Winning big deals used to mean getting in front of important decisions makers, speaking to them, selling your goods or services and building a genuine relationship with them. This was done through meetings, events and sometimes social outings. Naturally, the pandemic put a stop to all of this.
As we look to a gradual reopening of the economy in 2021, we should not expect a return to the same mix of face-to-face vs. virtual selling. Sales and marketing will remain a “digital first” activity going forward. The pandemic was also not the cause of this shift – digital was a key part of the mix beforehand and will never fully replace face-to-face events.
However, the pandemic has fundamentally changed how we do business. Digital/virtual events have now become the main route to market. This does not mean the end for face-to-face events; they will certainly return because there is an appetite for them. But for those companies that do virtual events well and gain real value from them, their use of them will have been accelerated by COVID-19. This will result in a more hybrid approach going forward where face-to-face events will run alongside digital meetings.
Sales teams have had to radically change their approach to close deals in this “new normal.” From using digital technology for virtual meetings, reviewing their pipelines to focus more on those products/services which are more relevant to their prospects’ needs right now, revising prices, etc. Even virtual events, which were already a viable sales and/or marketing tool prior to the pandemic, have been forced to change too. Webinars in particular – previously the “default” online sales tool – have lost their effectiveness. When your prospects are spending their whole day in virtual meetings, what distinguishes your webinar from just another Zoom call in their diary? Virtual events cannot default to webinars anymore. Prospects need something more.
Virtual events will dominate sales and marketing activity in a post-COVID world. How can you use them effectively?
- Get in the right mindset – It’s important to psych yourself up and get in the right mindset and that you try to approach the event like you would any other
- Change your messaging – Times have changed significantly, so make sure your messages are updated to reflect this otherwise they’ll fall flat
- Get the event structure right – Set out your talking points and make sure that all your tech is working before you begin. This can help you to feel more prepared and confident about selling virtually
- Keep it engaging – ‘Zoom fatigue’ is real. Attention spans in virtual meetings tend to be much lower, so keep your event succinct and engaging with a variety of content. Don’t just run through a presentation. Can you blend keynote speakers, interactive workshops and actionable insights to keep the event moving, interesting and engaging?
- Leverage experts to maximise ROI – Whether these are independent experts to deliver engaging content to your audience, or specialist events companies to manage the logistics of the event itself, it is better not to do everything yourself
- Follow up after the event – Even if you have to follow up virtually, this can still increase your conversion rate dramatically
It is important to distinguish your virtual events from the mundane day-to-day reality that many of your prospects are facing. No one really wants another Zoom call in their diary, so make sure you put the “event” in your virtual events to really stand out.