Build Credibility in Your Virtual Pitch

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The world has undergone dramatic change in a few short months. With social distancing in place for the foreseeable future, many professionals have had to adapt how they do business. For some people, delivering an important sales presentation is one of them. What does it take to be successful selling in a virtual environment? Your format may have changed, but solid sales principles remain the same, and establishing strong credibility is essential. However, some find building rapport and maintaining their composure—two key elements of credibility—more challenging in the virtual environment. Here are a few simple steps to help you deliver a winning pitch even when talking to a 14” screen.

Composure

Knowledge of your products and services, your industry and your customers are critical to your credibility. But did you know that your composure also factors into your credibility? Being a little nervous on a sales call is normal, but that feeling may be heightened when you’re managing an important pitch in a virtual environment. When pitching virtually, you have software, a camera and microphone, and maybe even your kids and pets in the background. With all of that going on, you might find yourself getting flustered. Try these composure builders to set yourself up for success.

Prepare: Lay out your virtual environment ahead of the meeting. Plan how you will easily access each tool or application at the right time. Do a dry run of screen shares and demonstrations with a colleague to identify any problem areas before your meeting. Consider investing in a dual-monitor setup which will give you extra space to have everything open and visible at the same time. If you don’t have a second monitor, there are several apps available that can turn your tablet into a second monitor.

Practice Out Loud: Record yourself delivering a practice pitch. This simple step is one that many people skip, but it can make a big difference in how confident and composed you’ll feel. Even a single, out-loud run-through helps. You can try Microsoft’s new Rehearse with Coach feature available in Office 365 PowerPoint Online.

Breathe: Shallow breaths can make you feel and sound nervous. Proper breathing is important to your voice control and your sense of calm. Relax by focusing on deep breathing before an important call. I like the 4-7-8 relaxing breath. Inhale through the nose for four counts, hold for seven, and exhale for a count of eight like you’re blowing through a straw. Do this just before you call into your video conference so that you look relaxed and ready when you appear on the screen.

Rapport

A virtual meeting inherently lacks some of the social intimacy of a face-to-face meeting. We can’t converse on the way to the conference room. We can’t see the customer’s entire work environment—often a source of rapport-building small talk. We’re restricted to the time and technological space of the call we’re in. But there are things you can do to boost your virtual connection.

Use Your Camera: Whenever possible, schedule calls on a conference platform and use your camera. Ensure your camera focus is clear and zoomed in to a point where it is easy to see your facial expressions. Position the camera as close to eye level as you can. If you’re using your laptop’s built-in camera, this may require setting your laptop on top of a riser or stack of books. Look into the camera and imagine it’s a person with whom you are making eye contact. Resist the temptation to watch yourself on video. To the degree possible, simultaneously watch the facial expressions and body language of the other callers.

Manage Your Non-Verbals: In a face-to-face meeting, we are usually aware that others are watching our non-verbal communication. But it’s easy to forget we’re being watched in a virtual setting. But your non-verbals still matter.  Sit up straight, smile, and nod. Body language matters in building rapport. Move naturally and deliberately, but don’t overdo it. Too little movement can look cold and stilted; too much can be distracting. And remember to dress professionally (even if only on top!)

Leverage Social Moments: It’s easy to recognize the social opportunities in a face-to-face meeting. You make small talk on the way to the breakroom for coffee. You close warmly as you turn in your visitor badge on the way out. Conference calls also have these opportunities.

Arrive early to the call and warmly greet people as they join the meeting. Make small talk as the call settles in, just as you would if you were setting up the physical conference room. If a participant’s dog barks or their doorbell rings, reassure them that the disruption is no problem. And close the call with sincerity and warmth. A wave and a smile is the new handshake. Send participants off with a genuine smile and wave, and watch others follow your lead.

Composure and the ability to create rapport add to your credibility. There’s no need to let technology get in the way of keeping them a vital part of a virtual sales presentation.

 

Vital Talent is an organizational learning and performance firm based in Raleigh, NC. We help our clients succeed by providing results-focused solutions in the areas of leadership and professional skills development, talent management, team and organizational effectiveness, and communication and conflict management.
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