Selling remotely: A proven 11-step workflow to grow your business with remote sales calls and webinars

If coronavirus has forced you to start selling remotely, please don’t let this article overwhelm you. It has taken us over ten years to optimize the following workflow. Right now, your audience will sympathize with your situation. They won’t expect polish. They won’t be surprised if your kids walk in. Rather than follow the whole […]

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If coronavirus has forced you to start selling remotely, please don’t let this article overwhelm you. It has taken us over ten years to optimize the following workflow. Right now, your audience will sympathize with your situation. They won’t expect polish. They won’t be surprised if your kids walk in.

Rather than follow the whole workflow, you might want to copy it and then delete all the parts that aren’t a high priority for you right now.

Our entire workflow for setting up and presenting successful remote sales calls and webinars, including…

  • Three reasons why we sell remotely—and why you probably should too.
  • Some great technology that will hugely improve the quality of your video sales calls and webinars.
  • Proven templates for all the documents you’ll need to create a webinar (emails, blog posts, etc.).
  • “Don’t forget to go to the toilet”: The checklist we follow just before a video sales call or webinar.
  • Some easy-to-make embarrassing webinar blunders we’ve made, and how you can avoid them.
  • How to edit the slides and video and post them to your blog.

Why you should consider hosting webinars

Webinars and remote sales calls are highly effective for communicating with your target market. Many people are surprised that we have brought in many top brands as clients without ever having traveled to their offices.

We now turn down almost every conference speaking request, and instead we spend that time giving webinars. We have even presented remotely at “real-life” conferences:

Hello Latvia! We have spoken remotely at several “real-life” conferences, using GoToWebinar to present our beautiful slides and ugly faces onto the screen.

We estimate that switching from conferences to webinars has saved us a month per year that we would otherwise have spent traveling. It’s hard to quantify how much time we save from using web conferencing software for sales calls. One of our team members can now carry out seven international sales calls a day. Face to face, that would take over two weeks.

Webinars have three huge benefits over other marketing channels:

  1. They allow a level of rapport that articles don’t.
  2. They are time-efficient, for you and for the attendees, who don’t need to travel to a conference either.
  3. They are highly scaleable. It’s unusual to have more than 100 people attend a talk at a web conference, but it’s normal for a webinar.

However, no other marketing medium presents more opportunities for messing up. They are like a stressful cross between organizing an international conference, giving a presentation, and making a VoIP call. Over the years, we’ve accumulated many tips for getting the best results from webinars, usually by making mistakes then asking ourselves, “How can we safeguard against that ever happening again?”

We recommend you get a “Do not disturb” sign.

If you want to do only remote sales calls, and not webinars, then read Steps 1 and 3, and then skip to Steps 7–11.

Step 1: Get the right technology

  • If you’re wondering how our voices sound so professional (why are you laughing?), it’s because we use a great microphone (the Blue Yeti) with an anti-pop screen (like this one). We’ve recorded a comparison of the different microphone options, so you can hear what a huge difference it makes.
A good microphone makes a big difference to the sound quality. And makes you feel like an old-time radio presenter.
We had acoustic tiles fitted to the walls and ceiling of this office, to make it ideal for conference calls and webinars. They are almost unnoticeably discreet; they are on every wall except the one by the stairs.

Step 2: Have a kick-off meeting to agree the details of the webinar

We recommend you co-present webinars with other companies. That way, you provide valuable content to their subscribers, and in return you get exposure to a new audience. The following points will be useful when you have the first phone meeting with the people with whom you’ll be presenting:

