Enhancing Virtual Sales with AI: The Ultimate Guide

The transition to “virtual selling,” “remote selling,” or “distance selling” has become the new standard in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, transforming what was once a rarity into a routine practice. Today, over 90% of sales professionals operate either fully remotely or with a hybrid model that combines office and remote work. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to evolve, it offers transformative opportunities to refine and enhance the way sales teams engage with customers from afar.

Understanding Virtual Selling

Virtual selling involves a series of processes and technological tools that enable sales teams to interact with customers without a physical presence. This approach became particularly significant during the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating its adoption across industries.

According to McKinsey, a staggering 96% of B2B sales teams shifted to fully or partially remote operations during the pandemic – a shift that many consider permanent1. The insights from the “2023 State of Virtual Selling Survey” underscore this shift, revealing that more than 90% of the 720 sales professionals surveyed express a preference for continuing to work remotely2. This preference highlights the effectiveness and adaptability of virtual selling strategies in today’s evolving market environments.

Key drivers of this preference include:

  1. Changing Buyer Behaviors: Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, face-to-face meetings were the standard practice. This quickly shifted. In May 2020, shortly after the pandemic began, 75% of B2B buyers indicated a preference for virtual sales interactions over face-to-face meetings. One year later, this figure rose to 92%3. Consequently, B2B buyers have significantly changed their behaviors due to the time savings, convenience, and productivity offered by virtual meetings.
    1. Cost and Time Efficiency for Sellers: Remote selling allows significant reductions in travel expenses and more efficient use of sales representatives’ time and the ability to interact with more prospects.
    1. Technological Advancements: Rapid technological developments have introduced numerous improved tools for remote communication and interaction with customers. With AI, even more opportunities are now opening up to improve this.

    Virtual vs. Face-to-Face meetings

    While virtual meetings are often seen as equally or more effective than in-person meetings by 63% of sales leaders4, they also present challenges. Research highlights the unique advantages of face-to-face interactions, such as building closeness and feeling known and understood5, facilitating more effective communication, and providing psychological motivation6. These interactions enable better understanding through non-verbal cues, which are crucial as studies suggest up to 55% of communication is non-verbal. However, building trust remotely has become more challenging, with 57% of respondents in the “Future State of Trust” survey by Mercuri International finding it difficult7.

    AI-Enhanced Virtual Sales Meetings

    Despite these challenges, AI technology can bridge many gaps in virtual sales meetings, particularly on platforms like Microsoft Teams, Google Teams or Zoom. AI can dramatically improve how sales meetings are conducted by enhancing engagement, streamlining communication, and ensuring effectiveness across digital platforms.

    By leveraging AI in virtual customer meetings, businesses can enhance the efficiency and outcome of their sales strategies, overcoming the inherent limitations of remote interactions and setting a new standard for the future of sales.

    Here’s how AI can elevate your virtual sales meetings:

    1. Automate Appointment Scheduling
      Before automated solutions became commonplace, many salespeople spent significant time on manual appointment scheduling. This meant that they had to communicate back and forth with potential customers via email or phone to find common meeting times, which could be very time-consuming.

      By employing AI, these routine administrative tasks, can be automated by setting up meetings, sending out reminders and coordinating times between all parties. This saves the seller’s time and minimizes the risk of double bookings.

      Consider the following tools for optimizing the management of AI-enhanced virtual meeting participation:
      • Clara Labs: AI assistant that automatically communicates, books appointments, follows up, and manages details such as location and time with clients.
      • Meetfox: Meeting scheduling platform that uses AI to suggest optimal meeting times based on users’ calendars and time zones. Also includes video and payment features.
      • Calendly: A meeting scheduling automation tool that syncs calendars and manages invitations automatically.
    2. Transcribing and Summarizing Meetings
      Capturing the full value of discussions during virtual meetings can be challenging. What exactly did the client say? What exactly was agreed upon? Fortunately, AI-powered tools have revolutionized the way meeting dialogues are documented by offering real-time transcriptions. This transcription ensures that every detail is captured accurately and nothing is missed or forgotten, which is crucial when referencing specific discussions or agreements made during a meeting. Beyond transcriptions, AI can also help in identifying and summarizing key points and action items, making it easier to distill valuable insights from the meeting.

      Here are a few AI tools that can enhance virtual meetings with transcription and summarization features:
      • Otter.ai: A widely used AI tool that transcribes audio and video recordings of meetings in real-time. It also offers a feature called “Smart Notes,” which automatically summarizes meetings and highlights key points.
      • Fireflies.ai: Another transcription tool that not only transcribes meetings but also generates summaries and identifies “Action Items” to help track tasks discussed during meetings.
      • tl;dv: Records, transcribes, summarizes, generates and automates insights from your virtual sales meetings.
    3. Provide Real-time Feedback
      Imagine an AI assistant that can analyze and recognize patterns in sales meetings that you might not see or understand yourself. This could involve visual elements like facial expressions, body language, eye movements, and hand gestures, as well as how you verbally express yourself, including speaking clearly, using correct formulations, and maintaining a pleasant pace. AI can do just this by acting as a coach and providing real-time feedback.

