Nitya Kirat | How to Win Virtually: Tips for Selling Better Over Zoom

John Corcoran 7:14

but what are your thoughts on that and be people who put something in their backdrop as a conversation starter?

Nitya Kirat 7:19

I think generally it’s a good idea. As long as it’s appropriate for the topic, the biggest thing is that nothing should take away from your ability to communicate and deliver value to your prospects or clients. But sharing something about your personality, sharing something that’s meaningful to you, sharing something interesting as a conversation starter. I like those ideas, okay, let’s try to rely on my personality without needing the pictures. But I like the idea.

John Corcoran 7:56

For those who don’t have the asset of a personality, then maybe they want a lot more interesting stuff behind them. Let’s talk about rapport building. You know, if you walk into someone’s office, then it’s almost like, you have so many different things to go off of if they have things in their office, or if they have pictures or family heirlooms, or memorabilia, or something like that. There are different things that you can latch on to and it can be a conversation starter, or if you go to drink, so someone or you go to a meal with someone, obviously, it’s an opportunity, but how do you build rapport? Especially when a lot of times these meetings are gonna be compressed? You know, instead of like, a couple hours together, you’re talking in half an hour, maybe an hour?

Nitya Kirat 8:38

Yeah, yeah, one of the big ones, there’s obviously similarities between selling virtually and selling in person or selling purely on the phone. One of the biggest differences is the speed at which things need to happen. When you talk about an in person meeting, as you mentioned, they’re generally longer you go into somebody’s office got 45 minutes an hour scheduled, you’ve got a little bit of time, they’re not kicking you out, and they’re not starting to go through their emails, if they’re not fully engaged at minute too. But virtually every minute is so important because there are these things pulling at us to say, inbound email that’s just arrived or here’s what your stocks are doing today or so many other things and it’s a matter of alright what’s, which of these options in front of me right now is most interesting. So when you went into somebody’s office, they sat down. Generally people are respectful and give you their time you had you could organically find things in common. build that rapport up. Now again, your meeting times are generally shorter, so you have less time to do it and you’ve got to also do it without the luxury of looking through someone’s someone’s office. And sitting down in the chair, they ask if you want anything to drink, like all of that report, the window is gone. So

John Corcoran 10:07

get your own, get your own darn Drink,

Nitya Kirat 10:08

drink, and how do you do it

John Corcoran 10:12

exactly is on your end, if you tea, coffee, whatever you want water, it’s all yours. We’re not going to help you with anything. But you know, you say that preparation is more important. Now, when you have a virtual meeting, why do you say that?

Nitya Kirat 10:26

I think prep preparation is the, when we’ve looked at top salespeople, historically, it’s that level of preparation. That’s the differentiator. In general, the type of prep is now changed. And so if you were used to doing prep a certain way, you have to change what that looks like. Again, if you were counting on a go to their office, I’ll find something to comment on. Now you need to look at their LinkedIn profile, find something very specific that you could either mention in your quick introduction as a point that you appreciate, or someone you know, in common. All of that needs to be done in advance. So you’re ready to strategically build, report the questions you ask to find that common ground and connection with someone also have changed. Right? Are any vacations coming up? Some people are starting to travel, but it’s generally not a great question to ask at this time. So those COVID questions that you want to think about, but even within those COVID questions, if you’re the you’re the business developer, and you’re taking responsibility for that meeting, you control the energy or the tone that you set in that meeting could drag people

John Corcoran 11:45

down. So right, hey, like so is COVID really affect you? Yeah, my grandpa died last week. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Nitya Kirat 11:52

It sucked with kids in school. Yeah, that is now you find out something and maybe you can empathize. But now you’re both in a sour mood. So yeah, I get I think about a question like, what do you most Greg, and I know you’re big on gratitude, John, like, what are you most grateful for, through this pandemic, for those of us lucky enough to have our health, our families, our houses, our occupations, there’s a lot to be grateful for. So if you can ask a question that brings that the someone’s mind, I love that the

John Corcoran 12:26

energy is changed. I love that. That’s great. But what’s the most interesting thing you’ve watched on TV? What’s a hobby, you’ve, you’ve picked up? 

Nitya Kirat 12:29

A lot of things, but they’re just different than what we used to ask a year ago.

