Industrial Sales in a Virtual World

Ed Marsh | Mar 16, 2020

virtual meetings and digital sales enablement for industrial and capital equipment sales

Learn From Experts in Other Industries

I've long maintained that there was a huge amount industrial companies could learn about marketing and sales from tech companies (here's a quick video that dives deeper.) The pressure of tech investors, and the rate of expected growth, demand performance which exceeds many industrial companies and capital equipment manufacturers.

In my experience small tech companies are far more advanced than even large industrial companies in areas including product marketing, product market fit, benefits and outcomes, competitive battlecards and intelligence, digital marketing, copywriting, SEO, email, PR, lead nurturing, lead scoring, sales enablement, video, content creation, sales automation, omnichannel cadences, metrics and tracking, sales process, pipeline management, account based marketing, target account sales, territory/account AND project management, sales engineers, intent data, and marketing technology.

There are exceptions, and all those capabilities fall somewhere on a continuum for every company.

There's one that's going to really become important as we enter this new world of contactless sales.

That's the ability to sell remotely.

The Sales Meetings Themselves

Technology sales often include leads from events, just as industrial sales rely on tradeshows. That's changing quickly. 

That transition will be easier for technology companies, though,  because their sales process has traditionally been remote and relied heavily on technology. Online meetings have been standard for several years, and many folks also work remotely.


Now suddenly, people are scrambling to catch up in other industries, including industrial sales. That's what pushed' stock up even as the bottom fell out of the rest of the market!

That means industrial sales people have to catch up quickly. And remote sales is different than the process of project management and email communications between otherwise in person meetings.

The challenge is to create the same rapport, trust, urgency, and commitment via online meeting.

How to Sell Effectively On Zoom

Here are some key tips:

  1. Be even better prepared
  2. Be on time
  3. Be professional in grooming, appearance and background - and use the camera
  4. Have written questions
  5. Use meeting reminders
  6. Share an agenda and goals
  7. Record (with permission)
  8. Recap
  9. Keep it short
  10. Fumble with the technology on your own time - and use the simplest tool for your guests

Often the casual nature of online meetings gets people in trouble. Just because you're not traveling, doesn't mean the meeting is less important. You must prepare even more carefully than for an in-person meeting.

Don't be late. In fact, be 3 minutes early. Have a plan and a process for how you'll contact someone if they don't appear. (Tip - collect their mobile number as part of the meeting process. That way you can text a reminder 3-5 minutes after the meeting time.)

#WFH - online meetings and working from home are not an excuse to be any less professional than you would be in person. If you'd wear a hoodie, then wear a hoodie. If you'd wear a suit, then wear one. The pajamas, underwear, bedhead jokes are for amateurs. If you're ready then you won't hesitate to turn your camera on. You must! It's not optional unless bandwidth is constrained. That way everyone stays focused and doesn't work their email on their phone while pretending to participate. Of course this means you have to wash the dishes, make your bed, etc. (maybe you should anyway!)Zoom has a handy virtual background tool. If you have a wall or bookcase behind you, consider a simple green screen fabric. For an alternative, you might get one that mounts on your desk chair.

An online meeting often feels a bit less naturally flowing. You'll want to have written questions so you don't miss key points where it may not feel as natural. And keep your decks short and pithy.

When someone books an in-person meeting they often have a more definite recollection of the obligation. You may find people are more inclined to cancel online meetings. So set the expectation that it's happening - and keep it on their calendar. Most meeting scheduling tools (Calendly, Zoom, HubSpot, etc.) offer options for reminders at intervals like a week, day, and hour. Use them. And include simple instructions for how to log in for folks that might not be familiar. (And use a tool that doesn't require them to download software, and an invite link that logs them in directly.)

Create, share and follow an agenda which includes a key goal for the meeting. It's not a facetime with your friend. It's a business meeting between people with crazy schedules and demands on their time.

Record the meeting (with your guest(s)' permission and knowledge.) It's a great reference tool for both parties. If you use a transcription tool like, you can arrange automatic transcription too.

Like any good meeting you'll have a clear agreement on any follow-on steps, accountability and deadlines. Send an email recap. And that's a perfect opportunity to include a link to the recording and transcript. Take it a step further and use a sales video tool like Drift Video to make your recap more personal and dynamic and to further build the personal connection.

Keep the meeting short. 20 minutes for 1:1 or small group is often effective. And don't schedule them back to back. You'll miss the chance to set next steps and confirm where you stand.

Finally, even simple tools like have a learning curve. How to start recording, how to chat with just a colleague or the group, how to mute someone with background noise, even how to coach someone through the process of getting their audio working (the most common issue.) Know it yourself. Practice and get familiar. Learn the mobile app so when circumstances change you can adapt and run effective meetings from your phone wherever you are.

Then Take it Further

Business will return to normal, and exclusively online meetings will become a choice rather than a necessity. In person meetings will always play a role in large, complex sales.

But many companies will choose to continue some component of online meetings. They're efficient, reduce travel costs, and make it possible to coordinate and engage more members of the complex buying and sales teams.

In addition to building the online meeting muscle our of necessity in 2020, there's so much more than industrial manufacturers can learn from technology companies.

So here's a suggestion. Allocate a portion of your savings from cancelled trade shows to the digital, marketing, technology and sales content you'll need to accelerate quickly past competitors as business returns to normal.

That takes more than a website or inbound marketing agency. It takes expertise across disciplines.

That's what I help industrial manufacturers and capital equipment companies do.

Interested? Let's chat.