  • Before or during this kick-off meeting, send out a Google Doc that contains the planning templates for the webinar. To save you loads of time, here’s our template.
  • Agree on the title of the webinar. (Ideally, it would be a subject about which you have already created content.) As with all good headlines, a good title will compel the visitor into wanting to know more, probably by speaking in terms of benefits. Our talk about usability, for example, was called “Conversion mistakes we’ve made. And how conversion affects SEO. With Rand Fishkin.
  • Agree who will be presenting, who will be moderating and who will be organizing (that is, setting up the webinar software).
  • Create an outline for the webinar, so each presenter knows how many minutes they can speak for. It’s a good idea to have 15 minutes for questions at the end. Agree now who will answer the questions.
  • Assign one of your colleagues to join the webinar as an attendee, so they can see and hear what the attendees see and hear. If, at the start of the webinar, you accidentally start showing your screen without realizing it, this person can notify you.
  • Agree upon the time and date for the webinar:
    • Should you have multiple sessions for different time zones? Remember that time zones vary by date, so don’t just look at the time differences as they are today. Instead, use TimeAndDate’s Meeting Planner or EveryTimeZone (which is more accessible).
    • Don’t have a webinar on a national holiday. Use Google Calendar’s “interesting calendars” feature to automatically add different countries’ national holidays to your calendar.
    • Ensure that the presenters, moderators and organizer will join the webinar half an hour before it starts (so they can check that the technology is working).
  • Agree a time and date several hours before the webinar to have a “dress rehearsal,” to agree on the final details and to test the slides and the technology. A 30-minute call should suffice. Twice during such calls we’ve encountered major problems. On one occasion, the other presenter took half an hour to get the technology working. On another, only a quarter of our screen was visible. You don’t want to leave that kind of problem till the day of the webinar.
  • Agree a time and date for a post-webinar de-brief call, to review any remaining tasks that need to be completed.
  • Agree if and how each party will we be promoting the webinar to its followers.
  • Give the presenters, moderators, and organizers the URL of this article (the one you’re currently reading), so they can follow this checklist themselves.
  • Ask for photos of the presenters, and the email addresses of the presenters, moderators, and organizers. Also, share cell phone numbers in case any one of you needs to be contacted in an emergency.
  • Confirm in writing everything you’ve just agreed. You can do this by emailing the URL of the “planning” Google Doc to the presenters, moderators and organizers.

Step 3: Set dates in your calendar

  • Send calendar invitations to the presenters, moderators, and organizers.
  • Reserve the room from which you’ll present the webinar. You don’t want to start the webinar out of breath because you’ve just had to wrestle several people out of the room. (Incidentally, this task is in the “calendar” section because we book resources using our online calendar. The room from which we present has its own calendar.)
  • Invite someone to be in the same room as you during the webinar—so they can be a “runner” if you need anything. It could be the same person who will be attending the webinar as a guest.

Step 4: In Google Docs, draft the blog post to announce the webinar

  • The blog post is surprisingly fiddly to set up, partly because the time zones are difficult to explain (and GoToWebinar doesn’t make things easy). This example of an announcement blog post has all the necessary parts. By drafting it in Google Docs, you can show it to the other parties before it goes live. This also saves you from the chicken-and-egg situation whereby you can’t publish the blog post till you have the GoToWebinar sign-up URL to include in it, but you can’t set up GoToWebinar until you have written the description of the session.

Step 5: Set up GoToWebinar

  • Be careful who sets up GoToWebinar, because this person will receive all of the email inquiries (and there may be tens or hundreds of them).
  • Copy and paste from the Google Doc the description of the session and the follow-up emails.

Step 6: Publish the blog post announcing the webinar

  • Once all the parties have agreed upon it, transfer the blog post from Google Docs to your site and to your co-presenter’s site.
  • Follow your publicity plan for the post. (Email your subscribers, etc.) We usually send just one notification, because that’s what we’d do to a friend—and we treat our subscribers like our friends. (In fact, many of them are our friends.) Most companies find that they get higher sign-up rates by sending out a series of emails in the days leading up to the webinar.

Step 7: Write the talk and create the slides

  • For remote collaboration, we much prefer Google Slides to PowerPoint.
  • If you’re using PowerPoint, send a slide template file to each person who’ll be creating slides. If you’re using Google Slides, simply send the link to the slide deck.
  • In this article we’ll not address how to write the webinar talk itself. Instead we’ll focus on the activities that are specific to webinars. If you want advice on how to structure a persuasive, valuable talk, then see “How to beat most professional copywriters,” which contains a highly effective template for creating persuasive messages. Nancy Duarte’s book, Resonate, is great too. If you want inspiration for creating slides, SlidesCarnival and SlidesGo can be useful.
  • Script into the webinar talk a second introduction for latecomers.
  • GoToWebinar’s interface shows how many people are actually watching the slides (as opposed to having the GoToWebinar window open in the background). You can increase the number of active viewers by regularly saying “Look at this slide” during the talk. Include in your script reminders to do this.
  • When the presenters have submitted their slides, combine them into one slide deck and check that all of the fonts and transitions have worked. Tip if you’re using PowerPoint: When you paste in a new slide, you’ll see a small clipboard icon that asks you whether to “Keep Source Formatting” (choose this one!) or “Use Destination Theme” (don’t use this one, unless you secretly hate your co-presenter and want to hear them cry in front of a thousand people. The button might as well say “Ruin Slides.”)

