Maximising Video Conferencing Effectiveness

It would be something of an understatement to say we live in challenging times. This applies to both at home and a work. And in common, the one thing that is saving us all from going into despair, or bankruptcy, is the plethora of communications channels open to us in the 21st century. However, for many using apps such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype etc it is forcing us to adapt to a way of working that we are not always comfortable with.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of working from home is getting familiar with video meetings and one of the most challenging disciplines to adapt to is selling via video. By necessity, all selling/buying at this time is being done remotely. Yet, people by nature prefer to sell/buy by meeting someone in person, to do so in a way that allows them to observe body language, to look a person in the eye, to size up the person sitting across the table. Sometimes, a sale can depend on developing a personal chemistry. So, in this blog I want to ask the question: “Is the camera stopping you selling? And how do you fix it?”

The New World Order

The world has changed over the past few months. People have had to adapt to not going to the office, not travelling to business meetings, to social distancing, and to working from home. And in some roles, working from home is not always easy. If you work as an administrator, it can be as simple as logging on to your company account and inputting data. If you are an engineer, then coding can be done from anywhere there is a viable internet connection. The same with translation. However, what if your job is sales? How do you approach that challenge? How does a salesperson fruitfully engage with a customer from a remote location?

Studies have shown that when it comes to selling:

  • 80% of the population are visual learners.
  • People buy from people.
  • People are more comfortable making big purchasing decisions face-to-face.
  • Eye contact builds trust.
  • Personal chemistry can oil the wheels.

So how do we sell in times when personal interaction is so limited? Today’s buzz words are “conference” or “video” calls. People are rushing to brush up on their Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp etc skills. This modus operandi has introduced an extra challenge for the salesperson, who is now expected to work their magic by projecting all of their warmth, technical knowledge, and sincerity via webcam. For them, it is not business as usual. In fact, it has become a whole new way of selling and they are having to learn quickly how to manage that. Where they were once confident walking into an office and presenting and selling to a person with whom they could sit down with and interact, they are now having to do that to a talking head. Not everyone finds such a way of communicating easy.

Video Conferencing

Are You Camera Shy?

Many people and even salespeople find it difficult to be themselves on video calls. Sales people I have spoken to tell me things like: ‘it’s not natural’, ‘we get nervous’, ‘we feel awkward’, ‘we don’t like how we look or sound on camera’, ‘we feel overwhelmed by what we have to manage’. Let us look at some of the challenges and, more importantly, the fixes for sales video calling.

Remote Selling

When salespeople are working remotely, they have:

  • No audience, no platform/stage.
  • To keep the energy up and client engaged.
  • To keep focused, ensuring that they keep the goal in mind.
  • Do their best to be a natural on camera.

Ironically, being a natural on camera does not come naturally to most people. It takes practice and rehearsal. It is another form of going on stage. Where before it was into an office or board room to an audience of people, now it is a talking head on hopefully a well-connected internet.

So how do you create the ambiance for acting in a natural way on a video call. Again, my sales colleagues gave me their top tips.

  • Being natural does not mean sitting around in your gym gear or shorts/t-shirts and lying in a hammock.
  • It does not mean you will not be nervous. Everyone gets nervous before going on stage. Even the most accomplished actors. Nerves can be positive if you channel that energy. It will come across to the viewer as a plus.
  • The camera is your friend. Get to know it by “practice, practice, practice”. Understand your body language, how you feel and how you look.
  • Do a dry run. Do not put yourself on the backfoot by fumbling with technical problems.
  • Talk as if you are talking to a friend, do not become laconic or robotic.
  • Ensure the camera is at the right height and angle for you so that you maintain eye contact. (nothing worse than looking up someone’s nostrils.)
  • Ensure you have at the minimum a neutral backdrop. Nothing more off putting that some distracting backdrop on the wall behind you.
  • Ensure the lighting in the room is not blurring your picture (e.g. direct sunlight on screen).
  • Do not look down at your desk or keyboard. It breaks eye contact, diminishes the engagement, and loses the impact of the presentation/conversation.
  • If possible, have your notes at the same height left/right of the camera so that it is comfortable to read them without having to twist your head.

Own Your Environment

You have the luxury of creating a user-friendly sales environment for yourself. Use that to your advantage. Try to envision what the customer sees from their end, and if you are not happy with what they will be looking at, adjust it.

  • Fill the video frame as best you can with your head and shoulders.
  • Gauge the best proximity to the camera, remembering this concept: Near = large and Far away = small.
  • Do not attack the space between you and the camera. No sudden forward movements.
  • Try not to move around too much, it can be distracting to the viewer.
  • If talking with your hands, ensure that the movements are controlled and deliberate.
  • Use your voice to convey what you want to get across to the customer by altering the pitch, tone, and pace.
  • Facial expressions, smile, laugh, and again eye contact is important.

Preparation & Review

As with most things in life, preparation is an important way of avoiding pitfalls.

  • Check your space/stage – nothing in the background to distract your client/lead.
  • Ensure that computer has the correct conferencing software.
  • Check your camera settings.
  • Do a mike check and ensure it is on and at the correct level.
  • Get yourself into the mental zone – energise you self mentally.
  • Be sure you have thought through what your customer might want, and be clear of the outcome you want?

When it is all over you should review how it went.

  • Review the meeting. Write down a memory-aid to remind you of any salient points.
  • Many apps have a recording feature. If you can record it, all the better.
  • Write down what went well.
  • Write down suggestions of how you can you improve?
  • Reassess your performance but choose no more than two things to work on.

And that is all there is to it! I hope these suggestions from the professionals help you. I want to thank my sales colleagues, especially Jim Nolan, for their input into the writing of this blog. Good sales hunting!

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT.com

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