2020 might have been the year of the #ZoomCall, but smart decorators are making 2021 the year of #VirtualSelling. Did you know that 62% of salespeople say it’s a challenge for them to sell virtually? Since online selling isn’t going anywhere fast, it’s time to learn the ins and outs of apparel and hard goods selling in cyber space like a pro.
When buyers interact with salespeople in a virtual space, there are four factors that have the biggest sway, the RAIN Group reports, on whether they purchase or not:
- Leading a comprehensive discovery of their concerns, wants and needs (71%)
- Showing what’s possible or how to solve a problem (68%)
- Simply listening (68%)
- Making the ROI on their purchase crystal clear (68%)
“A big part of virtual selling is building trust,” says Satya Purna, CEO of ZAG Studios. “Take time at the start of the meeting to build rapport, understand what’s going on in their life and build a personal connection—before talking about business.”
Unfortunately, the majority of salespeople aren’t acing these cyber sales calls—and they point to three top challenges they’re experiencing in this new sales environment:
- Gaining buyers’ attention and keeping them engaged virtually (91%)
- Changing buyers’ points of view on what’s possible or how to solve a problem (89%)
- Developing virtual relationships with buyers (88%).
“Since making videos with your smartphone is so easy now, shoot a bunch of quick clips showing off your work. Then, send them to your clients or in social posts. You could say that a short video clip is worth 1,000 words.” Lee Romano Sequeira, Sparkle Plenty Designs
So, are you among that group, also wondering how to ace cyber selling? Do you need a sales script? What’s the right lighting to show off your decorated-apparel samples?
Check out our top ideas from the experts for turning virtual selling into your shop’s newest secret weapon.
1. Choose your tools wisely.
Tired of funny kid and animal #VideoBombs yet? Yes? Good. It’s time to turn your video conferences totally pro. First choose the best video conferencing tool for your needs. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting and WebEx are just some of your options.
“You can help your clients overcome the tech hurdle—the unfamiliarity with video calling tools—by choosing the simplest video calling platform,” Purna says. “You can also send them instructions on how to install the software before the call, or how to use it.”
Action Item: You can compare top video conference providers in this report. There are also lots of online tutorials and reviews if you want to learn about each platform’s different features and benefits. Plus, take the time to train your shop staff on the tool you choose.
2. Set the mood.
Yes, we’ve all seen the memes of the guy doing a sales call wearing a Metallica T-shirt, with a Metallica poster on the wall behind him (although that’s kind of cool, right?). However, all kidding aside, it’s time to up the pro ante: Say good-bye to the baseball caps, dark room and partial face shots.
First, take a look at your background, whether it’s your home or work office. Is it a messy bookshelf that you can clean up? If it’s just a white wall, you could hang artwork or framed screen prints. Or you could use an interesting virtual or blurred-out background that Microsoft Teams allows.
Idea: Post your prospect’s logo or website as your virtual background.
Idea: Then, look at your lighting—your light source should be in front of you, not behind you. Invest in an affordable ring lamp that illuminates your face and sets a good ambiance.
Action Item: If you lead a sales team, share your best practices for personal appearance, background and lighting. You can even supply your team with logoed polos or T-shirts to wear on these calls. Have each rep do a mini call with you so you can check out the optics for a potential buyer.
Action Item: Now it’s time to set up video chat coffee dates with your new and existing leads. Set up regular video chats with your regular accounts as well. Aim to hold shorter video calls so that you can increase their frequency, for more touch points during the sales process.
3. Showcase decorated apparel and promo products as if you’re IRL, via a screen.
Virtual sales calls are definitely a little different than Zoom meetings. “If you’re new to virtual selling, have some notes on Post-Its out of camera range,” says Lee Romano Sequeira, co-owner of Sparkle Plenty Designs. “Remember to look at your camera directly, since that helps your audience feel as though you’re connecting with them. Then, show off your pieces with good lighting. Also, remember to smile and have fun!”