      In addition to being able to record and transcribe sales conversations, AI can also provide real-time feedback during the meeting itself. Are you speaking too quickly? Too much? Are you interrupting the customer? And what about emotional intelligence?

      Here are a few tools to consider for providing real-time feedback in AI-enhanced virtual meetings that can be directly incorporated into your Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams rooms:
      • Gong: Utilizes AI to analyze sales calls and provides real-time feedback to sales representatives.
      • Yoodli: Enhances your communication skills with private, real-time, and judgment-free coaching.
      • Poised: An AI assistant designed for better meetings. It helps you prepare with personalized suggestions, speak confidently with real-time feedback, and track your progress over time.
    4. Optimizing Engagement in Virtual Meetings
      AI can serve as an essential tool for enhancing engagement during virtual meetings. It functions effectively as an automated facilitator, actively monitoring how participants are engaging and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to contribute. AI can suggest optimal times for breaks or modifications to the meeting’s agenda based on how engaged participants are, which keeps meetings lively and productive.

      Here are several AI tools designed to enhance engagement in virtual meetings hosted on platforms like Zoom, Google Meets, and Microsoft Teams:
      • Rewatch: An AI-powered platform that not only records and transcribes meetings but also analyzes them. Its “Participation Insights” function allows you to see engagement levels, helping pinpoint both active contributors and those less involved.
      • Nyota: Similar to Airgram, Nyota tracks speaking activity and provides real-time feedback to promote a balanced discussion. With its “Meeting Equality” feature, it ensures that all participants have a fair chance to voice their opinions, fostering a more equitable environment.
      • Equal Time: This tool helps ensure equitable participation in meetings by tracking speaking time and providing inclusion scores. It offers a real-time sidebar in Google Meet or Zoom, showing the distribution of speaking time among participants, which is crucial for maintaining balanced discussions.
    5. Improving Audio and Video Quality in Virtual Settings
      AI can significantly enhance the audio and video quality in virtual meetings by filtering out background noises, such as traffic or other disruptive sounds, and by adjusting video settings to compensate for poor lighting conditions. This ensures that all participants can clearly see and hear each other, contributing to a more engaging and productive meeting experience.

      Here are examples of AI tools designed to enhance audio and video quality in virtual meetings:
      • Krisp: This tool utilizes AI to eliminate background noise in real-time during online meetings. Compatible with any conferencing app, Krisp can filter out noises like traffic, café chatter, or other interruptions, ensuring that voices are heard clearly without distractions.
      • NVIDIA Broadcast: Primarily targeting streamers but also highly effective for general virtual meetings, NVIDIA Broadcast offers advanced AI features to improve both audio and video quality. It includes capabilities like noise removal and auto-framing, which keeps the camera focused on the speaker, even when they move. It also enhances video quality by adjusting lighting conditions.
      • NVIDIA Eye Contact Feature: Specifically designed to boost your presence in virtual presentations, this feature uses AI to adjust the direction of your gaze in real-time, creating the illusion that you are looking directly into the camera, even when you are reading from a script. This fosters a more engaging and authentic connection with your audience.

    Conclusion: The Future of AI in Virtual Selling

    Looking ahead, AI is poised to further revolutionize virtual selling. Experts predict more sophisticated AI integrations in the coming years, with technologies that could predict customer behaviors, personalize interactions more deeply, and automate more complex sales tasks. As these technologies evolve, sales teams should consider pilot programs or phased rollouts to integrate new tools without disrupting existing operations.

    Call to Action: Sales leaders should evaluate these AI technologies, considering their specific business needs and customer interactions, to harness the full potential of AI in enhancing virtual sales meetings. By staying informed about advancements and experimenting with new tools, businesses can remain competitive in a rapidly evolving digital sales environment.

    Henrik Larsson Broman

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    1 https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/how-b2b-sales-have-changed-during-covid-19
    2 https://www.vidyard.com/virtual-selling-report/
    3 https://www.bain.com/insights/virtual-selling-has-become-simply-selling/
    4 Hubspot (2021). Sales Enablement Report (https://www.hubspot.com/sales-enablement-report)
    5 Colbert, A, Yee, N, George, G, (2016) “The Digital Workforce and the Workplace of the Future” Academy of Management Journal, 59(3):731-739.
    6 Storper, M, Venables, A, (2004) “Buzz: Face-to-face contact and the urban economy”, Journal of Economic Geography, 4(4):351-370.
    7 https://mercuri.net/the-future-state-of-trust-report/