15 pro tips for crafting a winning virtual sales pitch

L-R: Sam Davidson, Joanie Griffin, Mary Abbajay, Mark Fidel, Matt Bratlien, Ryan Simonetti, Ryan MacLaughlin, G Mitch Bruhn, Jay Feitlinger, Janis Mackenzie, John Miller, Fred Westerlund, Matthew Johnston, Lori Daugherty, Michael Akin

The Business Journals Leadership Trust
By Business Journals Leadership Trust Expert Panel®
Business Journals Leadership Trust is an invite-only network of influential business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs in your community.

With most of today’s sales pitches being done remotely via video conferencing and phone calls, businesses have had to adapt to not seeing customers in person. Many sales teams have reevaluated and updated their processes to make their virtual pitches as successful as their face-to-face meetings.

To help you fine-tune your virtual pitching skills, we turned to the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust for their insights. Below they share 15 strategies to remember when adapting your face-to-face pitch for success in a virtual environment.

1. Send something tangible ahead of time.

Getting mail is still fun — it may be even more so now. Sending a small token of appreciation for their time can soften up your prospect so that they’re more focused during your virtual pitch. Plus, that kind touch can go a long way in a world where we can all use a bit more kindness. – Sam Davidson, Batch

2. Make sure you’re familiar with the technology.

You can pitch virtually via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WebEx. Whichever technology you use, be sure you are thoroughly familiar with it. Make sure you have good lighting and sound. Have your presentation ready to share, and as with all presentations, less is more. Have compelling slides to engage your audience. – Joanie Griffin, Sunny505

3. Learn some simple professional filming practices.

Talk to the camera! This entails being camera-ready. Get your lighting, background and camera positioning correct. The light needs to be in front, not behind you, and the camera should be at eye level, showing your head and shoulders. Your background should be clean and professional. Test your audio. And of course, make sure you know how to use the virtual platform. People need to be able to see and hear you if they’re to believe you. – Mary Abbajay, Careerstone Group LLC

4. Always use video so you can convey nonverbal communication.

Remember that almost everyone is in the same situation; your prospects are also working remotely. If I see that my prospect is using video, I will use video. But even if they are not, I will still use video so that at least some nonverbal communication is being conveyed. I check in to determine if there are any questions and to help make certain their attention is focused on the meeting. – Mark Fidel, RiskSense, Inc.

5. Be mindful of your appearance and surroundings.

Remember to wear pants! In all seriousness, you need to be mindful of appearance — both your own and your surroundings — when taking a virtual face-to-face. Virtual backgrounds are great for virtual calls, but don’t be afraid to spruce up your real surroundings. A clean, organized workspace says a lot about you. – Matt Bratlien, Net-Tech

6. Get behind-the-scenes support.

Make sure you have support behind the scenes to make the meeting run smoothly. Don’t let technology get in your way. Technical issues in virtual meetings are distracting and can lead to the appearance of unprofessionalism or unpreparedness. Having a team of on-demand support in your corner before and during the big presentation is key so that you can focus on what you’re saying and nail the pitch. – Ryan SimonettiConvene

7. Prepare as thoroughly as possible.

Preparation is key! Our business was based on the face-to-face pitch. We used to be able to “read the room” or analyze a client’s body language — that allowed us to be nimble and adaptable while making a pitch, as the environment was more free-flowing. Now while delivering, we have to have our presentation facts, features and highlights prepared clearly and concisely. – Ryan MacLaughlin, Island Sotheby’s International Realty

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8. Have your resources and data at the ready.

You can pitch virtually just as you would in person, but it demands more preparation. The conversation is one-dimensional, so it’s even more important that you have resources and data available to be more persuasive. Start with introductions so both parties know who is on the call. It can be harder to “read the room,” so be prepared to go outside the presentation to showcase your strengths and knowledge. – G Mitch Bruhn, WatsonBruhn Builders, LLC

9. Ask if they spot any gaps in the agenda.

Kick off the pitch by addressing your agenda and goals, then ask the decision-maker what topics are most important to them and if anything is missing. It’s hard enough when pitching virtually to deal with tech and environmental distractions — you will have much better success if they know their questions or pain points are going to be addressed in the order of their priority. Be flexible! – Jay Feitlinger, StringCan Interactive

10. Highlight your culture.

We learned the hard way that you must do more than make a great case for your stellar credentials and ideas. You must find a way to express your organization’s culture and personality. Consider producing a short video highlighting your team’s work and outside interests. That will be remembered long after that 10th PowerPoint slide! – Janis Mackenzie, MacKenzie Communications

11. Be more human and less stuffy.

Even though we’re using technology — video calls, mostly — this has been a time when people are searching for human connection. So I’d say to just be more real, more human, less stuffy. You’re likely inviting them “into your home” and they’re inviting you into theirs, so we should behave that way. – John Miller, Scribewise

12. Don’t just give a pitch — have a conversation.

In many ways, virtual presentations are similar to those done in person. The one area where you simply must have fine-tuned focus is engagement. Your authenticity in caring for the audience’s needs, active listening and holding a conversation rather than “pitching” are all critical. Respect their time and create an environment conducive to a valuable exchange of ideas for everyone involved. – Fred Westerlund, MBH Settlement Group

13. Create a consistent approach for each customer persona.

Be prepared for distractions, engage with your customer before jumping straight into your pitch and create a consistent approach for each customer persona. Relevant small talk breaks dead air and sparks conversation. A persona-specific pitch ensures repeatability. We developed a video-based analysis tool to evaluate ourselves to ensure we follow these rules — be personable and consistent. – Matthew JohnstonDesign Interactive Inc.

14. Work to bridge the ‘distance’ gap.

The traditional face-to-face pitch needs to be adapted for a virtual environment to be more captivating and personal to overcome the perceived “distance” of the communication medium. “In-person” is a very personal channel of communication in which people universally feel more responsibility to one another. Virtual meetings seem to imply less requirement to engage, and we need to work harder to bridge that gap. – Lori Daugherty, IMCS

15. Give it a personal touch.

Don’t forgo the personal touch. Small talk is often the biggest part of making a connection. Log on early to say “Hi,” use the chat function, use appropriate humor and find a way to make “high-tech” still feel “high-touch.” – Michael Akin, LINK Strategic Partners

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