Bonding with clients or prospects over an expense-paid lunch or dinner is not always a possibility, especially in the current circumstances. As recent events have rooted both buyer and seller to the confines of their homes, salespeople must innovate their methods for establishing trust and a meaningful connection with their clients.
The first order of business is realizing which opportunities to impress are being diminished in remote environments and identifying thoughtful virtual replacements. For instance, not only does buying lunch make the customer feel special, but it also invokes feelings of subconscious reciprocity — meaning customers are more likely to grant a favor in return.
By effectively addressing how traditional methods of customer engagement influence buyer behavior, sellers can continue to foster those relationships with these new, innovative, and thoughtful methods that span across a number of occasions.
1) Schedule virtual happy hours with real cocktails
While novel for a short awhile, committing to another virtual hang-out is becoming more chore-like than fun. For many clients who would rather skip the video and instead communicate via text, email, or online chat services, this is problematic in fostering those important relationships.
One way to engage prospects is to schedule a virtual happy hour — but go the extra mile and send them an inexpensive but impressive virtual cocktail kit. These convenient little tins carry all of the non-alcoholic ingredients that they’ll need to craft a classic cocktail in their own home, providing the much-needed experience that those working from home might be seeking.
More than just presenting them with a gift, these virtual happy hours are critical in creating impressions for your customers or prospects. Studies show that informal socializing increases the chances of persuasion, as participants discover shared interests and become more humanized. Seek opportunities to get the conversation flowing around topics that are less-oriented around work to get the best results.
2) Surprise and delight with meal credits
While “breaking bread” is seldom an option for many of those in quarantine, don’t underestimate the impact of convenient meal delivery services as a token of appreciation (and a lure!). However, leave it up to the recipient to decide when and what they want to eat for lunch or dinner. With services like GrubHub, Postmates, and DoorDash, sellers can transfer credits to clients or prospects, giving them the freedom to choose what they like. In this instance, it’s important to not come off as thrifty — provide enough credits so they can eat with another person, and ensure it covers delivery fees and tip.
As mentioned above, gestures like buying lunch for another person can induce feelings of reciprocity. Research reveals that when a small favor is distributed without the expectation of something else in return, this can motivate the recipient to proffer an even greater favor.
Even more importantly, these meals exhibit much-needed compassion and warmth during isolated and mentally overwhelming times. Giving them the freedom to make their own selection on their own time signals a real interest in their well-being, with no strings attached.
3) Invite them to engaging virtual experiences
Being generous and personal is always a good approach when trying to sustain relationships with customers, but even better is creating an experience that is memorable and unique. While gifting theater or sports tickets is no longer a possibility, you can still bestow adventures that are sure to have a lasting impact.
Ever since stay-at-home orders have been in place, Airbnb has been hosting hundreds of virtual experiences on their platform, ranging from wine tastings, coffee masterclasses, escape rooms, and music lessons. These experiences are an ideal way to captivate the attention of prospects, while also differentiating from the competition in a more humanized, less business-facing way.
Many of these classes are semi-intimate group settings with limited capacity, so be sure to plan ahead depending on the occasion. They can be ideal for building relationships with a small cohort of customers in the same phase of the funnel or sending a thank-you to an individual client for a recent purchase or partnership.
These experiences aren’t too expensive and are ideal choices for quality virtual engagement across industries, budgets, and verticals.
4) Resonate with prospects through short, personalized videos
While most of the engagements so far have been online, there are other channels to engage prospects that deliver considerable impact. Since many sellers are prohibited from dropping by to maintain rapport and conduct check-ins, consider how best to replicate the minutiae of in-person interactions. While video conferencing sessions are effective, they can also be exhausting and require some involved planning from both parties.
Try instead to create short 45 or 60-second videos of yourself that accompany an email. These videos can be brief introductions or summaries of what you’re sending them, or simply be a thoughtful “hello.” If they had a question about your product or service, short videos are an ideal opportunity to let them know you have an answer. Be sure to address them by name — this will remind them that you took time out of your day to dedicate towards your relationship.
Keep in mind that videos shouldn’t be fancy or interesting, as you may risk coming off too eager or salesy. Keep them simple and embrace the authenticity of working from home; in order to resonate, ensure that videos are a reflection of yourself and your own working situation.
One of the most important takeaways that organizations and sales teams should glean from the current stay-at-home situation is the innumerable opportunities to improve and be creative in how they engage prospects. Rather than putting relationship-building on hold, sellers should embrace the novelty of many of these unique experiences, and seek to be pioneers in how they choose to interact and foster relationships with their clients. After the dust settles, it will be those sellers and organizations that prevail in the hearts and minds of their customers the most.
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