Tip: Keep in mind that monitors and cameras can distort colors. “That’s why I recommend using descriptive words to describe the effects of the decoration techniques you use, which help drive home the sparkle, shine and unique effects,” says Kristine Shreve, a decorated-apparel industry expert.
“Show up prepared, since so many unpredictable things can happen doing live videos. It’s best to be as prepared as possible, so when these occurrences happen, you can bounce right back where you left off, without being flustered and losing people’s interest.” Katie McCullough, alphabroder
This is where you can tap into your creative side and really put on a great presentation for your prospects and clients. For example, as we said earlier, if your video conferencing program enables backgrounds, you can sequence different backgrounds, or record a product demo as a background image, to create visual interest and a memorable presentation.
Action Item: Digital mockups are a great way to give clients an idea of the finished product, after you’ve shown them samples on-screen. “Invest in the best tools for creating digital product images,” Shreve says. “This might be the only way a customer has to envision what their final product will look like after you show it on your call.” Visit the alphabroder Design Studio and take advantage of an innovative free design tool that makes creating digital mockups a snap. Check it out here.
4. Use an amazing unboxing experience for your best clients.
We’ve watched the unboxing experience go from something that “subscription box companies did” to a must—and powerful marketing and sales tool—to captivate your clients. You can rock the unboxing experience, even if you’re a virtual selling newbie. Our recent Instagram post is a good example of an unboxing experience that worked.
Your goal: Activate your prospect’s senses and emotions when they unbox your package. Get inspired by how other brands do it! When you send a client a sample in a generic brown box, their excitement level won’t be as high as when it arrives in:
- your branded package
- wrapped in a recyclable packing material
- topped with a personal note insert. (This message could also include 10% off their next order.)
If you’re trying to land a high-dollar client, sending them samples they can touch and hold could be worth the expense and time. “Do the math to make sure the investment is worth the possible payoff for your shop,” Shreve says. “If you send samples, the package should show your company in its best light. Send something a little extra special that either shows off a decoration technique you consider to be your best, or spotlights something most of your other competitors may not do.”
Taking this extra step reinforces positive attributes of your shop’s brand and encourages repeat business. If you’re decorating some of the same products as other shops, a stellar unboxing experience can make you stand out. When you send a done-up sample package to clients, you highlight your shop’s:
- Strong attention to detail
- High-perceived-value decoration
- Quality products
- Unique point of view
- Amazing customer service.
Use the unboxing experience to boost your virtual sales process by producing decorated samples of a new item and sending it to your client list before a sales call. Even better? Ask them to wait until they’re on the call with you to open the box, so you can enjoy the experience along with them—and then segue into your pitch for the product, how it’s decorated, and how their end-users will love and wear it.
Action Item: Select new apparel and/or hard good styles you’re excited about, decorate them, include a personalized note and package them up creatively. Then, send them out to your best clients or those you think have a good chance of turning into high-dollar, repeat customers. Offer extra points to recipients who make a video of their unboxing experience so that you can share it on social media and in your marketing efforts. This way, your brand can reach lots of new buyers, and even go viral if an unboxing video post is compelling enough.
5. Use short, pre-recorded videos as part of your selling process.
If you’re not using short, personalized video as part of your sales process, start today. Tools like Loom allow you to easily record videos via your webcam and also share your screen. You can use these videos for a plethora of revenue-boosting sales activities, like:
- Sending an intro video to prospects
- Using videos in place of product photos, email messages and testimonials in your regular communications.
- Following up on a live sales call to show your product recommendations again.
JP Hunt, co-founder of InkSoft, offers some tips for creating general or personal video message:
- Keep it short, on message and focused. Aim for three minutes or less for product tours, and “quick tip” videos of 45 seconds of less.
- Make it convenient. Use tools like Loom or Soapbox to create personalized videos to send to your prospects and customers so they can watch them when they have time.
