room isn’t too bright that it’s a bother, but not too dim that it puts everyone to sleep.
Again, some things are out of your control, like random family members entering the room or a loud plane flying overhead. But preparing in every way you can will make the situation all the better.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Some people might think that because you aren’t standing physically in front of your client, it relieves some of the pressure. While this may be true, this in no way means you shouldn’t prepare. If anything, you should put more effort into these virtual client meetings – it’s harder to woo someone through a screen than in person.
If you’re qualifying a customer to see what solution might be best for them, make sure you have all of your lead qualifying questions and pain point discussion topics ready to go. Or if you’re giving a product demonstration, you really are going to need to nail those value statements.
Another part of preparing for a virtual client meeting is determining who should and shouldn’t be involved. Be picky with your guest list. Virtual meetings often involve some awkwardness and a lot of interruptions. Don’t invite people from your business that aren’t essential to the conversation.
And of course, consider things like how long the meeting should take, varying time zones (and keeping the meeting within everyone’s work hours), and any potential technical issue you might run into.
Make introductions when necessary
It’s possible that you’ll be including someone in the virtual meeting from your business that the client hadn’t met yet. It’s also possible that you’ll get wrapped up in moving things along and following your predetermined schedule that you might neglect introductions.
You don’t want the client sitting through the whole meeting wondering who the random person is sitting in on the discussion.Remember to make all necessary introductions right at the beginning of the meeting. Tell the client who the other members are, why they are here, and how they will be involved in their customer journey. This way, as others start to chime in, there should be no interruptions regarding who that person is and why they are here.
Remember that it’s a virtual meeting
In a face to face meeting, it’s a whole lot easier to pick up on facial expressions, nonverbal cues, and body language. The same does not go for virtual meetings. When conducting a virtual client meeting, remember that some things might not be picked up on the way you had hoped, and vice versa.
Again, a lot of open questions might lead to people interrupting one another, apologizing, and then interrupting each other again once the dust has settled. As the seller, it’s your job to lead the discussion and direct questions towards specific people. Instead of just saying, “How do you feel about the proposal?”, say “How do you feel about the proposal, Jessica?”
We are surrounded by a world of distractions, on and offline. The last thing you want is to miss a question that was directed towards you. Especially when it’s coming from a client.
Staying focused in virtual meetings is crucial, and more of a challenge than doing so during in person discussions. Turn off notifications, close other tabs on your computer, and put yourself in an environment that will help you focus. Most importantly, stimulate your active listening skills. Focus entirely on the person who is speaking. To show that you’ve been paying attention and maybe get some clarification if you misunderstood something, summarize someone else’s point before responding.
Last but not least, you need to make every last part of the virtual client meeting engaging. The introductions, the small talk, and the business discussions. Your clients are humans too, and they are also at risk of getting distracted during the conversation. Or even worse – bored.
The last thing you want is for your customers to be dozing off when you’re pitching them your business. If they aren’t intrigued, they aren’t buying. Keep it informational, but make it fun, too.
Get with the times
Organizations all over the world are using virtual meetings in the digital transformation era to communicate internally with colleagues and externally with customers. While both groups require effective communication to gain and provide value, discussions with clients need to be handled a bit differently. Implement the tips above to close deals from the comfort of your home, office, or wherever you sell best.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 in Chicago, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)