Let’s get right to it — there are elements of the sales process that are wonderful on video and others that aren't. So the idea of doing an entire sales process from beginning to end while utilizing video may not be the best approach. To effectively use video to sell, you have to incorporate the right elements of video during specific points of the sales process.

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There are three major milestones within the sales process — opportunities entering the pipeline, discovery and qualification to determine the opportunity’s viability, and the active selling required to close the deal.

Although we can have a five, 10, or 20-stage deal, those three areas of activity are well defined for most sales transactions. As a salesperson, you know when you’re prospecting. You know when you’re having discovery calls and qualifying. You know when you’re working a deal. So let’s limit ourselves to those three main activities and discuss how video selling works in these areas.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Video While Prospecting

I do not agree that video prospecting is a viable way of prospecting, and I’ve yet to see data show me it is. Let’s talk about why video isn’t valuable during the prospecting process.

First, the paradigm between buyer and seller during the prospecting stage doesn’t translate well on video. While a buyer and seller are getting to know each other, there are often two things happening — the salesperson is striving to be liked, and the buyer has intent they are not yet ready to reveal. In this situation, the salesperson’s desire to be liked can come across as inauthentic. From the buyer’s perspective, they are likely feeling hesitant to reveal intent early in the sales process. This is because when a buyer reveals intent to a salesperson, they feel more vulnerable to being manipulated into buying something they may not need.

In this scenario, have one person who is overeager and wants to be liked talking to a person who is guarded and doesn’t want to share. Adding video in this scenario can enhance the negatives of both sides. The rep can easily come across as too enthusiastic and animated, and the buyer could feel uncomfortable by the introduction of video too early. For these reasons, I do not recommend jumping onto a video call when prospecting.

While you’re still in the prospecting stage, I recommend sticking with phone calls and emails until you move to the discovery stage. Once you reach the discovery stage, video becomes very useful.

Let’s discuss why video works well for discovery calls.

Why You Should Use Video During the Discovery Process

Though the widely-cited statistic stating 93% of communication is non-verbal is up for debate, we do know cues such as facial expression and body language add valuable context to any conversation. These context cues are not available to us via email or in phone calls. During the discovery stage where we are actively working to build a relationship with the prospect, this is when these context cues really come into play, making it a good time to begin introducing video.

Chances are you’re used to speaking on video with people you are already comfortable with. Compared to these feelings of familiarity, hopping on video for a discovery call can feel awkward.

Here’s why I encourage you to stick with it.

We are moving into a time where video chat is becoming the norm. We have likely all been on more video calls this week than we have in the previous decade. So now the request for having a conversation through video is easier to sell because it’s happening more often.

With more people working remotely, relying on email alone to communicate can negatively impact your ability to sell because your message can easily get lost in the shuffle. Currently, I’m working out of my home office and have had to replace my normal world of interacting with customers, prospects, and business partners face-to-face from my living room. I can’t do my job on email all day — I need to be able to see the people I’m speaking to, and I bet you do too.

Here is some advice for making the most out of your discovery conversations via video:

1. Shorten your calls.

When managing the discovery qualification process, it is important to dramatically shorten your discovery calls.

If you normally ask prospects for a 30-minute call over the phone shorten it to 10 minutes when requesting to meet over video. If you typically ask to speak for an hour over the phone, aim for only 15 to 20 minutes on video. Why? Because you want to use frequency more than length when selling on video.

When meeting in person, you can have a bigger impact on people by spending more time with them. But on video, your conversations should be replaced with shorter, more frequent interactions. The frequency of your appearance will have more of an impact when connecting remotely than how much time you spend talking to your contacts.

2. Use video calls to break up the day.

Part of what makes video so powerful for discovery calls is the venue change phenomenon. To understand venue change, let’s walk through an example of the average person’s day working in an office.

When you go through your day, you constantly are experiencing the world through a different view. One minute you’re taking a call from your desk. Then later, you may move to another location to get some administrative work done. After that, you may head to a meeting in a conference room. Later in the day, you could have a colleague stop by your desk and ask you a question.

With all of these events happening in one day, your memory helps catalog different moments. Not just with what you learned or the details of your conversations, but also with the different locations and changes of scenery. So the more frequently you're changing a venue the easier it is for you to retrieve things from memory.

However with more of us now working from home, including your customers and prospects, we don’t have venue change helping us catalog the various events of the day.

Many workers are now spending their days in one spot. Two o’clock in the afternoon looks exactly like 10:00 am. Thursday looks like Tuesday. When this happens, the brain has to work harder to retrieve memory and process information. When you have a lack of change you start to stagnate. That's why at the end of an eight-hour work from home day you are way more tired than you used to be. You’re tired because you're asking your brain to work twice as hard due to the lack of venue change.

We're going to help that with video conferencing with discovery calls that are shorter in duration, and held on a more frequent basis. These video moments that you have with your prospect are going to anchor the conversation to a higher level of importance, because you're the one different thing that we're looking at throughout the rest of the day. It helps break up the day for both you and the prospect, making your conversations more memorable. That alone is a good reason to use video for your qualifying conversations.

Advancing Opportunities and Closing Deals with Video

As we move towards the end of the sales process, let’s discuss advancing opportunities.

Pursuing more opportunities doesn’t automatically equate to achieving more sales. When it comes to selling on video, yes, frequency matters (as we discussed previously) however you can’t sacrifice quality for quantity. In today’s business climate, it is important to engage with customers who are ready to take decisive action.

I'm spending my day talking to prospects who have decided they want to implement a solution to their problem. While they're not all going to do it with me, they might do it with our competitors or with their own in-house solution, they're making changes either way. They're tired of watching and waiting.

I would argue video is most effective when it is time to advance an opportunity. This is when you practice video calls of high frequency, and low amount of time (please do not schedule 30 to 60-minute video calls). Then when you get into the iterations of managing the deal, you can move to other modes of communication. You can manage the opportunity on phone, email and chat, which is after qualification, and then reintroduce video when you ask for the sale.

Let’s recap.

The evaluation discovery call and early touch points determining the best course of action should be done on video. For the in-between stage defining terms, get out of video and focus on other modes of communication. Then when it comes time to close, reintroduce video for the final conversations.

Video is going to be a permanent part of our toolbox as salespeople, and I'm excited for that. Because we haven't had an opportunity in sales to have anything new and exciting in a long time.

Above all, it is important to have some empathy for your customers. They’re likely working from home, and engaging with someone they don’t know likely isn’t on their agenda. You are not a part of their priorities. Someone they don’t know wants to get them to buy something new they’ve never heard of before. If you were them, would you want to take that call? Keep this in mind as you approach your sales conversations.

Remember, sales is not about us. It's about our customers. As salespeople we're merely the catalyst for change. We're not the change itself.

The question we have to ask ourselves is not "What can I do to showcase my products and services in a new productive way in this environment?" It is "How can I, in this environment, help people feel comfortable and heard?"

Your priority should be to learn and listen, not to pitch. When you remember that sales is ultimately about your customer, choices around video get a lot easier. For more guidance on video selling, check out one of our upcoming webinars at Hoffman.

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Originally published Apr 20, 2020 7:30:00 AM, updated April 20 2020

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Video in Sales