Last year was especially challenging for sales professionals after in-person sales calls ground to a halt due to the pandemic. Many originators were forced to adapt to the new world of virtual selling — and fast!
For producers used to doing business face to face, lack of virtual selling skills didn’t matter as much during 2020’s robust refinance volume. But now, as mortgage banking shifts to a purchase money marketplace, virtual selling expertise is essential if originators want to generate new loan demand and referral business.
Sales professionals often favor in-person meetings over online sales presentations because they can easily build rapport with non-verbal cues as well as better read where a prospect is emotionally. Accomplishing this on a video conference call is more difficult. Technical glitches, background noise, phone and email notifications, and “Zoom” fatigue are other factors unique to video sales presentations that can hamper results.
So, how can originators level-up their selling skills in an online format? Here are five strategies to becoming a great virtual seller:
- Invest in the right tools to present online. High-speed internet, a professional microphone and a virtual background are basic requirements for online sales presentations. Spotty internet connections, poor sound quality and inadequate lighting are potential disasters when presenting to someone who does not know you. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a great impression. That counts for whether you’re meeting in-person or online.
- Shorten presentations and be on time. In the last year, virtual meetings have become commonplace so prospects are often attending multiple online sessions throughout the day. This means being on time and creating shorter presentations are critical. In the past, a 60-minute presentation was the norm. In a virtual format, an initial meeting should be no longer than 30 minutes and the originator should plan to end 5 minutes early if possible. This lets prospects know you value their time. Moreover, crafting a powerful presentation in 25 minutes requires more preparation including drafting insightful questions in advance. Winging it will not work in the virtual world. Plus, a meandering presentation not only fails to engage prospects but signals that the salesperson is unorganized and unprofessional.
- Build rapport virtually. Building rapport is still necessary during an online presentation but it needs to be structured and thoughtful. For example, if an originator has mutual connections with the prospect, the salesperson should mention whoever they know but keep in mind that this requires research before the presentation.
- Send materials in advance. If the salesperson plans to review a PowerPoint, it is important to send it to the prospect in advance in case either party experiences technical difficulties during the video call. Similarly, it is important to advise prospects in advance what will be covered in the 25-minute presentation. Turning off the self-view is another good idea because it keeps the focus on the prospect. Don’t forget to turn off smart phone notifications and silence incoming calls to minimize distractions.
- Schedule follow-up steps after the call. Setting up a next step is critical both in face-to-face presentations and online sales calls. Sending a calendar invite right after the meeting is an indication of an interest in moving to the next step. If prospects do not have a present need, failure to schedule the next meeting is a sign that they are not in the market to make a change.
One final consideration is to monitor the amount of time the salesperson listens vs. talks. According to industry research on best sales practices, when a salesperson and prospect are equal in speaking time, there is a higher likelihood of a transaction being closed. During an online presentation, one fatal flaw is for the salesperson to continue to speak after mistaking a prospect’s silence for interest.
Virtual selling is here to stay and originators who want to succeed in a purchase money market will need to master online sales presentation skills to connect with prospects and referral sources.