Written by Sean McPheat |
Boosting Sales With Personal Connections in the Virtual World
“People do business with people. Companies don’t solve problems. People do.”
The quote from Shep Hyken, a customer experience expert, effectively sums up the human nature of business relationships. Yes, customers buy from brands, but the driving force behind all sales is what is behind the brand – its people. The more relatable and human a brand is, the more likely customers are to buy from it.
In the virtual world personal connections might be a bit trickier to establish. After all, transactions take place from behind the screens. Interactions between businesses and customers are often limited to faceless shopping carts and a digital communication or two at best.
So how can businesses relate to their customers on a personal, human level when they don’t get any face-to-face time with them?
Here are some ideas that might help establish some personal connections and, subsequently, boost sales even in a virtual setting.
Ok, there is no need to attend spy school, but a little research into your customers’ background can yield some crucial information. That, in turn, can get you a bit further in the personal relationships game.
“You can make virtual connections more personal by including personal information that’s relevant to the person you’re talking to, “ says Doug C. Brown is the CEO of Business Success Factors. “For example, if you search for someone on LinkedIn and see they studied at a particular school and it’s relevant to the conversation you’re going to have with them, then mention it. That’s a point of connection. The same thing goes for other conversation points too, whether it be about family, a geographical region, sports, etc. Selling virtually and effectively is all about personal, relevant, and humanized communication.”
Now, that is not to say that all information is up for grabs. Keep it professional. Something that can be easily discovered through a company’s website or on professional networks, such as LinkedIn is fair game. Digging deeper into clients’ personal social media posts is not. Knowing the line between research and stalking is important. Same goes for excessive use of personal information. Connecting with a customer over his or her alma mater, as in example above, can start a casual conversation. Mentioning various facts you learned on the internet in every communication will make you sound like a creep.
In a face-to-face setting open body language or a hand shake done the right way can make a big difference in making that personal connection. Digital interactions take away some of that non-verbal, physical communication. Additionally, we can’t “feel the room,” anymore either. So how can we communicate the three big Es of personal communication – engagement, empathy, and energy?
First of all, be prepared. Running a virtual sales meeting can be tricky. Get ready physically, by ensuring your energy level is up and you’re ready to engage. Know the information you need, as you would an in-person situation. Prepare relevant questions that can help the sale by finding out the customer’s needs and pain points. If using video media, such as Zoom, employ tactics to deliver that personal communication touch.
“First impressions are important when establishing a conversation virtually,” says Mark Cameron, Business Development Executive at LiveHelpNow. “You need to make sure you look into the camera, preferably at eye level. This makes the other party feel you are engaged and helps start a more personal conversation. Another important thing is to smile. Human brain perceives visual cues before audible, so eye contact with a smile is a great way to start a meaningful and personal conversation.”
Chip Massey is a former FBI hostage negotiator. A special agent turned business consultant, he knows some really interesting ways to build instant trust. He explains it like this: “Hostage negotiation is all about convincing, not negotiating with the hostage taker to move a gun barrel off the head of the hostage and surrender peacefully.”
These convincing skills can lead to making a connection. Massey believes that that can work with customers as well and offers the following techniques to make personal connections that can help boost sales.
“You do this in a hostage situation by labeling emotions and it works just as well in the sales world. People want to be understood, so even if you guess wrong, your prospect will correct you with the emotion they are feeling at the moment. With this in mind, sales people can build relationships faster and create more meaningful connections with their prospects.”
Three Magic Words Technique
“Take the last three words a person says or just the three most important words he or she has said and parrot them back. This will show that you are dialed-into what they are saying with intensity and focus.
If you use these two techniques effectively, and patiently wait for a response, most people will reveal more about themselves. You then will get a deeper understanding of their intrinsic motivations [and build a meaningful, personal connection].”
Everyone likes a story. Storytelling is as old as humanity itself and for a reason. It creates a bridge between people because they connect through relatable experiences. Using stories makes communication feel more human, therefore creating that important connection. Think about some commercials that you just can’t stop watching because they just tell a good story. Or last time a cashier made a good joke. These are examples of strategies that encourage customer engagement.
In the virtual world, storytelling is as important. In some sense it might be easier to deliver. After all, people spend a lot of time in the virtual world seeking entertainment. Storytelling can satisfy that itch for a juicy story. Of course, there are many ways to employ storytelling online. There is one way that can kill two birds with one stone and that is customer success stories. Creating content based on customer’ experiences and then delivering those stories to wider audiences can help create personal connections with potential customers and solidify those with existing clients.This can also help humanize the brand, show real-life results to future customers, and make customers feel special, cared for, and important. Moreover, the relationship the customers build while interacting with the brand deepens customer loyalty.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to storytelling is that the stories you tell must be relevant to your audience.
“Make the story relevant and informative to this specific customer, as they are more likely to see themselves in the same position as it relates to their business,” says Louise Denny, Head of L&D of MTD Sales Training. “Stories, then, make your presentations rise above the boring, fact-based, tedious pitches that many salespeople submit their customers to. If you can tap into those parts of the brain that your customers use to imagine a better future, you create reasons for them to see that future in a way that involves your solution.”
As the post-Covid world reopens the way businesses and customers connect might still be changed forever. With digital communications here to stay, it is important to learn how to make personal connections in the virtual world. Because, people do business with people. And it feels right, they will become loyal customers.
Originally published: 7 June, 2021
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