Sales Enablement Forrester Analyst Scott Santucci gave us all a really fantastic sound byte at the Forrester Marketing Forum 2010 in LA last week: “Sales has gone from selling to “a person” to selling to an “agreement network“. The implications are endless:
- longer sales cycles
- more relationships to build
- harder to generate trust and buy-in
- increased requirement for extremely versatile reps in the field
- increased requirement for the right level of engagement with the right people at the right time
… the list goes on and on. What was lightly discussed but I feel merits additional chatter about is the “time” factor. More of all of the above equals more time in meetings gaining buy-in or trying to simply get to the right decision maker or influencer.
That said, how can you utilize technology to have the most effective meeting you can when you finally get it? I will be the first to say that online meetings aren’t right for every situation. In fact, I often attend meetings in person because it’s appropriate for that kind of meeting. In a time of tighter travel budgets and tougher and longer sales cycles, you have to be really smart about where you’re willing to drop a dime on airfare.
Here’s my breakdown on the most common types of meetings that take place virtually, and some tips on when being face-to-face is more effective:
Common Virtual Meetings:
- General Business Meetings – anywhere from 3 to 30 or more
- Remote Training Sessions – it’s best if these are broken down into “chapters” of 45-60 minutes a piece
- Company-wide Meetings – using a visual/web piece is more effective
- Sales Meetings – weekly or monthly meetings to review status and announce programs
- Customer Webcasts – often a 1-to-many web-based presentation of content
- Focus Groups – results in heavy use of web collaboration tools (surveys, whiteboards, sub-rooms, presentations, shared screens)
- Investor Relations – often 1-to-many with questions at the end
- Press Announcements – often 1-to-many with questions at the end
Now on to face to face meetings. These are the types of meetings that I have found myself traveling to participate in:
- Late-stage sales discovery meetings that require a heavy amount of requirements gathering or implementation scoping
- Half day or full day strategy sessions that often result in lots of standing up, walking around the room, and whiteboarding
- Closed door executive presentations – if you can get the small audience face time, take advantage of it
- High visibility project kickoffs – there are usually a lot of follow-up sub-committee meetings around the same time as this so it helps to set the right tone
- Meetings that build camaraderie and rapport – There are some meetings that you can tie a social aspect to. Those might be worth making the trip for.
As you can see, there is a big difference between the “travel to” meeting and the “ok for virtual” meeting. For the most part, you should be able to manage up to 95% of your meetings without having to travel. As you’re making your way through the maze of these longer and more complex sales cycles, consider which types of meetings can be run virtually – save some coin and save a lot of time.