Picture the scene (and for those of you in a happy relationship, this may take some doing). You’re single and looking for love, so after much cajoling from your friends, you’ve signed up on a dating site. After reviewing countless profiles, you click on one that takes for your fancy and, after swapping a few emails, you decide to meet up for a drink.
Bang on time, your date walks through the door, introduces themselves and sits next to you. So far, so good. They then go and ruin what might have been an enjoyable evening by talking incessantly about themselves. The monologue seems to go on forever – how successful they are, how popular they are and how even their exes think they’re pretty marvellous.
Sounds like the date from hell, doesn’t it? Well, that’s how most sales presentations feel for prospects – sales people not letting you get a word in edgeways, dominating the conversation with how wonderful they and their business are.
Now take this same dating scenario but this time, limit it to a phone call. You can’t even demonstrate your frustration through your body language, let alone read your date’s. There is, of course, one saving grace – you can avert your attention elsewhere (jumping onto social media and letting rip at the friends who got you into this situation in the first place might be a good place to start), giving the caller the odd ‘hmmm’ and ‘interesting’ comment so as not to be rude. The lights are on but nobody’s home.
That’s how most sales pitches feel using an online meeting tool - absolutely no connection between presenter and audience. What results is a tug of war between an overly enthusiastic presenter and an isolated audience…and nobody wins.
This would be bad news if the use of online technology played a small part in sales today but the reality is that selling using remote meeting software is now the weapon of choice in many sectors. One statistic from the US states that 80% of corporate presentations are now delivered remotely. If the majority of them deliver this sort of experience, we’re facing a huge problem of missed opportunities, confused and/or bored audiences and legions of frustrated presenters.
At this point, you might be thinking that this is all very interesting but it doesn’t apply to you as you’re not in sales. The reality is that if you’re presenting, you’re selling. Now, it may be that you are selling an idea to a colleague, promoting a new process within your team or sharing results from an activity. Whatever the content, your objective from every presentation will be to prompt a change from your audience (and if it isn’t, ask yourself why you’re presenting in the first place!). Like it or not, by sparking a shift in your audience, you’re selling a concept to them.
While technology has provided us with some extraordinary benefits in our personal and business lives, it has yet to truly bridge the gap between human beings. We’ve yet to see an app that delivers feelings of trust, warmth, rapport and true engagement for the simple reason that these are human emotions. They rely on humans connecting.
It’s not all bad news – far from it. When used properly and with due preparation and careful consideration, technology can be an incredibly efficient platform upon which to build engagement...but it does rely on humans being actively involved. Passive use of the technology will get you nowhere. And hiding behind technology is the worse sin of all – you’re simply wasting everyone’s time (including your own).
In short, viewing technology as a tool and not a means in itself is a good place to start.
I recall the first formal sales training I ever undertook. It was decades ago so tools like PowerPoint and remote presentation software were nowhere to be seen. Instead, we relied on old school ‘presenters’; printed folders that told a compelling and persuasive story that highlighted the benefits of our product over the competition. These ‘presenters’ would include pages of desk top published ‘slides’, newspaper cuttings and grainy product shots – this was a million miles away from high-tech. We were truly presenting in analogue. But before we even got close to opening up our presenter in front of an audience, it was drilled into us that we needed to build rapport. We needed to ‘connect’ with the audience as early in the sales process as possible, for the simple reason that the trust needed for a prospect to sign on the dotted line would never materialise if there was no warmth or engagement between both parties.
Obviously, the sales process went deeper than merely getting along with the prospect. A salesperson’s job is also to provide valuable content upon which the audience can determine the benefits of the solution…but it all started with rapport.
Rapport + Valuable Content = Trust = Better Chance of Closing the Deal
Things have moved on since the days of the analogue presenter and technology seems to play an increasingly important part in the sales process. Most times, this is a force for good but on occasion, the tail can end up wagging the dog. For example, many Sales Enablement programmes obsess about technology platforms while forgetting the basics of strong audience centric messaging and easy to use tools. As a result, a scary number of Sales Enablement initiatives fail to deliver a Return on Investment for this simple reason – they’ve forgotten the basics.
Don’t let your remote presentations suffer the same fate.
We need to apply fresh thinking to the way people approach remote presenting. All presentations, sales or otherwise, start with a connection between presenter and audience so dismiss the importance of rapport at your peril. Take time to plan and rehearse it and make it part of your normal presentation preparation process. The good news is that tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and GoToMeeting provide a really powerful and efficient platform to build rapport and make presentations valuable to both audience and presenter…they just need to be used correctly and with due respect for the ‘non-technical’ aspects of the engagement.