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

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of working from home is learning to communicate via video meetings; and one of the most challenging disciplines to conduct via video conferencing is selling. As a result of the pandemic, the business of selling/buying is by necessity being conducted remotely. Yet people by nature prefer to conduct business by meeting someone in person. This allows the participants to observe body language, to look each other in the eye, and to assess the other person sitting across the table. Sometimes, a sale can depend on developing a positive vendor/customer chemistry. So, in this blog I want to ask the question: “Are video meetings stopping you selling? And if it is an impediment, how do you meet that challenge?”

The New World Order

The world has changed over the past year. 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 IT 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 remote, on-screen talking head. Not everyone finds such a way of communicating easy to master.

Are You Camera Shy?

Many people, and even salespeople, find it difficult to be themselves on video calls. Salespeople 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’s 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’s 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 won’t 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. Don’t put yourself on the backfoot by fumbling with technical problems.
  • Talk as if you are talking to a friend; don’t 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.
  • Don’t 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.
  • Don’t 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 volume 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.

  • Make sure to turn off the live stream to the customer!
  • 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 on how you can you improve?
  • Reassess your performance but choose no more than two things to work on.

And that’s 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, Marketing Manager KantanMT