By CCO Lasse Garby
Virtual customer meetings were something that large US-based IT companies used in their Inside sales organizations just a few years ago. Especially companies like Microsoft and Cisco that had their own video desktop solutions were some of the front runners. It was often a challenge to have customers download and connect and the first versions did not always give the best user experience. I have worked in some of the US IT giants and have seen how it has worked and not worked. In my previous job, we never used the video capability but only the audio which makes sense if you have larger meetings with 25+ participants, but even the key speaker did not use the video. That was a bit of a strange experience.
When I was at Cisco we sold collaboration and video conference systems to many companies but still, a lot of companies did not really believe in not meeting face to face even though they could save a lot of time and money not traveling and reducing CO2 outlet not flying or driving.
But since March 2020 when Covid-19 broke out everything changed completely more or less overnight. Suddenly almost all companies started to use virtual meeting platforms and video capabilities as well. Even small companies with 10-15 people would meet virtually as they could not meet in the office.
Since I joined Stinto almost 1½ month ago 8 out of 10 customer meetings has been virtual meetings. As I had done it on a much smaller scale in my previous jobs, this was not completely new to me, but still different especially if you have not met the customer or prospect in person before. I had some concern about this in the beginning, but I must admit after having had a lot of virtual customer meetings with persons that I have not met before, I actually don’t think of it any longer, and the customer, as well as my self, uses the video function. Often it has been the customer asking for a virtual meeting and not myself. I have proposed it if the customer has used Covid-19 as an excuse for not having a meeting and often this has been well accepted.
Having virtual meetings is also very effective as you can have many meetings per day versus physical meetings gives a natural limitation as you have to travel, find a place to park, wait in the reception, getting a cup of coffee, finding a free meeting room, getting your presentation up and running, not being able to connect to the wi-fi and projector, and then out again, pay for the parking, go to the gas station and fill up the car on the way back to the office where there are no free parking lots, etc.
What I have learned from virtual customers meeting is that you should try to avoid using too many slides as it is much better to have eye contact with the customer (even though you use a small laptop). With a 25-page slide deck, you cannot see the reaction from the customer and you tend to lose their attention. Having a slide deck as a “backup” is the most so you can jump in and out to explain things in more depth but try to have a discussion. Another great thing is to have or to be a wingman during a virtual customer meeting. This gives the opportunity to have a more interactive meeting where your wingman can do a demo, or prepare something to share as part of the demo as we often do at Stinto. When my wingman does the introduction or vise versa I can prepare a demo of the Stinto App and our web interface and while presenting this my wingman sends a digital business card to the customer and have him download it. Seeing is believing.
So if you have not already started using virtual customer meetings start now as customers are ready and have been used to have virtual meetings every day during the COVID-19. BUT virtual meetings can not replace all meetings. You need to meet the customer once in a while, to see their company and what happens at their office but keeping the appropriate 1-meter COVID-19 distance.