Salespeople and customers alike have quickly risen to the challenge of connecting in a virtual world. Initially, simply turning on the camera was a big step for many people and that effort was applauded. But times have changed.
Now customers are being bombarded with Zoom calls. What was once a novelty has become a burdensome chore as one call blends into the next. Video meetings are a never-ending parade of bad lighting, worse eye contact, extreme close-ups, random sounds, and awkward pauses for most of them. The result? Many sellers won’t make the cut.
Fair or not, sellers who demonstrate poor mastery of their environment and technology – or feel awkward or self-conscious on-camera — project uncertainty and doubt to customers when they need to project confidence, credibility and even compassion. This creates customer tune-out and rarely leads to a callback.
So how do you make the cut? Understand that selling on-camera requires new techniques. Learn them and master them and you will thrive in this new environment.
Speaking On-Camera is a Technique
Many of the film actors you admire who are so natural and effortless in front of the camera were confronted with the same struggles sellers are experiencing today. I know I was. I’d been performing in the theater for a few years before I had the opportunity to audition for a role in film. I went into the audition feeling pretty confident, but as soon as they turned on that camera I froze. The words went right out of my head. I felt stiff and awkward and I wasn’t sure where to look or for how long. It was a disaster. Needless to say, I did not get the part.
But like many actors who successfully transition into film and television, I enrolled in an on-camera acting class and learned a set of techniques that helped me adjust my style to this new medium. These same techniques can also help you win a part in your customer’s business.
- Stop trying to be “natural”
“Just be natural!” is common advice I hear bandied about regarding speaking on-camera. While the intention is good, the results are anything but. Here’s why: Most of us associate being natural with being comfortable and relaxed – and that state does NOT read well on-camera. When we’re comfortable we tend to lean back, our energy drops, our voice becomes softer and flatter, and we are less expressive. To a customer your “comfort” looks like you are not that interested in the conversation!
So what is “natural” on camera? It’s you at your most engaged state. You have a loose but focused energy which has some natural tension to it. Think about being in the middle of a conversation about something you’re really passionate about. That is the energy you want to bring on-camera to appear as engaged and interested as you are.
- Master eye contact
Eye contact is abysmal on most video calls because the temptation to look at another person’s image (which rarely lines up with your camera) is so powerful. And unfortunately while it may feel to you like you’re being very attentive, your customer feels like you’re not paying much attention to them at all! In order to combat the strong draw of the screen you have to have a strong technique.
One of the first things actors learn in film is how to substitute the camera for the person they are talking to in the scene. Your imagination is much more powerful and dynamic that any static picture and will give you more energy to play off of. This technique is counter-intuitive and perhaps the most difficult thing to learn as a film actor, but once you master it your customer will feel like you are right there talking to them. Their attention will be high, they’ll be more likely to retain your message and less likely to become distracted.
- Set your stage
The minute your customer sees you he/she is forming an impression of you and your company, product or service from your background, your clothes, your lighting – even your hair and makeup. What impression do you want to make?
What’s appropriate for your audience and what do you want to communicate to them? There are some fun backgrounds available, but do you want to risk pulling attention from you and your message or giving off an unprofessional vibe? You also want to consider what your brand is and be consistent with it. Showing up on one call in a suit and the next in a t-shirt can be confusing and detract from your credibility.
- Tell a story with your face
Why turn on a camera in the first place if your face has nothing to say? It’s common for salespeople to put the brakes on their personalities on sales calls. The camera can make people stiffen up even more and go into “presenter mode” – a flat, lifeless delivery that is instantly forgettable.
While you certainly don’t want to over-exaggerate, your face and voice should support what you’re saying, even adding impact and emotion where appropriate. Visually expressing things like passion about your product or compassion for your customer can strengthen your connection and reinforce your message.
Want to make the cut? Master these and other selling on-camera techniques and show up as the confident, credible salesperson your customer needs today.