The Art of Persuasion in a COVID-19 World
By Greg Taylor, EVP of Business, Billups
Whether it is your role to sell a creative idea or media space, the art of sales has changed dramatically over these last few months. Until recently, we had been road warriors flying to meet with clients and prospects. We spent more time with Delta than we did with our families. Now COVID-19 has altered how we communicate and develop relationships. Here is a guide to operating now and in the near future.
The new normal has people thinking differently and doing business requires more empathy. People are going through tough times, and things that were important to them might not be as significant today. Take the time to understand what others are experiencing. Inquire about someone’s family and friends, and their overall health and well-being.
Master the (Zoom) Meeting
COVID created the Zoom meeting era. Virtual meetings have been around for years but were typically reserved for last-minute meetings, special events, and internal communications. Today everyone is using it and we must master the art of virtual meetings because in-person meetings and cold calling are dead (at least for now). Ensure that you are technically proficient in the use of the virtual meeting technology and that you have sufficiently internet capabilities. You do not want to start a prospective webinar with technical glitches!
Virtual meetings are all about engagement; you must bring more energy than you would in person and dress the part! It would be best if you took the time to have a background that looks professional; it should be clutter-free and not distracting. Remember, first impressions are long-lasting.
Keep it Simple
During personal meetings, we had more time to present, share our ideas and capabilities. We typically had one hour to meet everyone, present, and answer questions. In a virtual meeting, you do not have as much time. Try to shorten your presentation and maintain a quicker pace. It is always best to cut through the noise and clutter for attendees at home. Keep virtual meetings at 30 minutes or less to ensure success, attention and engagement from attendees.
The New Normal
Virtual meetings have now become commonplace for new business pitches in 2020. As we look towards 2021 with uncertainty, and the potential combination of the flu and COVID-19, it is possible this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Scheduling in-person meetings with large groups seems unlikely. Virtual meetings could become the reality and the power lunch, a relic of the past.
There will likely be unexpected business consequences from COVID-19. Many businesses have realized significant cost savings from having employees working from home (WFH). Therefore, this trend will continue in 2021, and preclude many in-office business meetings.
Travel and Entertaining (T&E) have seen dramatic reductions due to safety concerns and the shutdown of the US economy in early March. Airline travel has been non-existent, and entertaining large groups of business prospects with meals and social events is still not considered safe. Many businesses will continue to realize the significant cost savings reduced T&E provides, and may be less inclined to allocate significant budgets to these areas moving forward.
Perhaps, there are some positive developments in the COVID-19 world. We are not traveling hours and hours to meet with potential clients. We are not spending hours in an airport, which generally speaking can be a big waste of time and a difficult environment for productivity. We can spend this time studying, reading the trades, learning about new products and processes. And, we can be just as persuasive online as we can in person if we focus, follow some guidelines and be patient with our contacts.