John Corcoran 12:40

Right? Right. Let me press you on this point about preparation. Because, you know, there’s this saying, when you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail. And I think what that means is, you know, to kind of interpret it, you know, you adapt or you you see the world the way that you want to see it or, or so that it adapts to you, in a sense, I guess, but But you said that preparation is key, and you’re you have a background in engineering, you got an MBA, and I there’s another sales guru who remain unnamed who I read his book, and he said rapport is nothing is not important at all. And I remember talking to my business partner and I was like, you know, the reason he’s saying that is because this guy has no personality. And so he’s going around, he’s saying reports, not important. It’s because he’s not good at rapport. So on the preparation piece, do you say that? Do you think part of that the reason you’re saying that is because you’re good at that? Or, or is it really true? Because there’s a lot I know, there’s a lot of salespeople out there that don’t prepare, you know, they almost wear it as a badge of honor. They go into a sales meeting, and they’re just gonna power through. But what you’re saying is, that’s not the right strategy, it’s not gonna lead to success.

Nitya Kirat 13:58

Yeah, there’s been several kinds of books and movement in this direction of the challenger sales, one of the more popular ones is where you don’t, they don’t need to like you, you don’t need to build that relationship, the relationship selling is gone. Here’s the thing, I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. You have to deliver value, you have to have products and services that fit and be able to tell the story to help help your customers see that that’s not, I’m 100% on that side. It doesn’t mean you should not cultivate and build a relationship because even though they’re you’re doing if you’re in a b2b situation, it’s humans that are making that decision. It’s a human being that has to decide and as humans, we’re affected, we decide by our emotion a lot more than people would give it credit for. So Unless you’re in a company, where your product or service is the only one in the marketplace that is so clearly superior to everybody else’s in a tangible or quantifiable way, if you’re in that situation, you can be in a hole and people will come to you. But for most of us, everyone has options, right? There are sales consultants out there, I believe I’m as good as any of them. But people have options, and other people are good, as well. So there’s a little bit of that, well, who would I like to be around more? Or who would I like to have an influence on the culture and what I’m trying to instill in my company? So that would be my Yeah, yeah. Dale Carnegie said, you know, influence people and make friends and influence people. I think some of those things just haven’t changed. That’s human. I agree.

John Corcoran 16:02

I agree. 100%. I mean, I say all the time that that book was written for today’s era, because it’s, it was written over 100 years ago, and it still is relevant to this day. And related to that, you know, a lot more people with people being stuck at home, you’ve seen a lot more activity on social media, social platforms, LinkedIn, in particular, in the business space, see a lot more people generating content, all kinds of different content. What role does that play in? You know, in a world where people are selling virtually, if any, does this social media and generating content marketing?

Nitya Kirat 16:44

Yeah, I think I think it’s obviously had an increasing role, as our alternatives have changed. A lot of my business involves going to alumni events, going out conferences, going to happy hour with someone at a private equity firm, and going to lunch with an old contact. Dinner with an old client, a lot of business was just developed, doing things I liked with people I like, and opportunities came about. All of that has shifted, right, the conferences have shifted the lunches, dinners, happy hours, all of that has shifted. So how do you generate business? In this environment? Social media has been, you know, one of those areas that has obviously increased in importance, as the others have, yeah, subsided. Obviously, there are ways to do it. And there’s the investment of time and resources that are required and depends on you know, who you’re who you’re selling to.

John Corcoran 17:55

Right, right. So, um, so preparation is more important. Report is different, the time periods are compressed. What else? What are some other differences in order to sell virtually

Nitya Kirat 18:09

the biggest difference, then it’s kind of the underpinning of the rest of the habits that we talked about. Suppose you were in a 30-minute business development meeting. And if you think about the last 10, or 15 meetings as such, you’ve sat through and you’re like, how much percentage of that time did I speak versus how much did the client or prospect speak? And there’s no one right answer, because different industries and different kinds of contexts matter. But generally, we’ve seen that the more you can shift that ratio slightly in the direction of the prospect or client speaking, more than before, you’ll see an improvement in the quality of meetings. And that’s something we’ve we’ve, we’ve known and seen and helped clients incorporate pre COVID Now, what’s different in this virtual world is suppose you say, okay, the I’m normally been at 60% me speaking 40% the client speaking if I analyze my average meeting, I’d like to move that from 60 me 40 them 5050. But it can’t just be alright, if we’re in a 30-minute meeting, I talk for 15 minutes, and then I say, hey, John, do you have any questions for me? I’d like you to talk for the next 15 minutes. It doesn’t work. That way that exchange of the mic needs to be more regular, more deliberate, and more frequent than previously, though, right when you have your introduction Hi. Make sure they’re speaking as well. When you share the agenda, how do you make sure there’s space built in for the client to be part of the conversation? It can’t be. I’ve got all this good stuff to talk about. And then I hope they’re going to be interested and want to ask some questions, because they won’t, because it’s very unlikely that they are still paying attention. 10 minutes present,

John Corcoran 20:25

right. 15 minutes is an eternity, right? Yeah. Yeah. And I also want to ask about the I mentioned in the intro that you lived all over the globe. So you’ve lived in different countries? How does that affect the way that you relate to people if at all, or teach others to relate to people, especially in this virtual world that we live in?