Step 8: The day before the webinar

  • In case of emergency, print the following:
    • Your slides (and annotate them if needed).
    • The dial-in details.
    • The “planning” Google Doc (which includes emergency contact details).
We use two laptops. The one on the left is for slides and GoToWebinar, and the one on the right is for instant messaging, accessing the web, and maybe joining the webinar as an attendee so you can see what attendees see.

Step 9: About 30 minutes before the webinar

  • Put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door.
  • If you’re using one, make sure your Bluetooth headset is fully charged.
  • Restart your computer (or, at the very least, free up your computer’s memory. For Mac, iCleanMemory works well).
  • Turn off any software that might slow down your computer, hog your bandwidth or hijack your screen:
    • Close any applications you won’t be using—including ones that only appear in the menu bar.
    • Close any software that is likely to seize control of your screen. For example, instant messaging software, calendar software or notification software.
    • Turn off backup software (like Time Machine).
    • Turn off file-sync services (like Dropbox and Google Drive Filestream).
    • If you use Apple macOS, open Notification Centre, scroll to the top, and activate “Do Not Disturb” mode, to prevent any embarrassing SMS messages you receive during the webinar from appearing on your screen.
    • If you have it (and if you don’t, you’re missing a trick) activate Owly (for Mac), which stops your computer from going to sleep or starting your screen saver.
    • Set yourself a reminder to restart your computer afterwards, so all of the above software starts again.
  • Ensure your backup internet connections are ready (your wireless card, phone tethering, etc.).
  • Minimize any possible sources of noise: Turn off doorbells, unplug unneeded cell phones and landline phones (note that a phone in vibrate mode can still make a lot of noise). Close windows. If your door is locked, take the keys out of the door, in case someone needs to let themselves in.
  • If you’ll be browsing the web during the webinar, open a single, blank browser window in “Incognito” mode in a browser you don’t normally use. Delete the history from your web browser, so people can’t see your history and bookmarks.
  • Tidy up your computer’s desktop.
  • Unplug any external displays before you begin, and present the slides from your main screen. (An external display is one more thing that can go wrong.)
  • Most webinar software allows you to record the webinar. However, also start ScreenFlow (for Mac) or Camtasia (for Windows), ideally on another computer, to create a backup recording. For a second backup, start a digital recorder recording.
  • Join GoToWebinar. If you’re using a phone, not VoIP, check that “Mic and Speakers” is deselected in GoToWebinar’s control panel—otherwise you may hear loud feedback noise. Also, remember that when “Mic and Speakers” is selected, your voice can be heard by the other presenters as soon as you open GoToWebinar.
  • If you’ll be using GoToWebinar’s “Mic and Speakers” VoIP service, then, regardless, activate the  “Telephone” option, and write down the dial-in details. Then, if VoIP fails at any point, you can dial-in with a normal phone.
  • The presenter should click “Record” when the webinar starts.
  • Throughout the session, presenters should ensure that they view the “Chat” section of the GoToWebinar control panel, in case other presenters need to contact them. If one of the presenters isn’t paying attention to your chats (perhaps their “Chat” panel is collapsed), here’s a clever way of getting their attention: On the webinar, tell the presenter that you have just chatted a URL to them, and ask them to forward it to all of the attendees. Then chat to them the URL of the resource along with a message saying “Please pay attention to my chats!”
  • Set up a spare laptop on your desk (if you have one). Join the meeting as an attendee on it. This allows you to see what time lag there is between you showing a slide and the audience being able to see it. Also, start up instant messaging so you can use it to communicate with other presenters if anything goes wrong.
  • If anyone else is using the same Wi-Fi connection as you, ask them to switch to an alternative until the webinar is over.
  • Have a last-minute wee. You’ve earned it.
  • Put a glass of water on your desk, in case your voice dries up during the recording.
  • Let the other presenters know that the moderator will be controlling the slides during the presentation, so to advance the slides the presenters will need to keep saying “On the next slide, you’ll see…” or “If you move to the next slide, …” or “[Presenter’sName], if you could move to the next slide.” This turns out to sound less awkward than you might expect. Alternatively, you can “Give Keyboard & Mouse” to them, but be aware that their mouse movements can wreak havoc if you forget to disable them when it’s your turn to speak.
  • Listen to some exciting music as loud as you can bear, to energize yourself. Here’s our Spotify playlist of exciting songs—though you’ll probably want to create your own.