- Make it special. “A custom and personalized delivery is a truly unique and high impact way of communicating,” Hunt says. “Your customer will be impressed with your professionalism.”
- Include a strong call to action and next steps. “Conclude your video with a clear call to action and detail the following steps to create a sense of what comes next,” he says. “Your video should guide people along the sales process.”
- Make recommendations. Show your customer that you understand their needs and goals in clear terms. “Then, relate your product and decoration recommendations back to the customer’s needs,” Hunt says.
Action Item: “Since making videos with your smartphone is so easy now, shoot a bunch of quick clips showing off your work,” Sequeira says. “Then, send them to your clients or use them in social posts. You could say that a short video clip is worth 1,000 words.”
7. Hone your virtual sales process.
Sit with this stat a moment: A massive 68% of salespeople don’t follow a sales process, according to the Objective Management Group. While they have one, it’s not fully written out, shared, or reinforced by their manager. If you’re that manager, this leads to an inconsistent, and perhaps unsuccessful, sales effort across your shop.
“A big part of virtual selling is building trust. Take time at the start of the meeting to build rapport, understand what’s going on in their life and build a personal connection—before talking about business.” Satya Purna, ZAG Studios
If you do have a documented sales process, that’s great. You’re a step ahead. However, you’ll also need to map out a virtual sales process that shows how your buyer gets from point A (first contact) to point B (a customer who’s placed an order and paid).
“Show up prepared, since so many unpredictable things can happen doing live videos,” says Katie McCullough, social media specialist at alphabroder. “You need to test videos. It’s best to be as prepared as possible, so when these occurrences happen, you can bounce right back where you left off without being flustered and losing people’s interest.”
For example, as part of your sales process, your team will need to know how to showcase decorated apparel on a video chat, as well as what to do and say at each clear touchpoint during the buyer journey.
Action Item: Gather your team for a brainstorming session so you can map out your virtual selling cycle. The more of a map you have, the shorter your sales cycle and your shop’s chances of exceeding your sales goals.
8. Track your metrics.
While your team should be tracking these real-time metrics anyway, now is the time to really start and watch your team’s selling trends week to week, and month to month to see where you’re excelling and where you need improvement:
- Actual sales vs. quota or goal
- Close rate
- Sales cycle in number of days
- Average revenue per new client
- Percentage of sales opportunities that close
- Revenue post-sale.
Action Item: Whether it’s you or your sales manager, actively watch selling metrics for trends on how your team is doing, so that you can coach individuals or your team as a whole.
What To Do Today
To get even more inspired, tap into suppliers’ digital sales materials. Lots of apparel suppliers and distributors, including alphabroder, offer free e-selling tools like digital catalogs and product videos that you should use.
Here are two ways to get started now:
1. Visit alphabroder’s resource-packed Digital Lounge. There, you can browse our big collection (we constantly add to it) of videos, product images and e-flyers from your clients’ favorite apparel brands. These ready-to-go assets will enhance your customer’s e-journey and make your transition to virtual selling that much easier.
2. Check out our digitally enhanced catalog that incorporates captivating video here. Throughout this new interactive catalog, you’ll see video icons to:
- learn about styles’ technical aspects
- watch product demos
- get a 360-degree view of styles
- view companion styles
- learn more about brands and their collections.
Think about how you can personalize apparel or accessories for your clients. For example, DTG printing, sublimation printing and vinyl allow you to offer personalization in the form of one-offs and shorter runs. You can take it a step further by offering personalized name drops in unique placements, such as inside a hoodie, down the sleeves or pant legs, or on the bottoms of shorts. Of course, you can use embroidery for more upscale name drops or to personalize corporate gifts like outerwear, placket shirts, duffel bags, laptop bags and more.
Laurie is part of the marketing team for the leading supplier in the industry, alphabroder. During her free time, Laurie likes to ride horses, sail and spend time with her husband and her two children. Reach her at Lprestine@alphabroder.com