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Can Online Meetings Really Help You To Close The Deal? Part 2

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Laptop, on line business dealEarlier this week we brought you the first installment of my Q&A Session with Mark Jones who is Head of Learning & Development at MeetingZone Ltd.

MeetingZone specialise in unified communications, web conferencing, webinars and conference calls – and I met with Mark to discuss how these methods can help the average sales person save time and close more sales.

Sean: So how do you increase audience engagement, which is key when talking with prospects and clients – and how can virtual meetings and virtual presentations achieve this?

Mark: This really comes down to a number of key points.  I will outline these below, but owing to the detail and complexity that each possess I will hone in on the main points only.

The biggest reasons why demonstrating products and services fail is down to several important elements:

The Message – poorly thought out, not logical and too much information

The Deck / Presentation – poorly designed too wordy and lacks impact.

The Delivery – monotonic voices that lack inspiration, belief or passion

A lack of understanding about the features and functions of the meeting tool being used.  WebEx, Google Hangout, Fuze etc…

The Message

When designing a message to engage your audience you must take the perspective of what does the customer need / want to know in order to make a buying decision, namely:

The product? What is it for? What does it do? What are its benefits?

What pain or problem will it solve for me? What is the value to me and my organisation?

What is the cost? And here I don’t just mean the bottom line. I am also referring to the cost to the company regarding resources.  How many IT people, project managers, and support people will I need to implement it. 

Does the person I am speaking with fill me with a sense of belief?  Namely, is this person filling me with confidence that this company can really deliver what I am asking for.

Having observed this on so many occasions, if the answer to any of the above questions is in doubt by the customer, the chances are you won’t get the sale.  This is why the structure, its relevance to the audience and the language used is so vitally important.

What about the Deck / Presentation

For many of us PowerPoint is both a blessing and a curse.

On average 30 Million PowerPoint presentations are created daily.  What I find startling about this figure is not the size of it, but the fact that this number was the daily average 13 years ago.  So what is it now?  To be honest nobody knows.  I certainly don’t but of those 30million and there are going to be good presentations and bad presentation.

So what is a bad presentation? A bad presentation, is filled with worthless and meaningless C.L.I.P.A.R.T (Crass Little Inserted Pictures Always Rubbish and Trite).  Are filled with bullets, are dull and boring lack personality and deliver far too much information.

Sean: So what is your idea of a good presentation?

Mark: Good presentations are incredibly visual, and use what is known as Visual Cognitive Dissonance or VCD. Visual because the content is highly relevant to the audience and visually tells a story to a point, cognitive because each slide makes no sense until the speaker or presenter narrates over the top of it, and dissonance relates to the intrigue surrounding the message or story that the slide tells you which initially is incomplete, hence you feel the need to know more.

Add to this the correct language, presentation style, animations and relevant message and you’ve got the makings of a first class presentation that engages the audience and closes deals.

The Delivery

I wrote a blog 6 months ago now, called “Love What You Do and Do What You Love.”

In this article I speak of asking the right questions and seeking the right answers.  Presenting to an audience on a product or service that you either have faith in or believe in, will speak volumes in a very short space of time, in as little as 30 – 40 seconds in fact.  Your opening statement in an online meeting has to show confidence, belief and credibility.  If it doesn’t you will for the remainder of that meeting or presentation be on the back foot and fighting a losing battle.

So if you are delivering a presentation using an online tool, go in with a script.  I write scripts for many of MeetingZones customers and each contains a certain level of consistency.  However, delivering it in this scripted style, every time not only grabs the audiences’ attention, but it tells the audience that what they are about to hear has been thought through, considered and planned meticulously.

Planning, preparation, as well as rehearsal, mean everything.  You have to know what is coming next in your presentation upon every single click and yes, on occasion people lose their way.  So, here are some useful tips to help you:

1. If for any reason you plan on using multimedia, make sure that it is rewound and cued up ready to go.  If the file is large it is probably best to run it from a DVD rather than to wait for the data to buffer. If this is a face to face presentation.  If you are streaming the content across the web this requires a little more thought and consideration.