Step 10: Present the webinar

  • Throughout the webinar, the moderator should watch the “Questions” and “Chat” panes in GoToWebinar’s control panel.
  • When the talk starts, mute any presenters who aren’t speaking, to minimize any background noise, and to reduce the likelihood of bandwidth problems.

Step 11: After the webinar has finished

  • Make sure you end the session, by closing GoToWebinar altogether. It’s surprisingly easy to leave it running. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the “Stop showing screen” button will stop the audio too.
  • Convert the movie file of the recording (using GoToWebinar’s conversion software).
  • If agreed beforehand, export the GoToWebinar reports and send them to the other presenters. Read all of the attendees’ questions, even if you haven’t promised to reply to all of them. Sometimes they contain personal messages that require action.
  • Restart your computer, to restart the software that you paused (Dropbox, Time Machine, etc.). Also, unmute phones, and undo any other changes you made during Step 9.
  • Upload your slides to whichever platform you use to share slides. If you have used any non-standard fonts, then save the file as a PDF before uploading them, otherwise they’ll look terrible.
  • Edit the video (using ScreenFlow or Camtasia): Crop any excess content from the start and end of the video. Optimize the sound by maximizing its volume, being careful that none of the peaks get too loud (in ScreenFlow they appear red when this happens). ScreenFlow has a feature called “Smooth volume levels,” which can be useful. However, if the other presenters are consistently quieter than you (because they don’t have an awesome microphone, perhaps), then it helps to turn their sections of the audio into separate clips, and then to edit the volumes of those clips independently. Export the video on “Web – High” setting. Then upload the video to your video-hosting service. We love Wistia, but you may prefer Vimeo or YouTube.
  • Embed the slides and video into a blog post (here’s an example). Don’t skip this stage; for every person who attends one of our live webinars, there are more than five people who see the video recording and/or the slides. Rather than create a new post, we edit the one that we used to announce the webinar, because it’s not needed any more, and there might still be links pointing at it.
  • Publicize that it’s published (email your subscribers, share it on social media, etc.).

Good luck, and let us know how you get on!

This article is one of a series, the index for which is here. To hear when the next article becomes available, get on our email list.

We’re assembling a guide to remote working. Let us know your questions.

We hope you are well. You may be working from home. Or perhaps you are still going to the office, but might be sent home at any moment. Maybe you’re a leader who hasn’t led a remote team before. Since our company began in 2006, it has been 100% remote. Our team members are spread […]

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We hope you are well.

You may be working from home.

Or perhaps you are still going to the office, but might be sent home at any moment.

Maybe you’re a leader who hasn’t led a remote team before.

Since our company began in 2006, it has been 100% remote. Our team members are spread across eight countries worldwide, and we have worked with clients in 37 countries. We have experienced almost every remote-working pain point there is. Fortunately, through a lot of trial and error, we have found solutions to nearly all of them.

We are working hard to assemble some of our most useful in-house documents into a guide to working remotely. We’ll make each section freely available on our blog as soon as it’s ready.

If you—or your team—aren’t already working from home, and you think you might need to soon, we recommend you do a trial-run now. That way, you can use Genchi Genbutsu to discover what the challenges are. And the sooner you start, the more time you’ll have to overcome them.

If you let us know what your challenges are (just submit the following form), then over the next few days, we’ll share how we tackle them.

To hear when the guide becomes available, get on our email list.

