10 Ways to Crush It When Pitching Remotely
Selling virtually is a little different than in person. It’s time to optimize your process for our new remote work environment.
By Dan Cohen, Partner and Director, Product Management and Gareth Griffiths, Growth Director, BCGDV
Always Be Closing: The “ABC” of sales. This golden rule is as relevant today as it was when David Mamet, (referencing his own Pulitzer-prize winning play), wrote the line into the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross for Alec Baldwin to say.
In our new virtual home-working world, however, perhaps where sales activity is concerned we should now go by “ABZ”: “Always Be Zooming”. Any interactions with a potential client will for now have to be conducted through the occasionally temperamental video conferencing solutions we’ve become intimately acquainted with since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
As we all become more comfortable with these conferencing solutions, and we become used to seeing our colleagues in their casual clothes, sitting at their kitchen tables in front of piles of laundry, and frequently being interrupted by their children, perhaps we might get to a place where the concept of pitching and being pitched to through digital tools feels natural and normal. In the meantime, here are ten tips to help smooth the transition to a virtual sales cycle. If everybody not speaking can please go on mute, I’ll get started.
- Setting up your environment: The most critical element for a smooth pitch is that everyone’s voice can be heard and understood. Ensure that you are in a quiet, interruption-free environment and that your connection is good. Close all software not needed for the pitch. Turn off other connected devices in your house and, unless there’s some network requirement to be on it, disconnect from the VPN. If you have a poor wifi connection, or are tethering via 4G, you should not present. Connections cutting out or slow responses may be difficult to avoid, but by checking the set up and having back up presenters for each section the pitch can continue if any one person disconnects.
- Setting up the conference: Get the virtual meeting room up and running at least ten minutes before the pitch starts to ensure everything is working well. Make sure you’ve read any relevant guides and are familiar with how to how to get the most from your video conferencing platform of choice. If you’re using Zoom, set the pitch to Record and Transcribe so that you can capture Q&A and also watch the pitch back later to help the pitch team continually improve. It is good practice (and GDPR compliant) to mention that the pitch will be recorded to the client for training and distribution purposes. If clients object to that, then have someone capture notes of the Q&A for later reference.
- Who’s saying what, when: Nominate an MC who is in charge of the pitch and who is responsible for passing the baton between speakers. Set up a Slack, Teams, or Skype chat for the pitch, and have a support person prompt the next speaker that they are up soon so should unmute ready to speak. It is vital to have one person as the MC who can ask others to reply or comment to avoid everyone talking at once. Besides the MC, having one main presenter for the majority of the content works very well. Others cutting in to comment sounds unprofessional, even if their point is relevant. Ending slides or sections with “does anyone have comments?” can be an effective way to address options and thoughts, especially if the team pre-agree on the Slack channel who will be the first to comment.
- Introductions: As usual, the meeting will begin with everyone introducing themselves. However, there’s no “let’s go round the room” when we’re not physically in a room. Agree beforehand on an introduction order so that everyone knows when to speak, and if clients are joining in have the MC ask them to introduce themselves one at a time and in order.
- “Sorry, I dropped off”: At any point any speaker could drop out. Therefore, everyone must be able to cover everyone else’s material where possible. If someone has a poor connection and drops out, they should not try to take over speaking again. On the same point, having dropped connection and re-joining with “I am back” does not help with the flow.
- Making yourself heard: Any defect in speech or particular mannerisms are far more noticeable than in person. E.g. ‘umms’, ‘aars’ and ‘you know’ are very obvious, and mumbling is terrible. Using speakers who have very expressive voices works well. Flat or monotone voices? Less so.
- Getting the deck right: No videos. At all. Ever. Playing videos over a Zoom broadcast absolutely does not work. If it’s critical the audience see it, distribute it in the post-pitch pack (see Tip 10). In the deck, be aware of colour contrasts and remember that low fidelity viewers looking over bad connections won’t see the beautiful images as clearly. Having the presenter’s video turned off works far better as the audience has to concentrate on the slides, and it also saves the presenter’s bandwidth for screen sharing. The content must be specific and personalised for the client. Using generic or vanilla content is far more noticeable when you are not able to see the presenter. Any complicated diagrams do not work well, so would need to be split out into a drill down to extract the meaning on a separate slide.
- Who’s pressing the button?: Having someone else (not the speaker) control the slide transitions is bad. The speaker needs to tell them to change slides, which is basic and sounds less professional than in person. If it is necessary, closing the slide with a summary of the slide content can be used as a subtle nod to the slide transition controller, rather than saying “next slide please”.
- Handovers are critical: The follow on speaker must be ready and unmuted before they need to speak. Each speaker really needs to know their slides. “I think that’s the last slide” comes across poorly, and “that’s the last slide. Oh it’s not. Sorry!” shows a lack of respect for the client in terms of preparation. In addition, any speaker not knowing that they are up next and starting with “oh this is me” will be picked up by everyone watching and reflects badly.
- Wrapping up and closing out: The wrap up needs to be very concise. Questions can and would go on forever, so they should be directed at one or two individuals whose opinion we most want to hear, not opened to the general population. The MC should be the one to direct the question at one person to answer to avoid everyone chipping in at the same time. After the pitch is over, distribute the deck with a list of the questions that were asked and answers that were given, taken from the auto-transcription that Zoom offers. This is also an opportunity to distribute any video content and hi-res versions of the deck that didn’t show well over Zoom.
This “new normal” virtual world is affecting everyone equally, so expectations may change and comfort levels with remote working will change with them. We confidently predict that sales operations will adapt and learn how to pitch and convey complex messages over this virtual medium. Follow the pointers above and you’ll be in a good place to start optimizing your process to win business in our virtual era.