2. When working with figures don’t use specifics 76.4% is roughly ¾ so use this instead.

3. If you forget what you are going to say, as this does happen more frequently than you think, simply advance to the next slide.  Nobody need know and the flow will be sustained.

4. If for any reason the slide that you put on screen makes perfect sense to the audience you will probably need to consider one of the following options post presentation:

– Build it slowly in a different way

– Change it / redesign it

– Delete it.

5. Rehearse your presentation to the point that you know what is going to happen and when upon every click of your mouse button or remote.

6. As and when necessary use the power of the ‘Pause’ to best effect.  When people feel an awkward silence they often feel compelled to fill it with nonsense.  Instead use it to your advantage.

7. Whatever happens do not apologise.  It undermines the work and effort that you have put into your presentation.

8. Never criticise your own presentation.  I recall attending a major law firm webinar recently where the guest presenter opened with, “Sorry about the quality of the slides I just threw something together over the weekend”.  I call this the ‘blame syndrome’ this is incredibly unprofessional and sets a very clear expectation to the audience that very little effort has been made.  It also gives the impression that you do not care about your audience or possibly your role in your company.

9. If talking about money or earnings off topic, changing the frame of reference can sometimes sound more appealing e.g.  Saying £2.4m per annum says £200k each and every month.

10. If you use figures at any point during your presentation never, under any circumstances contradict them.  Make sure that all figures are consistent from start to finish.

11. In any presentation situation make sure you always have a backup plan in the event of something going wrong.  Laptop fails (take two with you), remote fails (take spare batteries)

12. The topic of hand-outs is somewhat controversial.  As a presenter myself, I want to manipulate the message and my audience to best effect.  This is harder to do if you print out the entire presentation ahead of the event.  So use them only as an afterthought to support your audiences’ ability to recall your presentation.

13. Whether you host a presentation face to face or online, always debrief or conduct a survey so that you can tweak your presentation and become better and better.  Alter the content, make changes but always strive to perfect it.  Presentations are an art and a science.

A Lack of Product Understanding About The Tool Being Used & Its Features

One of the key differentiators for any individual presenting is knowing the message you wish to convey and how you are going to use the features and functions within the chosen tool Cisco WebEx EventCenter™ or Google Hangout for example, to best effect in order to convey it.  Do I wish to capture feedback from the audience using Chat?  Do I want to use Q&A? Do I want to use specifically designed slides that promote interaction?  Do I want to use video?   Do I want to share my screen, an application or document?

At MeetingZone we offer training to all clients free of charge.  The support collateral, presentations and other content I have designed, is branded to the requirements of each and every customer through the use of specifically designed templates.  This not only aids our success but our customers as well.  We have been hugely successful and services such as this have enabled us to go from being number 54 in Cisco’s Partner list to number 4 in just 18 months.

So, knowing your product inside and out is so important to the delivery of a smooth and compelling presentation.  When engaging with customers on this topic I help them to become the best that they can be, as poor experiences will hinder not just our client’s brand but our brand too.

When you understand all of the core controls, as a presenter, your levels of both comfort and confidence will grow exponentially.  It’s important however, to set yourself a reasonable timeline to learn these new skills.  Don’t try to rush it.  These skills are not something that you simply pick up overnight they will require some time and effort.

Presenting is an art.  Presenting online is a science, by that I refer to the fact that it requires a certain approach and methodology because of all of the elements involved.  There is no set formula and if there is then I would recommend.

E = M C ­­2    Where E (Efficiency) is equal to Meetings * Conferencing Squared.

The more of them that you host the better you become.

