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How does a virtual sales demo work during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic?

How does a virtual sales demo work during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic? Blog Feature

Marcus Sheridan

Keynote Speaker, Author & Partner, Author of ’They Ask You Answer”, Presented 250+ Sales, Marketing, & Communication Workshops Worldwide

May 19th, 2020 min read

Two months ago, very few health care professionals were doing telemedicine.

Today, medical practices across the country are using video to connect with their patients from the safety of their own homes.

On top of that, right now, millions of school children are having class on Google Meet.

Such are the ways that COVID-19 (coronavirus) has affected industries far and wide.

Before this, nearly every industry resisted moving to virtual sales — that is, having meetings between sales reps and prospects over video calls — preferring face-to-face meetings and deals sealed with a handshake. 

But now, every industry has to adapt to a new normal. 

I had a meeting recently with the CEO of a highly successful wealth management firm. He said to me:

“Marcus, my sales team over the last month has realized that we don't have to go to the golf course to close deals.” 

Think about that for a second.

Now, they’re doing virtual selling instead, and their business is exploding. 

In the COVID-19 world, we can still build relationships with our customers, establish trust, and close deals. We just have to do so over video calls. 

My pool company, River Pools, is living proof that this transition can be a positive one for your business. In fact, River Pools is one of the first swimming pool builders in the country that is doing virtual sales appointments — and this puts us way ahead of the game. 

How could anyone possibly buy a pool online? 

The in-ground pool industry has as many barriers to online selling as any other industry out there.

When you think of pool construction (or any major home improvement service), you likely picture walking around your location with a professional, planning details, taking measurements, and talking through options and cost. 

We serve everywhere within a three-hour drive of our location in Virginia. That means that our sales reps are on the road a lot, going to meet customers in the evenings to talk about their options and see their property.

So, how can this be done online?

At River Pools, we’ve fully embraced the virtual selling experience, to the greatest extent possible. COVID-19 has only intensified and furthered this development.

Have a self-scheduling tool on your website

First things first, it is crucial to the successful rollout of a virtual sales initiative is having a self-scheduling tool on your website. 

When somebody has the ability to schedule time with a sales person on their own, on your website, instead of calling your store and setting it up, the conversion rates are higher, and the average sale is greater. 

Our friends at Yale Appliance (an IMPACT client) use a tool called Acuity Scheduling to help their customers schedule meetings. 

It really just comes down to removing friction.

Anything you can do to make the sales process easier for the customer, you should do it, whether or not COVID-19 is forcing you to.

Use video for instruction

From there, help your prospect prepare.

The first thing River Pools did, as the coronavirus pandemic widened, was to produce a video that instructed homeowners how to properly photograph their backyard.

One of the biggest reasons we needed to have meetings at the customer’s home is to see the elevation of the land, trying to anticipate construction details.

But if the homeowners could send the information to us through photos, we could get what we needed without trekking out to their location. 

By the time the Zoom call happens, they’ve already seen the backyard, so both the sales rep and the customer are well-prepared. 

Plus, now, instead of having one sales meeting a day, often after hours, our sales reps can have two or three Zoom calls. 

We’ve done more than 40 of these calls in the past month.

Getting started with virtual sales demos

In a recent interview for our website, a friend of ours who works in the metal analysis field said this: "You can get 90-95% of the way to a sale just by showing the product on camera." You just have to embrace the platform.

Until COVID-19 hit, the manufacturers of the high-end equipment he sells required that product demos to be done in person. 

Now, they’re seeing that video calls can be nearly as effective. 

I believe an experienced sales person can become adept at virtual selling in less than 30 days. They just have to embrace the platform and utilize its strengths. 

And it starts with just turning on your webcam.

Establish the behavior with your team

Your sales reps will need to be coached to orient themselves, their camera, and their light source so that they present a pleasing, well-lit display.

I’ve heard of more old-school salespeople choosing to keep their camera off for these calls, but it is vital that they use the camera.

A video call without the video does not have the same immediacy, connection, and warmth. 

Video is the tool that builds connection, much more so than audio. In fact, studies have shown that simply having your video on can boost close rates by 10% or more.

Get them comfortable by starting out with this practice internally.  Have them use video even when they are doing their everyday team meetings. 

Then, it’s important to compose your background.

There are thousands of Zoom tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere that can give you tips and pointers about lighting, sound, and positioning.

You can let your sales reps explore these on your own, or you could pick one or two and ask them all to watch and respond.

Either way, it's important to establish best practices. 

Getting started with virtual sales demos

Industries that profess to be more ‘relationship-driven’ have been the ones most resistant to using virtual sales tools in the past. However, video calls allow for more frequent contact between a business and a customer, and we all know that video is an excellent tool to build trust.

There's no reason why, in a few video calls, we can't experience the same magic we do with face-to-face opportunities in person.

Relationships are built over time, and virtual tools allow you to instantly connect with your prospects (and to do so more frequently).  

The first step to any new initiative is building consensus. The COVID-19 pandemic has likely convinced your sales team that face-to-face selling is simply not possible now or in the foreseeable future. 

In this new landscape, you must use the tools you have to get work done and grow your business. 

Once you make the leap, you’ll find yourself questioning why you didn’t do so sooner.

Already, the sales reps at River Pools are saying Why would we ever go back to the way it was before? Why would we go back to all that travel time? Why would we go back to the old inefficiencies?

COVID-19 has caused the way we do business to jump ahead in time. I had imagined that virtual sales demos would become more prominent over the next five years, and by 2025, most businesses would be doing them. But now it’s as if those next five year have flown by in a matter of months.

So, what happens now?

Many organizations will find that 12 months from now, they're going to be doing at least 50% of their selling virtually. In-person face to face sales will never go away, but their importance will continue to diminish. 

I know there are a lot of sales teams whose work has been scaled back. A lot of them are scared, but a lot of them are also more receptive than they've ever been to new ideas. So now's the time to get started with virtual sales demos.

There are fewer barriers than you think.

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