Nitya Kirat 20:50

Yeah, I feel worse in it, the way we moved around was not the ideal way to move around is if you’re one of your friends, works for a large multinational company or is in the military, and they move you around, we moved around, my dad was in the shipping industry, there was a big crisis in the early 70s. And he needed to get a job. Singapore was growing their economy, and needed people to come work there. That’s where I was born. Then the contract there ended after 1112 years, and we had to move back to India and reinvent and find themselves there. We moved to Tanzania. After that. My last two years of high school were there before I came to the US for college. So I feel very fortunate for those experiences. I think we all have we, the lives you lead until you’re 18 years old, are just chance, right? Yeah. What do your parents do? Where do they live? Yeah, you don’t really control that.

John Corcoran 22:06

I’m always interested in it because I moved around as a kid domestically, not outside of the United States. But it still felt like a big culture shock to me, because it was like, from, you know, Los Angeles near the beach to like suburban Massachusetts, which are culturally very different. Maybe not as much as Singapore and Tanzania, but very different within the same country. And so I’m always interested in how that affects people when you’ve moved around, especially as a kid because it’s hard as a kid, when you leave your friends behind, you have to make new friends or you move in the middle of a school year.

Nitya Kirat 22:36

It is hard. I think about this, this balance as well, especially now as a father. And I’ve had colleagues and friends who’ve had opportunities to move for their work. And then I well, Mike, my kid doesn’t want to move on, like no kid wants to move, which kid is gonna raise their hand and say, Yeah, I’d love to restart and go into the unknown and make new friends. There. It’s difficult. There’s nervousness. There’s real challenges that come through, but you think about the amount of change life brings us. You can learn at an early age to adapt. Know yourself, gain awareness to understand other people, it bodes well. Obviously, there’s the growing pains and the transition of going and being a new kid and the new school getting bullied until you figure out your niche.

John Corcoran 23:42

That’s where you fit in that strata. Yeah.

Nitya Kirat 23:44

Yeah, that’s the nerve wracking part for a child again, a big role for parents to play in my mind, we’re always there and supportive. Cuz you need that as Yeah, if you’re gonna make your kid go through that you need to be there for them to make sure they have and know they’re loved and have that stability.

John Corcoran 24:09

Yeah, but that relates to sales these days, right? I mean, sometimes you go in, sometimes you get a little beat up until you figure out where you’re where you fit in. Right.

Nitya Kirat 24:19

Yeah, and just dealing with change, right. Like, like the world continues to change. life continues to change. And you’re not changing , you’re falling behind. Yeah, and it’s struggling to Great.

John Corcoran 24:32

So yeah, great lesson for the last year for sure. And then I want to ask you about follow up also because follow up after a virtual meeting is different. Sometimes the big challenge is just getting that next meeting.

Nitya Kirat 24:50

Absolutely most, most business development processes are close, right? That is when you’re not going to a different On the type of product and service you’re in, but in most cases, a successful meeting is when they’re excited. they’ve understood what we’re, we’re doing, we understand them better. And we’ve got a step to follow up. Chapter 10 talks about this, this end of the meeting step, and you’re in a better position, if you can gain that commitment during that meeting. And you can do that more effectively. And also combat any resistance or hesitation that there might be, if you’re able to, if you’ve got enough time to do it, that you got a 30 minute meeting, the clothes or the ask for the next meeting shouldn’t come in the meeting in minute 29. I want to rush to get out and I don’t like yeah, sure, shoot me an email. And we’ll set something up. But if you can give yourself again, through efficient and deliberate preparation to get to that point, by minute 26, where you can now pause and make the ask. And by the way, if that’s quick, yes, let’s open up our calendars and get the schedule right away. And it’s only 27 minutes by this point, you can either continue to build that relationship for another minute, or you can give them the gift of a couple of minutes to go to the bathroom or whatever they need to do before their next call or meeting. But yeah, you’re gonna come up, so don’t be afraid of ending meetings or too early?

John Corcoran 26:43

So are you finding that it sounds like from the way you’re describing it is that we’re all taking more meetings that are shorter? And we’re kind of more scheduled than we ever have been before?

