Tips for Working Virtually with Clients, Prospective Clients

Desktop computer
Zoom call

Communicating with members of your work team during the pandemic has been a challenge — one that has been handled via Zoom calls and other forms of online communication. But what about working with outside clients you can’t meet face to face? What are some ways you can build relationships with prospective clients and enhance existing relationships too?

Eyal Feldman, co-founder and CEO Stampli, a platform that streamlines the accounts payable process, has had to win new business and maintain existing clients remotely during the shutdown. He says the transition hasn’t been disruptive as it might have been because his company has always relied on using technology to build relationships and structure meetings. “I’ve never bought into the old-school-hop-on-a-plane-3-martini-lunch approach to relationship building,” Feldman says.

The reality is that fundamentals of relationship building haven’t changed because of COVID-19.

“Clients still want to be treated as more than a transaction. They still want a relationship. They still want to understand if your solution will solve their unique problems,” Feldman stresses. “If you don’t meet these basic client needs or even relate to them, it’s not going to matter if you’re on Zoom or meet physically face to face, you won’t build a sustainable relationship.”

Here are a few tips to help optimize those client conversations you can’t have in person:

Check in frequently — and be specific. Mike Goldman, author of “Performance Breakthrough” and “Breakthrough Leadership Team,” says more frequent, shorter check-in’s with team members and clients is critical.

“Those check-ins could consist of brainstorming an idea, following up on status of a project, or just checking in to see how someone is doing. Don’t just say, ‘I’m here for you, let me know if you need anything,” Goldman says. “Give them a list of ways you can help — not so you can make more money from them, but so you can be of service.

Both clients and vendors will always remember how you treat them now. Did you hound them to collect that overdue receivable or did you show understanding? Were you tone deaf in your marketing and selling, or did you offer your sincere help and understanding?”

Ask questions you might not have to ask in person.Feldman said he learned that the hard way when he didn’t close an account he worked hard to land four years ago. “I was shocked when we didn’t get the account. In following up I uncovered [that fact that] my contact was just one of four people on the team tasked with researching solutions,” he recalls. “The lesson learned was you need to compensate for the single dimension of virtual meetings by investing more time asking questions to uncover clues you’d normally pick up from body language in physical interactions.”

Communicate via video. “Send an email with a video link to your prospects or existing customers,” suggests Alex Azoury, founder/CEO of Home Grounds. “CEOs and decision-makers are often too busy to read a lengthy email, but they will watch a quick video. Use this to update them on what’s happening in your business, introduce products they may be keen to hear more about or simply to check in and ask how they’re doing.” Another plus is that videos let you present live demonstrations of the products and services you’re offering, Azoury adds.

Consider using virtual reality (VR) to connect. As work-from-home and social distancing measures drag on, people are looking for new, more productive ways to communicate. “Video chats are tiring and distracting,” says Lyron Bentovim, CEO of the VR/AR company The Glimpse Group, who notes that a recent study from LoopUp found that people waste 15 minutes on a typical conference call. “As more and more people report feeling Zoom fatigue, it is imperative to have clients and employees meet in spaces where they feel the most productive and clear headed.”

With VR, “Meetings no longer need to be limited to the confines of an expo space or conference room,” Bentovim adds. “Imagine pitching a big construction project to a client by allowing them to virtually step into the future construction space”…If I put people in a VR meeting space, they cannot split their attention between my meeting, their computer tabs, apps on their phone, and other distractions.”

Plan a virtual lunch. Jan Hudson, a partner in the Southern California recruiting firm Surf Search, thinks inviting a client to a virtual lunch, then sending lunch to their office, home, or wherever they are working is “a fun ice breaker” — and one way to build a business relationship with a new or existing client. “A Zoom call during lunch is a more casual and schedule-friendly way to make connections and form relationships,” Hudson says. “Instead of taking away from one’s day, it adds a fun diversion to the occasionally monotony of working from home.”

Article written by Kathleen Furore)