Web Conferencing Checklist

I spoke to an old compadre of mine that I’ve not seen for a few years the other night. I was delighted to hear his selling enthusiasm remain sky high, as he raced home to do a WebEx call with a prospect in a timezone 9 hours behind.  WebEx was the early player in ‘webconferencing’, deemed such a fine idea that Cisco paid $3.2bn for them a couple of years back.  Their kit enables any two people to look at the same screen, wherever they may be on the planet. It’s allegedly ideal for demonstrating software. He adopted WebEx in preference to Microsoft’s NetMeeting.

The benefit of this across continents was clear, but a throw-away aside he made about no longer wasting time by flying/driving a few hours there and back, especially to a prospect ultimately going nowhere, got me thinking.

My friend feels that 95% of his first prospect meets are now WebEx, coming from a base of zero three years back. Does this mean that complex solution selling is being turned into a telesales endeavour? And if so, then surely there’s huge ramifications?

It seems altered close routines now apply in my friend’s world. Web conferencing is an opening tool, rather than a closing one. Anything that aids qualification is definitely to be applauded. On the grounds that a top salesperson should always seek to qualify out at each stage, rather than stretch the facts to keep a deal on the forecast, the key issue revolves around what commitment you need from the prospect to continue.

Of course, solution selling is not about persuading people to do the unwanted. So perhaps the lesson to learn from the rise of webcam encounters today, is simply to qualify harder. Think more about what your preferred, or optimum, second meeting looks like, and laser in on making that happen.

If it’s a winner to have a series of discussions with lots of separate people in a number of different meeting rooms, then tee them up. If the next step is to create some kind of ‘champion test’ activity, then put it in play. If it’s to propose a statement of requirements (SOR) with the budget holder, then get crafting. Whatever it is, make sure that pre-meeting meeting works for you.

One of the many settings of video conferencing experience I have aligned with my friend here, is with software demos. It can be fraught. The best demo is always one where you show as little as possible. Indeed, I used to take pride in making progress towards the eventual order by only showing a single screen. An online forum renders this exalted state virtually unattainable.

I realise in current climes the pressure to avoid distant, speculative face-to-face trips is high, but I still think that video/web conferencing can often be used better to extract, rather than deliver information. It is a qualifier rather than a pitch medium. You should introduce yourself through it, not talk resolutions.

In summary, here’s a starting point of an outline checklist should you be about to embrace webconferencing:

  • detect where and how your sales process may change
  • pinpoint how a real world meeting and cyberspace encounter will differ
  • re-draw up your ‘next actions’ most likely to precipitate eventual success
  • re-assess your qualification criteria and routines
  • work on setting a prospect’s expectations more explicitly
  • ask existing customers if they’ve experienced the medium and what they thought of using it
  • if in account management, try out with a client first, on a non-essential task

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