Today’s modern reps move to new companies and roles every few years (or less). With this ever-shrinking sales talent lifecycle, enablement feels increased pressure to maximize productivity. That means finding better ways to focus and deliver readiness efforts (like training or coaching) when, where and how the sales force works.
Virtual selling isn’t easy.
Far from it.
When meetings turned virtual earlier this year, sellers had their work cut out for them. And while they were transitioning to online, mistakes were happening left and right.
However, we’re now several months into virtual selling and slip-ups are still occurring. I’m not talking minor fumbles. They’re awkward and embarrassing for both sellers and buyers.
We recently heard from buyers who shared some of the most uncomfortable moments they’ve experienced while being sold to virtually. These are FRL (for real) moments, so bad we couldn’t even make them up.
If you’re a virtual seller, do yourself a favor and follow the tips following each encounter so you don’t make the same mistakes.
7 Cringeworthy Virtual Selling Mistakes to Avoid
- Beware of your background (and music)
- End your call with a bang, but not this kind
- Know how to make an exit
- Save the waterworks
- Listen to your sales coach, not your spouse
- Leave the acting to the actors
- Share your G-rated screen
1. Beware of your background (and music)
During a recent presentation on Zoom, something out of the ordinary caught this buyer’s attention.
“There was background music playing Cardi B’s WAP with a twelve-year-old twerking on the floor.”
Before the start of any sales meeting, let others know that you’ll be on a video call (not music video) and minimize home noises. If there’s not much you can do about it, consider getting noise cancelling headphones so buyers aren’t distracted with anything happening on your end. It’s also wise, especially in this seller’s case, to invest in a green screen and start using a digital background.
For more tips, review the virtual selling checklist to ensure your audio, video, lighting, and background are on point.
2. End your call with a bang, but not this kind
Many professionals are not only working from home, but also dealing with children being homeschooled, spouses or roommates working under the same roof, pets, and other distractions at home.
Tensions are high. Especially in this household during a recent Zoom:
“A woman’s two young sons started fighting behind her. She made no move to stop them until one of the boys punched the back of her head by accident. She went ballistic and turned off her camera.”
Similar to the resolution above, find a quiet space away from any war zones.
3. Know how to make an exit
When sellers transitioned their meetings to online, many scrambled to get familiar with video platforms like Zoom, GTM, and others. While it felt like muting and unmuting was a top challenge for many, one buyer shared how a seller struggled with another essential feature during a recent Zoom meeting.
“Everything was going great. Those of us on the call were excited about the service and the seller seemed excited to work with us. Once we were done talking business, a few of us stayed on the call to socialize. However, the seller must have thought that they signed off after they said goodbye to us because they said, ‘well that was a waste of time’ to someone else in their room.”
As you might have guessed, this deal didn’t go forward.
Accidents happen. Do yourself a favor and avoid this deal breaking mistake by making sure that you actually click “leave” when you sign off of a meeting.
4. Save the waterworks
Desperation turns people off. Fast.
Whether you’re communicating in-person or virtually, it’s important for sellers to use good judgement when sharing information.
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen for one seller.
The buyer said the call started off great, but then took an unexpected turn.
“He started talking about his sick mom. His eyes became teary, telling me how much he needed the money. I couldn’t tell if he was bluffing or it was a marketing strategy just to close the deal. It was so awkward.”
Save the sob stories and don’t come across as desperate. Of course, authenticity is important, but oversharing in this way is unprofessional and inappropriate. If you’re having a tough time or tough day, consider moving the meeting. Finally, it’s ok to want the sale, but it’s not ok to need the sale. Desperation (real and fake) is a tactic that doesn’t work.
5. Listen to your sales coach, not your spouse
One of the five roles of a sales coach is to advise. They provide suggestions and also know when to offer direct advice.
During a recent sales call, one buyer noticed the seller had someone giving them feedback, but it wasn’t the coach you’d expect.
“I was inquiring about a piece of software to help streamline our processes with a SaaS organization. The man was doing well, and we were having a good chat about the software, our concerns, and pricing. Then out of nowhere, his wife gets involved with the conversation and is giving him feedback, out loud, about his selling strategies. Things like ‘I think you need to be firmer with your price’ and ‘Nope, that price is too low.’ It was really uncomfortable, and he clearly felt it as well.”
This is yet another example of why you should be in a quiet room alone. Occurrences such as this are unprofessional and can damage relationships with buyers.
And if you really want to make it clear that you’re busy and on a call, signal Do Not Disturb to others around you.
6. Leave the acting to the actors
If you’re trying to create lasting relationships with buyers, you know the importance of building rapport. There are many ways you can connect with people.
However, one buyer shared an example that isn’t recommended.
“The worst thing a seller did to me on a virtual sales call was to point out that my name is similar to the actor Christopher Walken and proceeded to conduct the pitch while doing his impression of the movie star. It was unprofessional, the impression was bad, no sale. If you’re going attempt an inadvisable pitch strategy at least do it well.”
What you think is funny and what amuses other people doesn’t always match up. It's best to be yourself but remember to adjust your approach depending on what you know about the other person.
7. Share your G-rated screen
At some point the time comes for every seller to deliver a presentation. For some this may be a demo of your product or capabilities, or to share a new approach to solving a problem. It could also be later in the sales process as you propose a solution.
Delivering sales presentations that are engaging is key to success. One buyer shared that another key to success is being mindful of what you’re sharing during your presentations.
“Apparently the seller I was on a call with liked to use his computer for activities other than work. We got to a point in his pitch where he shared his screen with me. As I was looking at it, I noticed some of his tabs were of a personal nature.”
Before your presentation, close out of all tabs on your computer that aren’t relevant to your discussion. The last thing you want to do is share your screen when tabs that might be viewed as inappropriate or simply unprofessional are visible.
While most mistakes we come across are minor, these are downright embarrassing and could have easily been avoided. Learn from these mishaps and avoid other common virtual selling mistakes to impress buyers and stand out from the competition.
About the author: Erica Schultz is author of
Not Today: The Productivity Code Revealed (forthcoming) and Chief Marketing Officer at RAIN Group, a Top 20 Sales Training Company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching, and reinforcement. RAIN Group has helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 75 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential.