Fig. 1: Me feeling the judgment from Brian Casey's side-eying headshot when he went on a break during a recent Zoom brainstorming session.
What I've realized, however, is that I'm one of the lucky homebound digital sales and marketing pros, because my meetings almost always fall into one of two very safe categories:
Internal meetings with IMPACTers that aren't presentations, but rather situations where poor lighting, my cat crashing the call, loud noises, and questionable interpretations of the "messy top-knot" hairstyle aren't really an issue.
After work virtual happy hours, where my "athleisurewear-forward" lifestyle is not only accepted, but also celebrated.
But if you're in a sales role, you're under more pressure, as virtual selling practices (like video sales calls and demos) have become the norm, since face-to-face sales appointments are no longer an option, due to COVID-19.
As a result, your video call performance, atmosphere, and appearance are under a much higher level of scrutiny, since you're typically talking to prospects whose money you would like to earn in exchange for goods and services from your company.
Bottom line, if you're not putting your best foot forward in every single one of those video for sales interactions, you risk losing the deal to a competitor.
Here's where video sales calls get tricky, though — you don't always realize how many factors and variables can influence whether or not your prospect thinks the call went well.
For example, if you don't have the right lighting setup, you can end up looking like you're "coming to your prospect live" from deep within a cave, which can be really distracting for your meeting attendee(s), no matter how stinkin' smart you are or how mind-blowing your proposal is.
So, what are the most important things you should keep in mind as you're prepping for your now-commonplace video sales calls?
To answer that massively important question, I turned to IMPACT owner and They Ask, You Answer author Marcus Sheridan. What follows is my quick, down-and-dirty summary of his best tips for knocking all of your video sales calls out of the park.
1. Don't assume that the folks you're meeting with understand the platform they're using
Prior to the pandemic, IMPACT was already a video-first company, as 60% of our workforce is remote. So, we already spent most of our days hanging out in Zoom for meetings, brainstorming sessions, and so on.
Even though COVID-19 has normalized the use of video, don't make the mistake of assuming the prospects you're meeting with how your video conferencing platform of choice works.
So, before your scheduled meeting time, send a quick personalized explainer video to your prospects that talks them through how to use your platform — and to set the expectation that they should also be on video, not audio only.
Speaking of which...
2. Set the expectation early that being on camera for these calls is a no-exceptions requirement
Look, for many folks being on camera during a video call is uncomfortable. As a result, you may hesitate to set this expectation, but you need to do it, and you can't be wimpy about it.
When a camera is on, your close rates for a particular deal with be about 10% higher. It makes total sense, because think about those meetings where someone had their camera off. How well did that meeting really go? Would it have gone better if they had their camera on?
If you're nervous about what to say, here's Marcus' suggestion of what to say in advance:
“For this meeting, it’s critical that we both have our cameras on. You need to see me clearly and get to know me. At the same time, I need to see you, especially because what we’re going to be discussing is very important. And if you’re not fully understanding what I’m explaining, I need to be able to notice that, as well. Will you make sure your camera is on?”
3. If meeting with a group of people who are in the same room, write everyone's name down first
Forgetting someone's name during a sales call — or worse, getting it wrong — is not exactly a great way to build trust with a prospect.
So, if you're meeting with a group of people who are all in the same room, write their names down. If you're worried about mixing them up, sketch the table on a piece of paper and write their names down based on where they're sitting, so you don't forget.
4. Smile, y'all — smile a lot
Do you have a resting B-face? Sometimes you may not realize you do... until you see your first recorded video sales call. What you may not realize is that when you're intently listening, your resting face may not always be as pleasant as you think. And it's much more noticeable in a video setting, than face-to-face.
That's why you should always go out of your way to smile (in a way that may sometimes not feel normal), so you don't accidentally turn off a prospect with an unintentional sour look.
On top of that, in person a prospect will normally see your entire body, which includes body language. On a video call, they will only see you from the chest up. That means they won't see any sort of friendly posture or body language that may accompany an otherwise "serious thinking face."
5. Face the light
I mean that literally, and here's why — you know what sucks? When someone is backlit, with the light source in their room behind them, so you can't see their face. So, before you get on your call, test to make sure that you're facing your lighting source and that it doesn't wash you out.
(That last part goes out to all of my fellow peeps who are pale with super dark hair — sometimes lighting right in front of you can wash you out, so be mindful of that.)
Our video for sales guide provides more information on how to set up your calls so you look great from a lighting perspective.
6. Sit up straight or (better yet) stand up
You're not going to be a great communicator when you're sitting back, slouching, and/or lounging while on a video call. Even if you're saying great words and ideas, you'll project the wrong message about your attentiveness and professionalism.
At the very least, focus on your posture, but we highly recommend investing in a standing desk. If you don't have the cash on hand for a new standing desk, stack up some books and boxes and stand up like the sales superhero you are.
7. Refer to attendees by name when asking a question
This is just best practice overall, but it's really critical during video sales calls — especially if there's a group of people you're speaking to. Your prospects and meeting attendees will be more engaged and involved in the discussion with this simple adjustment in your question positioning.
8. Finally, don't forget it's your sales meeting, so act like it
Marcus put it best, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel with this last (but certainly not least) best practice for your sales calls.
"It’s your meeting. Own it. If something is a distraction, call it out and fix it.. If someone needs to be muted, mute them. If your discussion needs to get back on track, guide it back swiftly. Do everything with tact, of course. But remember, the momentary discomfort will be well worth it in the end once you’ve gained the customer’s trust and, ultimately, earned their business."
Again, like making sure everyone is on video for the call itself, you need to get comfortable with getting over that initial discomfort of taking charge on a call and what the standards will be.