Nitya Kirat 27:01

Yeah, because of your calendars? Open, there’s no, well, I’m gonna have to walk to the cafeteria or get across town for this lunch meeting or that? Yeah, no, there’s no travel time. Right. It’s just working time. And unless you’re unless you’re very careful to protect against that your calendar gets pretty filled up,

John Corcoran 27:28

right back to back. And any final thoughts for those who are looking to get better at virtual sales?

Nitya Kirat 27:36

Obviously, in any situation, be or be yourself. The best salespeople are very process oriented, and always working on their own process. So continue to have that mindset, the title of the book, you know, 10 tiny habits, each change is a little one in itself. And when you add those up, it can make a big difference. So finding little ways to be more efficient with your preparation, finding little ways to create a better sense of rapport. finding those questions that really get the conversation, open all these different ways to improve the process, you have finding that right way virtually, to handle an objection, help someone get past a block that they have. So I guess it just comes down to continuing to always look for little ways to do it on an ongoing basis that one cent better a day, you know, theory we’ve, we’ve heard often,

John Corcoran 28:43

in a sense, you can get more reps in, if you put effort into it, you’re less constrained by having to drive an hour and a half across town to get to your next sales meeting. So you can put in more meetings and you can get more practice and get better at what you’re doing so that when people do get back onto the road again, they’re better,

Nitya Kirat 29:03

Perhaps 100% you have Yeah, you have a couple of advantages in selling virtually again, depending on how you set up, you have your setup. You can have notes and things ready that you might not have before. So how do you strategically set yourself up? And even more importantly, do your point, John, in this virtual world, you also get to practice. So set up time with a colleague to practice recording yourself. See how long your introduction was, see how long your explanation of the difference between your company and the others takes and whether you start twitching your face when you’re responding to a more uncomfortable question. We have so much more control of seeing how that comes across. Right? We used to When you go into a meeting, maybe you’re by yourself. You think you did well, you win some you lose some but you don’t really know now you can actually pick yourself and, and really perfect. Perfect your process.

John Corcoran 30:14

That’s a great point. Well, I know we’re running a little short on time to wrap things up with the two questions I was asked. So I’m a big fan of gratitude. And when you look around at your peers, contemporaries, others in your industry, who do you respect out there? Who do you admire?

Nitya Kirat 30:35

Oh, I’ve got a great group of colleagues. You know, a couple who were early mentors of mine, when I got into sales consulting 10 years ago, and good good people. They do great work. We do great work together. We do great work separately and just have continued to be people I know, my good friend from Business School, and who we’ve worked together with for 10 years. And he was the one who brought me into this space as Adam Shaveits, again, we’ve successfully transitioned a friendship and being in our 20s and going on trips at a successful professional relationship. So definitely grateful for. for it. That’s great. Bring. That’s

John Corcoran 31:26

great. This, I love. And then the last question. So you know, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars of the Emmys. you’re receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for everything you’ve done up until this point. But we all want to know who do you think? Who are the colleagues? Who are the friends or the mentors or the peers, investors? You mentioned your business partner, who are the people that you would acknowledge in your remarks?

Nitya Kirat 31:51

Definitely, I acknowledge my parents, they’ve had a huge role to play. As I mentioned, throughout moving and all the changes in life, they were a constant as was my brother. Yeah, great friends, I talked to a friend. The other day, Mark Fox, who is a friend from my undergrad 28 years ago, helped me on a project I was working on for a client today. We don’t talk very often, but his willingness to give me time just meant a lot. So just a lot of friends across the world. And this COVID period has allowed me to reconnect with a lot of them because we’re not out and about nearly as much. In the book I mentioned one of my first bosses out of college, Belen Denson, who was hard but taught me the value of attention to detail, which has been really valuable throughout my career and and with the work I do. Yeah, I mentioned Adam. I’ve got another Brian Bob ga Susan mentioned in my gratitude page in the book as well who just helped me and nurtured me along as I started on this journey.

John Corcoran 33:15

Great. Alright, and is the website. And WINNING VIRTUALLY is the name of the book. Where else should people go to, or where can they go to learn more about you and connect with you?

Nitya Kirat 33:32

In LinkedIn, I’m on LinkedIn, I’d love to connect with anyone who is interested. We try to post relevant, interesting content as it relates to sales teams, sales culture, on a weekly basis. So yeah, my company website, And on LinkedIn.

John Corcoran 33:55

Excellent. All right, Nitya. Thanks so much.

Nitya Kirat 33:59

Thank you, John.

Outro 34:00

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