This Q&A was held with Mark Jones from MeetingZone. He is more than happy for you to get in touch to discuss any aspect he has covered above or in Part One and you can connect with him on LinkedIn here

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How To Persuade The Customer To Make The Correct Decision

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hypnosisIt’s often considered that the ability to be able to persuade someone to make a decision is a key skill in a salesperson’s armoury. For many, it means that you can sell something that maybe the customer hadn’t thought they needed and in many circles it can be an added advantage.

But we need to be aware of the crossover points. By this, I mean there are boundaries that people have in their minds that enable them to protect themselves against being forced into something they don’t really want to do. It’s important to know those boundaries so we don’t overstep the mark and make the customer feel pressured into making decisions.

There are three levels at which we can have an effect on other people, and they are influence, persuasion and manipulation. I’m sure you know the difference, but a quick reminder is always helpful!

Influencing something or someone can be thought of as being ‘passive’ in its actions. A marketer will use mailshots, brochures, radio and tv adverts, posters, newsletters, blogs, and suchlike to make people aware of their products or services. The reader, listener or viewer will now be aware of the product and will be able to make up their own minds as to the value of it to them or their business. To influence is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something.”

How can you ‘influence’ someone effectively? Well, the subliminal signals you give can have a big effect. Your greeting, the way you portray yourself, your professionalism or your approach can passively make someone take a decision. Doing something for someone else may have an effect on them through the law of reciprocity. They feel they have to repay in some kind.

Influence is passive and non-forceful, but works because people don’t feel under pressure and can make the decision themselves.

The next level is Persuasion. This can be defined as ‘the action or process of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something.’ This is obviously more ‘active’ in its nature, and means the salesperson is using more force themselves with the customer.

The dictionary defines it as ‘creating belief in something through reasoning’. Other words used can include convincing, compelling, eloquence, effectual, plausibility and credibility.

This conjures up the idea of being able to get your own way while treading on and over others. However, when done effectively, and in conjunction with influence, it can work in a sales environment because it allows the customer to make the right decision for them after weighing up all the options and encouraging them to think through the best alternatives for their future.

Being able to persuade through influence is a key skill, as the customer feels they are still in control and have the ability to ask questions, reason on things, think rationally as well as emotionally and not be forced to make decisions they might regret later.

The third level of effecting others can be seen as Manipulation. This is the action of forcing someone in a clever or unscrupulous way, getting what you want by ignoring or harming others’ desires. Manipulators use charm, persuasion, coaxing, and misdirection, and are often brought to mind when jokes about forceful salespeople are discussed.

As suggested, manipulation forces people into a decision that they may regret later. Being told by a salesperson that this offer is only open for today could make a person feel they have little or no choice is they want to take advantage of the product or service. When choice is effectively taken away, people feel pressured to make decisions and this pressure and stress can have an adverse affect on the way they determine the choice, both during and after the event.

So, what does this mean to us in sales? Naturally we should consider the customer’s position as we are discussing the options they have available. MTD Sales’s research has shown that a mixture of up-front, passive, direct influence followed by clear, two-way, affiliative, conscious, open persuasion is the most effective form of discussion, as the customer feels they are making decisions right for them or their business, without the pressure or being forced into something they may regret later.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Sales Interactions | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Can Online Meetings Really Help You To Close The Deal? Part 1

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Virtual handshakeNowadays there is more pressure than ever before to meet or speak with as many prospects as you can and to optimize your time more effectively. 

I recently met with Mark Jones – Head of Learning & Development at MeetingZone Ltd, who specialise in unified communications, web conferencing, webinars and conference calls.

I met with Mark to discuss how the above methods not only save the average sales person time, but also help them to close more sales in the process.

Sean: What tools and technologies are available for the modern day sales person to help them “do more” with “less”?

Mark: Currently the Unified Communications (UC) market is worth several billion a year globally and there are many UC collaboration tools on the market.  On occasion at MeetingZone we see new vendors pop up here and there.

That said, the main market leading solution is still Cisco WebEx with a little over 51%  of the global market but other solutions include Fuze, Microsoft Lync, Goto Meeting and Google Hangout to name but a few.

