July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020 | Broker News

Virtual meetings are here to stay – Are you getting the most out of them?

The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for all of us. One of the biggest business challenges for insurance professionals is how to manage Customer relationships.

No one knows when the economy will reopen fully again, or when we will achieve anything close to what used to be considered normal. But in my humble opinion, things will never be the same after this pandemic.

In terms of business communications, we seem to have already made major adjustments.  Organising travel to meet with Customers is time-consuming and expensive, and virtual connectivity is rapidly growing in acceptance. I suggest you embrace this reality and make it a permanent component of your business development and relationship-management activities. Not only will you improve your current online meetings, but you’ll also be a step ahead of competitors less eager to embrace this technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in face-to-face time with Customers. It is a critically important vehicle for developing a mutual comfort level, an emotional connection and trust with a fellow human being. But even when we can meet in person, that experience might be different – will elbow bumps be replacing handshakes, and it remain compulsory to be seated 1.5m apart?

I’m hoping that virtual meetings will be a supplement to, not a replacement for, in-person meetings. But whether they are supplemental or continue as the primary contact method, these tips could help you ensure your virtual meetings run smoothly.  (Please note that these tips apply to one-on-one meetings)

Master online meeting technology

People are connecting through a variety of platforms, including but not limited to Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and others. It’s important to know how to use these technologies. That requires some commitment. These platforms all have easily accessible online tutorials. An abundance of YouTube videos can also show you how to use these platforms easily and effectively. Furthermore, it’s important to be conversant with a variety of different platforms because your Customers may be using different ones.

The good news is that, although there are important differences in what each platform can do, the methodology to use each platform involves some common approaches. Once you have mastered one or two, it’s usually easy to adapt to and master new platforms.

Ask for a video-based meeting

Multiple researchers and studies consistently point out that nonverbal cues are a critical part of how we communicate. Looking into someone’s eyes, seeing their body language and how they respond to questions you ask or things you say are a tool salespeople need to be successful. Video calls can effectively give you this information. So ask for one. Put your request in the subject line of your invitation.

You can easily justify it by explaining how important it is for you in terms of providing high-quality Customer service to see someone, at least onscreen. Of course, you can’t force someone to have a video meeting if they don’t want one; they may have legitimate reasons for refusing (they’re not in their work clothes, they have kids or pets running around, etc.). But if you don’t offer the suggestion, you’re likely to lose an opportunity that can provide you with critical information about your prospect or client.

Bring a high level of professionalism to your virtual meetings

Just as you need to master the technology, you also need to optimize your online meeting. Again,  countless articles and videos are available with advice that includes, for example, how to position your device so you’re at eye level to the camera and situate the lighting so you are clearly in view and not hidden in shadows. And don’t forget to follow the same principles of professionalism I’ve discussed previously -- being punctual, listening and responding to your client, paying attention to grooming and wardrobe, etc. – that are just as important when you communicate virtually.

Conduct a professional, agenda-driven meeting

People hate meetings, and for good reason: Most are unnecessary or a waste of time, so make sure your meetings are perceived to be of high value to all those attending. The subject should be about an issue, product, service or some other matter that addresses the needs of your Customer, or otherwise gets them interested, excited and highly motivated to meet with you.

Your meeting should be driven by a purposeful agenda that identifies three to five matters that will be addressed. The last item should be a regular fixture on your agenda such as ‘Next steps’ which clearly identify who is going to do what, why it needs to be done, and an agreed-upon time frame.

Consider informal video chats

I’m a big fan of connecting with Customers over a cup of coffee or after-work drink. Consider asking for a quick video chat in that context as an additional way to maintain connections.  

The bottom line? Virtual connectivity is here to stay. Gain a competitive edge by embracing it fully in your business development and relationship management efforts.  


Written by Bart Shachnow, Sales Performance Director, Zurich NA