Virtual prospecting and COVID-19: the changing face of sales in a work-from-home environment

02 November 2020 by National Bank Investments
Advisor pitching to a prospect virtually during COVID.

Businesses have had their fair share of challenges in adapting to the new operational realities of COVID-19. Some companies have had to adjust their work environment to provide safe social distancing to employees needing to present themselves in person. Some companies have had to deliver a robust work-from-home model for thousands of remote staff members. Other establishments have had to make the heartbreakingly difficult decision to close their doors altogether.

Sales models in the financial industry in particular have undergone some major adjustments. In an environment where building and managing interpersonal relationships is a precursory element to success, developing new relationships in a time where everything is socially distanced has been no easy feat. Can our confidence still be communicated through a firm elbow bump? Can we still convey friendliness without the facial cues hidden behind our medical mask? How can advisors meet new people… if they can’t meet new people?!

We’re delving into why virtual prospecting can be so challenging, how to improve the efficacity of message creation from a distance, and how to leverage out-of-the-box prospecting strategies.

Growing pains of virtual prospecting

In an industry where face-to-face rapport is a crucial component to relationship and trust building, first encounters via video streaming services doesn’t quite make the same impression. Picking up on the subtilities of body language and facial reactions is just not the same. There is nothing quite as mortifying as a buffering screen mid-blink when trying to close a new account. 

So, though there is no way for you to control what technology your prospects have access to, you can still do what you can to make sure you come to these meetings prepared. Make sure you check in with your audience periodically to see if they’re keeping up or have any questions. Preserve engagement by limiting the amount of technological applications so that people aren’t distracted by logins, downloads, and popups. Finally, know when to end the meeting: attention spans are even shorter at a distance.

Crafting a message that will actually be read

Building off the reduced attention span we’ve identified in the first section, we have reason to believe that those emails you spend 20 minutes meticulous crafting are not even being read. Too long. Too detailed. No call-to-action. You’re not going to be able to go over the points you outlined in your email over breakfast next week. This is the only moment you will have before progressing to next steps. You’re confined to those virtual meeting rooms for the next few months; the opportunity to discuss things face-to-face is still far, far away.

To be effective, messages should answer four key questions1 :

  1. Who? Gauge the tone of your email based on the person you’re writing to. A strict template won’t allow you to write in a voice that matches your relationship to the prospect adequately.
  2. Why? Make sure the purpose of the message is obvious, such as a written summary of the important points from a recent pitch.
  3. What? The main points of the email should cover the problems you are trying to solve for them. Keep it short… You know they won’t read it if it isn’t!
  4. How? Determine how you want the next steps to roll out. Should you include a call-to-action by asking them to call you back, or maybe make a promise to get back to them with a report soon?

Most importantly, advisors can add value by helping prospects clarify and parse apart the overload of information to help determine what best suits their specific situation or challenges.  The extra level of service won’t go unnoticed. Remember that in the digital world, information is abundant; too much detail can exacerbate the complexity of the usual sales cycle. The result of this content surplus is that it leaves too much room for interpretation, potentially leading to unwanted assumptions. 

Out-of-the-box prospecting strategies

Your prospecting techniques should be true to your professional brand. Leverage novel approaches that compliment your strengths handsomely. Some out-of-the-box ideas include:

  • Video conferencing: Virtual meetings don’t have to stop at sales pitches! You can use dedicated timeslots to host webinars, wherein you’d play the role of the industry expert educating others, or even to hold continuing education courses, where accredited attendees reap the rewards of industry-relevant credits.
  • Sell your brand over social media: Show that you’re an expert in your field by interacting with publications, sharing worthy industry news, publishing your own commentary or articles, and connecting with industry colleagues.
  • Link to YouTube videos or podcasts: Podcasts and YouTube videos are not only easy to share but deliver an educational appeal for potential clients who prefer to watch or listen. If shared with a broader network, these vehicles allow your current clients to spread the word about you effortlessly. If you’re doing the sharing, beware of the luring appeal of the “share” button: personalise your caption to give context to your existing connections as well as potential prospects. Explain why you think the content is valuable.

Traditional sales roles have changed tremendously over the last few months of 2020. Without the in-person relational side of building partnerships, sales professionals have had to adapt quickly to fostering a trusting rapport with prospects virtually. As the industry continues to evolve to meet the new realities of the financial arena, experts will find that the competitive advantage will lie in the leveraging of technology and the quality of communications.

Legal notes

1. Don't let sloppy emails ruin productivity (

The information and the data supplied in the present document, including those supplied by third parties, are considered accurate at the time of their printing and were obtained from sources which we considered reliable. We reserve the right to modify them without advance notice. This information and data are supplied as informative content only. No representation or guarantee, explicit or implicit, is made as for the exactness, the quality and the complete character of this information and these data. The opinions expressed are not to be construed as solicitation or offer to buy or sell shares mentioned herein and should not be considered as recommendations.

National Bank Investments is a member of Canada’s Responsible Investment Association and a signatory of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.

©National Bank Investments Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without the prior written authorization of National Bank Investments Inc.


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