What’s great about these solutions is that owing to the inter-connectivity that each of us has globally.  Very few people on the planet are now unreachable.  We have wireless devices such as the Tablets (iPad and Surface), Smart Phones (iPhones, HTC, Samsung), faster, smaller and lighter weight Laptops.  There may even be a few PDAs kicking around too.  However, each of these devices merely offers the sales person with the tools to connect with a number of people simultaneously, and each is capable of running many of the above collaboration solutions whilst on the move thanks to dedicated internet connections like 3 & 4G.

The challenge comes in knowing what to say in order to engage your audience using these technologies and how one can leverage social media effectively, in order to get their message out there to boost attendance and credibility to said event.

Having the right solution and technology is one thing, but knowing how to use it correctly to engage a prospect … now that’s something else.

Having decided on the right solution, the next challenge a sales professional will face is knowing how to go about conveying a compelling message that grabs the prospects attention and or can help the sales professional potentially close the deal, and that comes down to the solution that you are using, its features and functions.

Sadly, it’s not as simple as just launching an event via your iPad or Laptop and inviting a few prospects.  It requires a great deal of consideration, thought, planning and a shed load of marketing.

You have to know how and in what way that message will take shape and what tools and features will I need to use, to convey that message effectively.

Do I want my audience to interact with me? If so how? How can I provoke the right emotion in the prospect to make them buy? How can I trigger pain? How can I solve their problem and communicate it effectively using this technology? Thus, tilting the prospect towards buying.  How do I get them to hang on to my every word?

Webinars are seen as being the new marketing, by many.  If done correctly, the results can be incredibly affective especially if the way in which the webinar is positioned is compelling and touches on the nerves of your prospects and gives the prospect a good reason to attend.

All of the technologies mentioned above are capable of delivering what I speak of.  Prospects can join a meeting from anywhere, and all they need is device with a dedicated internet connection and a reason to join your compelling event.

However, the above technologies don’t have to be used to deliver meetings and webinars, I speak with clients almost daily on how they can do more with less and regularly I offer tips and advice on using WebEx Enterprise Edition; for example, to deal with day to day business activities such as:

  • Meetings
  • Recruitment
  • Remote Team Management
  • Sales Team Management
  • Training
  • CO2 & Organisation Carbon Reduction
  • Webinars and Product Launches

Sean: Is there any research to suggest the time savings or effectiveness of the methods that you have just covered?

Mark: All of the above technologies offer organisations a huge opportunity to enhance and make radical changes in day to day productivity.  Most of the above solutions, for example, will run from the web, an iPhone, an Android device or a tablet.

Meetings can be accessed whilst on the move.

You can use these technologies to reduce the carbon footprint in your organisation significantly which is ideal for a company with a green agenda that wishes to enhance its brand.

That said there are additional cost savings in the form of reducing out-of-pocket costs for communications services such as telecom and cellular bills and hosted audio and video conferencing, and for related expenses such as travel and office facilities.

Potential annual savings range from £1.6M to over £4.9 million per 1000 employees.

Consolidating communications infrastructure to lower operating costs by replacing multiple diverse and dispersed legacy products with the integrated functions of the new UC solutions means there is a potential annual savings are in the range of £300,000 per 1000 employees.

Leveraging human capital by supporting individual productivity; workgroups and collaboration and managing unforeseen risks with enterprise governance and secure communications means there is a potential annual savings combined range upwards from £1.2 million per 1000 employees.

The fact that we are so interconnected with each other and through the development of presence capability, we are now better positioned to conduct meetings online with voice, video and file sharing; which negates the need for travel and thus gives us the ability to respond to situations using this technology in the blink of an eye.

However, we must tread carefully.  With all of this technology, nowadays, it is very easy to feel that there isn’t much of a need to travel beyond the realms of our homes and/or offices in order to meet clients, unless it absolutely necessary.