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The Infinite Manager: How flows can eliminate work, so you only have to think once

One reason to create flows is so you can do all the hard thinking once. When you write down a flow for the first time, the written version augments your memory, so you can view it more logically. Also, whenever you spot a way to do the activity better, you have a “control” flow you […]

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The following excerpt is from our in-house onboarding flow for new team members. We are publishing it as a series of articles, which we’re calling The Infinite Manager. The series describes the unconventional operating system that has enabled our small team to have such an impact on the web’s leading companies.

In this part, we give an example of a simple flow we created, and the four types of benefits that flows give.

One reason to create flows is so you can do all the hard thinking once. When you write down a flow for the first time, the written version augments your memory, so you can view it more logically. Also, whenever you spot a way to do the activity better, you have a “control” flow you can update.

Here’s a simple example: When we started our company, we used to receive an email from our accountant each month saying,

“Please send me any missing receipts.”

The missing receipts tended to be from services that wouldn’t email receipts, so we had to fetch them ourselves. In documenting the flow, we realized that the time-consuming part was logging in to each service and rummaging around for the page from which receipts could be downloaded. So we documented the process. Now, our accounting software outputs which receipts are missing, and Google Sheets creates the following report…

A screenshot of a line from the table.

…which has a section personalized for each user—who can then fetch their missing receipts simply by clicking the links. The flow gave us four benefits:

  • Benefit 1: The obvious benefit: it saved us hours of work.
  • Benefit 2: Because the work had been defined, we were able to delegate it. In this case, we were able to share logins with colleagues who could download them for us.
  • Benefit 3: The flow became our winning control—and controls can be improved. The mere process of creating the flow helped us to understand how it could be improved. By externalizing the work from our memories onto a document, we could better understand it. In this case, we unsubscribed from some of the time-consuming apps that weren’t essential, and we changed some of them from pay-monthly to pay-annually. We even considered automating the clicking around (one of the services desperately needs a “download all invoices” function; it currently requires the user to click nine times to download each monthly invoice).
  • Benefit 4: The flow is now visible and legible—it’s no longer stuck in one person’s head—so other people can understand it well enough to come up with ideas for improving it further.

For your inspiration, here are some flows we’ve created

  • Sales and marketing
    • Prioritizing, creating, and publishing articles.
    • Creating a podcast episode.
    • Sales funnel.
    • Email marketing.
  • Clients
    • Flow for the consulting process.
    • Researching a client’s websites.
    • Understanding a client’s business.
    • Managing a client project.
    • Creating winning test designs.
  • Team members
    • Hiring the best people.
    • Onboarding new consultants and training them in CRE’s methodology.
    • Mentoring consultants.
    • Planning our annual company conference.
    • Onboarding new researchers.
  • Operations
    • Flows for HR.
    • Evaluating new software.
    • Managing our finances.
    • Managing our trademarks.
    • Completing our annual tax return.
    • Creating and updating financial reports.
    • How we create flows (very meta).
    • Health and safety management.
    • Managing the lifecycle of data.

We have been surprised to find that the number of flows has increased. We now have an “admin” one for every software app we use. Doing so may sound arduous, but we’ve found that the time taken to document a flow tends to be a small fraction of the total spent doing the work. And our current selves are delighted whenever we discover that our past selves have had the discipline to create a good flow.

Which flows should you create first?

Where should you start?

Which flows should you create first?

Begin with the repetitive activity that takes up most of your time, particularly if it’s complex and important. The best time to start is the next time you carry it out. You can then test it the time after that.

This article is one of a series, the index for which is here. To hear when the next article becomes available, get on our email list.

What you should do now

1. We have already grown companies just like yours. (We have helped to grow clients in 37 countries in 11 languages.) So wherever you are in the world, if you’d like us to work on your website—to dramatically increase its profits—then claim your FREE website strategy session. On this free phone consultation, one of our experts will discuss your conversion goals and suggest strategies to double your sales.

2. If you’d like to learn conversion for free, go to our “Learning Zone”, where you can download templates of million-dollar winning pages. Or, if you’d like us to build your company’s in-house capabilities (not for free), then contact us and we’ll discuss your requirements.

3. If you’d like to work for us—or see why our team members love working for us—then see our “Careers” pages.

4. If you enjoyed this article, then so will your friends, so why not share it on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook.

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