Guest post from Doug DeVitre, author of Screen-to-Screen Selling.

Selling with technology is a double edge sword. Use it wisely and deliver a seamless customer experience worth receiving referrals.  Use it poorly and embarrass yourself, your company, or worse your customer.

Today there is no lack of technology, only lack of skills of using the technology to accelerate business results. In fact, the wrong technology choice can consume more hours and suck a budget dry without ever improving the original outcome it was intended to solve. Sales leaders, managers, and front line reps need to take a realistic approach by putting the customer first and then choosing the right technology, design the best sales playbook, and develop the right skills in order improve the customer experience.

Here are four tips sales leaders can take action on today.

Establishing virtual trust

It takes work to build rapport with the customer you’ve never met face to face.  Even the most reliable referral will require time to build the relationship and establish trust so the customer feels comfortable sharing their confidential concerns.  We must be skilled at asking really good questions escalating from casual conversation to precise contribution to value while evaluating which technology will be best used in dialogue.  For example, you might talk with a referral over the phone because it is safer for them and once they feel more comfortable in the relationship you might move to a screen share or video conference in order to dive deeper into their concerns.

Choose customer friendly technology

I use Skype with many of my customers. For some it’s unrealistic to force them to create a username and password to have one conversation. Conversely, if a customer has a strict Internet security policy I might be forced to use their preferred video conference program.  We must first ask our customer which is their preferred web meeting tool and adapt our skills and expertise accordingly. If the customer doesn’t have a favorite then choose the tool that requires the least amount of steps to have a conversation.

Dump the demo

Sales presentations full of features and benefits on pre-ordered slides are a surefire way to lose customer interest.  Pre-ordered slides are built on assumptions for what the customer needs, make the sales person explain instead of listening to customer needs, and appear in some preconceived order that hopes to be the same order for what the customer wants. In sales we must use our ears and mouth in equal proportions.  That means dump the demo and start asking really good questions about customer needs.

Diagnose with a digital whiteboard

There’s a tipping point in the conversation after discovering customer needs when a customer might ask, “how does that work specifically?”  You have two options. Explain over the phone verbally or demonstrate visually using screen share.  If the customer prefers screen share than I suggest using a digital whiteboard to make annotations that affirm you were listening, confirm you understood, and demonstrate your expertise customized for the customer in the moment.  Following the conversation, send the whiteboard annotations to the customer as a visual summarization of the key talking points to increase retention of ideas.

The emphasis here is not on which technology use. The emphasis is on how to use the technology as a skill set in order to increase sales, productivity, and the customer experience. When starting out or in doubt about what works practice on your family or friends first. They will be much more forgiving during your learning curve than your toughest customer.

Doug Devitre, author of Screen-to-Screen Selling, is the founder of Doug Devitre International, Inc. He was inducted into the National Association of Realtors Business Specialties Hall of Fame, awarded Entrepreneur of the Year from University of Missouri-Columbia, and bestowed the top honor of Certified Speaking Professional Designation by the National Speakers Association.