Digital Selling (Part 4)

Effective online counselling: 4 phases to success

The leads come in and then online counselling is supposed to be effective. Sounds simple at first, but it also has its pitfalls. Our expert Leif Kania explains how digital selling differs from talking to customers in the studio and why the whole thing is so exhausting - but also so incredibly effective.

Jul 05 2021

The live experience is missing 

The differences are obvious: if you look for new furniture online, you can't stroll through an exhibition, try anything out or touch anything. It's different whether I look at photos of kitchens or get inspired in the studio. If only because of the atmosphere. 

Conversely, employees cannot count on the support of the live experience when selling digitally. Spatial distance, the reduction to facial expressions or technical hurdles, which should be met with a contingency plan in case of complications, pose particular challenges. 

The four phases 

However, what is identical in principle in both analogue and digital are the essential processes in counselling. Leif Kania defines four stages for the sales conversation that take place before closing: 

"Many would say stage 1 is the contact. Then comes the needs analysis and finally the presentation of the goods. But from experience I find another point very important: the attitude. That's where everything starts. I have to have the right attitude towards the customer, the job, the goods I want to sell, otherwise everything else is rubbish." 

Phase 1: Attitude matters 

Attitude - contact - needs analysis - presentation. If you want to give effective advice online and then also sell goods to the man or woman, you should not underestimate the first point in particular. Compared to the good old sales talk on site, the right "mindset" is perhaps even more important in digital selling. 

If you have reservations, feel uncomfortable in front of the camera or are at war with technology, you should not force yourself to do anything and rather leave the screen to others. Because customers notice that. Reluctance, frustration and incompetence are - in the truest sense of the word - bad advisors. 

Phase 2: Same goal, different ways 

But maybe people who feel uncomfortable on the screen are really good on the phone? So it's a good thing that the four phases of sales in the digital process are staggered differently and distributed over different channels. Leif Kania comments: 

"At the POS, establishing contact is a phase that I really have to actively shape when I approach people and find the right way to start a conversation. This is not the case with digital sales and the initiation of contact takes place more in the area of online marketing. Here it is then rather important that the leads generated there are also evaluated and followed up in a qualified manner." 

Phase 3: Making phone calls to get to know each other 

Providing effective advice online does not mean having to do every step in a virtual chat. On the contrary. Leif Kania knows from experience that the needs analysis can be carried out perfectly well on the phone. On the one hand, this is less time-consuming than a video call, and on the other hand, it is better to do it in a phase when you do not yet know your counterpart: 

"People have been used to talking to each other on the phone and exchanging information for decades, but they are not used to making a video call. The needs analysis is therefore also a first small step towards getting to know each other. For the presentation of the goods, which has to take place by video, they have already talked to each other on the phone, they are no longer complete strangers, and this next step is easier for the customer".

The needs analysis as a foundation 

The needs analysis has another advantage: here, advisors can demonstrate expertise, address needs individually and thus build trust. In digital selling, it is difficult to bypass this phase - unlike on site, when customers first want to stroll through the exhibition. Leif Kania knows this: 

"Hand on heart: who does a really good needs analysis 'in real life'?! People say, 'I'm looking for a new kitchen' and run off. Then the advisors start showing what's there - until the customer stops at some point and says, I like that! And then it starts with 'Do you have the floor plan with you' and so on... So it's actually a disaster, because it's not very well-founded and demand-oriented! 

Much more could be achieved by asking specific questions. Questions that reflect standards, are already given in many checklists and ideally have already been prepared by the prospective buyer. Comparatively little effort, but definitely worth it. Better planning, more satisfied customers and probably even more turnover would be the result. In addition, the chance of being recommended to others increases. 

Coordination in planning 

After the needs analysis, you hang up and take a deep breath. Then comes the planning. At your own pace. There is no one sitting expectantly or under time pressure, restlessly shuffling their feet. 

Perhaps there comes a point when there are two solutions to choose from. Or a decision has to be made about surfaces and materials. In such a case, questions that arise can be clarified quickly, easily and efficiently by phone call, e-mail or video call. 

Phase 4: Structured presentation 

Now comes the most important phase for all those who want to advise effectively online: the presentation of goods. This is probably also the biggest difference to advice at the POS. And the biggest challenge. Leif Kania comments: 

"You have much less time for an online presentation, because the attention span of the counterpart is much shorter. That's actually the main reason why you need a process. Because everything has to be much crisper and go faster, I also have to prepare much better here." 

Those who consult in the studio can also be passive at times and simply wait to see what the interlocutor has to say. Nevertheless, there is a result after three hours. That's not possible on a computer screen. What is needed here is compact delivery. Consultants have to actively lead the conversation and that requires a high degree of structure, concentration and attention. 

Exhausting, but efficient 

Leif Kania continues: "All of us who have done online meetings or have even been responsible for them know that it takes a lot more energy than a 'real' meeting and that you are much more exhausted at the end. But it also saves time, you are much more efficient on the road. Digital is much faster than analogue because it is prepared and structured and presented in a targeted way. That's actually the most important difference for me." 

To advise effectively online, you also need a certain amount of discipline. If you're not well prepared in a video call, you'll be caught out very quickly and possibly out of the running. By the way, we will tell you more about how to properly prepare and conduct such a call in the next episodes of our series. 

The Happy End 

But what about the conclusion? Do you get down to business with the presentation of the goods? Not directly. Effective online consultation, however, leads to the happy ending, where the protagonists finally meet in the studio after all. A brief inspection, a last look at the chosen surfaces and colours - and then the sales contract is signed. 

For Leif Kania, the closing date has more than just practical reasons. It is also important for image, branding and customer loyalty: "Online you can present a lot in a short time and create clarity, but I think in the end we all need the red carpet again. Customers don't just get a coffee to sign, they get full attention. That also has something to do with appreciation. We still buy from people, after all, and the more comfortable we feel with them, the more likely we are to stay loyal or recommend them." 

Conclusion 

To consult effectively online, structured work and good preparation are particularly important. However, neither is of any use if you don't have the right attitude. The needs analysis, which can be carried out well over the phone, also serves to get to know the customer and is essential if you want to be convincing in the presentation of goods in the video call. In contrast to the sales talk at the POS, consultants have to lead actively here. This costs more energy, but also saves time and is therefore very efficient. A good argument for digital selling! 

Now it's your turn! 

How have you structured your sales processes? What experiences have you had with the presentation of goods on the screen? We look forward to your comments!

Author: Christine Piontek

Contact persons
Portrait of Leif Kania
Leif Kania Human Ressources
Möbel Kania Consulting GmbH
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