Whilst this may be the truth for many employees and organisations alike, we must never lose sight of the fact that face to face customer interaction on all levels; in person or remote, is always going to be an essential part of the sales process.

Ultimately this technology enables us to make the best use of our time and our prospect / clients time, we are still productive, effective, save time and save money. So using these solutions more is a win win for all involved.

Next time Mark will be discussing how you can increase audience engagement through virtual meetings and presentations, so stay tuned to the MTD Sales Blog for Part Two later this week

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)



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Here’s One Way To Inspire Your Sales Team…

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Five business executives cheering in a board roomSales meetings are those events that can make or break a salesperson’s day.

When they are encouraging and inspiring, they can build you up for the whole day and have you motivated to become the salesperson you really can be.

When they’re dull and negative, they can set the scene for your performance for the same day. Sales meetings can therefore lay the foundations for the performance of the whole team.

During our sales meetings, we do the obvious bits and pieces that are needed to update the sales team on how we are doing and which direction we need to go. But I have used a simple question to kick off many of our meetings that not only drives a great discussion; it also creates the motivation for the rest of the day.

I have found meetings tend to focus a lot on the negatives of results or what we haven’t been doing well, or what we need to do in the future. By changing the focus of the start of the meeting, it gives a boost and sets the scene for a framing a positive experience for all.

The simple question is “What are we doing right?”

This can often be greeting with silence, grunts or knee-jerk reactions like “Nothing!”

But if you position it correctly, you can get some really positive stuff.

For example, starting with something like:

“We’ve been there or thereabouts against target all quarter so far, and had some really good leads come through, along with an improvement in customer feedback. I know it’s still pretty tough out there, but, all considered, it’s going pretty well. What do you think we’re doing right at the moment? What’s happening that’s getting us these results and what can we learn from it?”

This will help shape more positive comments and focus on what is good rather than what’s not.

It’s a simple but effective way to start a meeting that will get everyone focusing on what is going well rather than the opposite, and should elicit some good discussions as to the direction you and the team should be following now and in the future.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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How To Deal With A Stall In Negotiations

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BWhen you get to a point in the conversation with a customer where you have to negotiate on price or some other issue, remember one thing: the vast majority of negotiations occur because you haven’t identified the value of doing business with you earlier in the conversation.

I have found that if you uncover the needs, wants, desires ad motivations of customers early on, the whole aspect of having to negotiate starts to change. Because you are aware of how the customer will value your offering before you present ideas, you know exactly where you may need to give more than take. Negotiations most often occur when the customer has not had all their needs dealt with, or the value of your offering has not been built up enough before presenting solutions.

Having said that, it may well be that you get into a negotiating scenario that requires you to give and take. How do you know exactly what will be important or valuable to the customer?

Well, it may be that the two most powerful words in any negotiation are “What if?”. Using this question works because it allows the other person to consider possible solutions without committing to them. This way you can avoid making an offer before they have signalled a willingness to accept it.

To put this technique into action, suggest a possible solution by saying, “What if our solution involved distributing to other warehouses? Is that something that might work for you?” Then listen closely to the response, and change the suggestion if necessary, remembering to phrase it as a hypothetical (”What if?”) and not a formal offer.

Don’t commit to a solution before confirming that it works for the other person. Ask, “What if?” to test ideas before making formal offers.

A good way to prepare for this stage might be to ask yourself what combinations of options would make an attractive solution to both you and the other person. Should you present options independently or package them as one solution? Also, ask yourself whether you, personally, are willing to accept the solutions you’re suggesting.

It’s important to position this technique in the customer’s mind before you try it out.

Saying something like, “We’re probably not ready to commit to an actual solution yet, but I have some ideas that we could discuss to see if we can get closer here. Would you like to hear them?” would allow the customer the chance to see if there were options that would be satisfactory to them.

The objective of this technique is to get the customer to see how different approaches might or could work for them, and offers opportunities for them to test out hypotheses before making decisions.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Negotiation Skills | Tagged , | Leave a comment