Within the last year, we’ve seen a seismic shift in how people interact with businesses. Due to the pandemic—as well as some significant technological advances—a remotely handled customer experience schematic is now front and center for many companies. That means virtual negotiation and persuasion will be key skills for anyone looking to succeed in sales and customer experience in 2022.
In fact, according to the 2022 Workplace Learning Trends Report, persuasion is the number one growing skill necessary for sales and customer experience success with a 78% increase in utilization. Negotiation is a close second, experiencing a 67% increase. Thus, it is imperative that companies invest time in teaching both skills. However, it is important to focus not just on training their sales staff but also providing instruction for other departments, such as customer service and even HR, so all employees can effectively connect with one another and their customers.
Customer Experience in an Online World
Strictly online customers no longer experience your products, sales staff, or consumer environment during in-person shopping and other events. This has created the need for a virtual customer experience. Simply put, if you want to keep your online customers, it’s important that they have a positive experience with your company.
Primarily, this means supplying an excellent customer service experience and being responsive to any questions or concerns that the customer may have. To do so, it is critical to develop negotiation and persuasion skills.
Why Persuasion Skills are Continually Becoming More Popular
The art of persuasion has been around for thousands of years. It has always been important, but it is becoming even more so in the modern work environment. For example, consider the role of persuasion in the age of social media—a key marketing channel for many businesses. In a world where people are constantly bombarded with advertisements, it’s more important than ever to be able to persuade someone that your product or service is the best for them.
In a virtual workplace, the ability to persuade potential clients and coworkers alike is critical. Your ability to reach both groups is simultaneously made easy by technology, yet hampered by the limitations these avenues exhibit, and you need to make the most of each opportunity. Meanwhile, the chance for organic interactions with others is reduced, meaning every interaction and chance you have for a sale must be maximized for optimal influence.
The skillset required for modern day persuasion and influence is evergreen. However, persuasion must be handled carefully when delivered virtually. You must be able to masterfully use the communication tools available to your business and create an environment that is conducive to persuasion.
Why Negotiation Skills Matter
Of course, the ability to negotiate is important in any field, but it’s especially critical when working with customers. Negotiation is key to drive sales, ensure fair or favorable contracts, and keep valuable customers. It’s not always easy to get what you want, but a good negotiator can usually find a way to reach an agreement that benefits both parties.
There are many different techniques for negotiating, and the right one for your needs depends on the situation. For example, some negotiators pursue their goals aggressively, while others take a more collaborative approach. When it comes to customer service, however, the most important thing is to stay calm and remain willing to listen to the customer’s point of view. If you are negotiating a sale, this could mean stating your offer and then listening to the customer’s concerns.
How Negotiation Skills Have Changed in a Remote Workplace
In a remote workplace, the ability to negotiate is even more important. Since you’re not face-to-face with the customer, many of the classic negotiation skills like perfecting your handshake, maintaining open body language, and even keeping eye contact must be altered. Virtually, you’ll need to focus on convincing them that your product or service is the right solution for their needs. This means learning how to understand customer needs and identify what they are looking for.
This can be challenging, especially since research shows customers are more likely to buy products or services online on an impulse. Even consumer research of your product or service will likely take place in one of many customer service review or ratings websites—and out of your control. If you’ve created a product that meets your customers’ needs, it’s now essential to go into negotiations with a compelling case for what will benefit them.
A Shift to Virtual Sales
As mentioned, now, more than ever, it’s important to understand the customer and their needs before trying to make a sale. This means taking the time to build a relationship with the customer and understanding their buying process. Adding the power of persuasion to your negotiation strategy can help fill in the gaps left by switching away from in-person negotiation.
For sales and customer service staff, that means communicating with customers in a way that is respectful and professional. In a virtual setting—perhaps to a larger degree than at the negotiation table—it’s easy for misunderstandings to happen. You must be able to head off misunderstandings when possible, resolve the problems that do occur, and work towards building a strong business relationship.
Here are some key tips to help you succeed in virtual sales negotiations:
- Don’t overcomplicate things. When you’re in a virtual setting, it’s easy to hyperfocus on your presentation. When being too polished can have a negative effect on the customer and being unprepared can leave the customer second-guessing your value, it can seem like you must walk a fine line to make the sale.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. In a virtual setting, it’s easy to feel like you’re not in control. However, the truth is, taking control of a virtual negotiation is as easy as calmly and confidently stating your goals. Be confident in your abilities and ask for the sale.
- Be clear and concise. When you’re negotiating virtually, it’s critical to be transparent and honest about your product or service, as well as your company’s values. Keep this energy throughout the sales negotiations and even after the sale—remain responsive and available when the customer has questions or concerns.
- Deliver easily digestible pieces of information. In a time where customers are consuming more video and other virtual content more than ever, this can seem counterintuitive. However, due to all the competition for your customers’ attention, it’s important to deliver information quickly and concisely. Make sure your presentation is easy for the customer to read and use bullet points when necessary.
- Use images and video. Humans process and remember information more easily when it is presented visually. Using images and videos can be a fantastic way to help the customer understand your product quickly. You can also visually demonstrate how your product or service will solve a problem for the consumer.
- Be proactive in nonverbal communication. While nonverbal communication is certainly more difficult during virtual sales, it’s still enormously important. Monitor your facial expressions using your own camera feed and do your best to maintain “eye” contact virtually.
- Continue to practice active listening skills. In a virtual setting, it’s easy for one person to take over and dominate the conversation. Thus, active listening techniques like visibly and audibly affirming your understanding, repeating client points or questions before responding, and asking your own questions are crucial in the digital age. Active listening helps you build that vital connection with your customer and strengthens your position without dominating the negotiations process.
Key Takeaways for 2022
It’s clear that negotiation and persuasion skills will be more important than ever in the 2022 workplace. Companies need to make sure their staff is equipped with this skillset to be successful in a virtual setting. This includes adapting and fine tuning their skills of negotiation and persuasion for the online world.