Building Successful Virtual Relationships

As we, as South Africa, enter our second year of Covid along with our pandemic technology responses, new ways of working and heightened screen time, how do we define business success in this virtual world? How do we build and manage relationships and, more importantly, how do we increase sales without the standard props of the physical world – the suit, office and car?

In underpinning these questions lies our ability to nurture trust and rapport with clients. These requirements are no different to the physical space – only more demanding. An advisor now has less time and more competition, such as online distractions of social media and new market entrants – especially robo-advice with its promises of low fees and self (client) managed engagement.

There are a number of tools available to the planner to support his or her virtual meeting quest. From a psychology perspective, buying behavior triggers are no different either on- or offline. It’s still a question of getting the right message to the right person at the right time.

Ensure that you’re using the appropriate technology for your session. A telephone or WhatsApp call will suffice if all you want to do is touch base. For all other engagements use video where possible. Not only does this medium set the scene and tone, it allows for eye contact, responses to facial expressions and meeting recordings (tick that compliance box).

Be confident with your use of technology and, if you’re unsure, complete a trial run.

Depending on your client, try to use the most accessible meeting technology available. The last thing a client wants is to struggle with app downloads and passwords – an invite with a meeting link that opens up in a browser should more than suffice. Also consider how well your technology integrates with smartphones and tablets. This ability will become more important as we become less physically connected.

Be clear on what you want to achieve during the meeting – what documentation needs to be made available to the client prior to the session. Do you need anything signed and, if so, how will you ensure that this takes place with the minimum of fuss?

Dress appropriately and use a professional background – if the video meeting and signing service allows for branding, use it.

On a more human level its critical to create that emotional connection. This result rests on a combination of factors, especially when selling. Acknowledge the new reality, but at the same time trying to engage to create value from the start of the meeting. Well thought through and insightful questions set the scene and confirm professionalism.

Get your client to be a participant and not just an observer. If you have access to online tools that can be used by you both as part of the engagement and planning process use them. Combined actions make for better results.

Try to use any visual / presentation props that you can – the more dynamic the better. Focus on one or two specifics at a time and do not try to cover your complete offering in one meeting.

Lastly – don’t be afraid to experiment. There are no hard and fast rules for this new world – some of it we’re going to have to make up as we go along.

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