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Attracting New Clients: 6 Tips to Make a Great (Virtual) First Impression

Erica Dhawan, Author

The hybrid marketplace means a world where virtual sales, marketing, and engagement is the norm rather than the exception.

Maximizing opportunities with clients (especially new ones) during virtual meetings is critical. In AESC’s article, ‘The Now, The Next, The New Normal,’ AESC Members discuss the difficulty of acquiring and developing new client relationships in a virtual environment.

"It’s very hard to attract new clients during this situation. It’s a trusted relationship, and it’s very hard to develop a new relationship with a cold call.”

- Renato Bagnolesi, Managing Partner, FESA Group

Erica Dhawan, author of Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection No Matter the Distance and a speaker at AESC's Virtual May Conference 2021, offers guidance on the ways to nurture budding relationships in a remote world.


Be Tone-Deft, Not Tone-Deaf.

Tone—the overall attitude, or character, of a message––is a key skill for any successful sales professional. Perhaps more than anything else, it’s the greatest tool for communicating empathy and winning trust. So when you’re prospecting new clients or customers through emails and other written communications, be thoughtful to ensure you avoid confusing one-liners and always reference details in your communications.

Invite your existing customers to “share” on a video call with your prospects.

One of the unique opportunities our digital shift has unlocked is the ability to invite existing loyal customers to “Zoom in” for 5 minutes to share their experience with a prospect in a conversation. This would likely not have happened in the traditional “coffee chat” sales conversation. Use the opportunities that our digital shift has unlocked to share pre-call videos, invite customers to sales meetings or use virtual video demos to make a lasting impression in the sales process.

Get creative using digital body language.

The exciting news is that we can foster even better engagement in meetings with clients—even if traditional body language is absent by using new technology to our advantage. For example, use Mural, a virtual whiteboard to engage your clients and share their ideas in a collective format. Send short videos prior to live meetings so clients can learn more about you. Maximize the use of chat tools if you have a larger group to make the meeting more engaging. Instead of asking, 'who has a question?' invite everyone to answer a question that you pose in the chat. Then, call on people who have different perspectives to avoid groupthink or share airtime.

Avoid these common mistakes

The most common mistake Erica sees people are in such a rush to reply quickly that they don’t take the time to fully read and understand what someone else really needs.  And then they send a reply that isn’t thoughtful. If we can step away from our impulses to respond first or immediately, we can find real power and control in the silence.

To avoid responding to all your digital messages in haste, try blocking off time in your calendar to diligently and patiently respond to your emails, even if you don't have the time until the end of the day. Or, if it's an email message, perhaps you can respond, "Hey, I'll answer your question" or “on it!” if you don't have time immediately. Additionally, re-read what you've written before you send it—and always double-check the CC'd box!

Six tips to making a great first impression

"A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions (although they might boost your confidence in your judgments). Their research is presented in their article “First Impressions,” in the July issue of Psychological Science." [Source: Association for Psychological Science]

Before your next virtual engagement, follow these 6 tips:

  1. Prepping Your Calendar Invite: The Title.

    Preparing a thoughtful calendar invite requires a few things. For one, a confident calendar invite needs a good event title.The more distinctive and specific the better; you don’t want to advertise a forgettable event.

  2. An impressive (and realistic) meeting agenda.

    Keep in mind, if you’re the one sending out a meeting agenda, you’re signaling that you have the ability to drive a meeting. You are sitting at the head of the virtual table.

  3. Check Your Tone!

    Digital body language may be fundamentally casual, but casual isn’t the same as careless. When we want to make a strong first impression, every word and signal counts, especially in an era where we can no longer rely on the sound and tone of our voices, and where eye contact is absent.

  4. Set timing expectations.

    If you’ve sent a meeting request and are anxiously waiting for a response, remember: it’s generally considered acceptable etiquette to wait up to 24 hours before responding to an email.

  5. Know who you’re talking to.

    When it comes to making a good virtual impression, my advice is to use our digital body language in the way we do with our bosses. Prioritize speed, clarity, and substantive message. The extra effort can make all the difference.

  6. Demonstrate your executive presence.

    Leaders with a strong executive presence are present, calculated, and careful. Online, this means double-checking all your written digital communications, and treating the virtual ones as if you were there in person.

Learn more from Erica about the art and science of using Digital Body Language at AESC's Virtual May Conference. Discover how to enhance virtual engagement, marketing, and selling tactics, make the most of phone and video visits and stand out in the current marketplace.


Thriving in the Next Normal

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Read Part 1: Building Virtual Relationships