Recently, I explained that video is the new default in how we connect and do business with others now. It’s been a huge, rapid shift. A recent LinkedIn State of Sales report tells us that more than three-quarters of businesses today are holding video meetings far more than before.
Even though the shift has been quick, it’s still going to take a while for many people to adapt fully to virtual meetings. Given this, it’s simply not enough to just turn on your webcam and expect to get a delighted reception from your customers—especially those you’ve not met in-person before.
Many people still find video to be an uncomfortable experience. And yet a significant part of a salesperson’s job is to build good rapport with customers. The number-one way you do that is by helping them feel at ease even while talking via a camera and a screen.
Here are the steps you must take today—both technical and personal—to ensure rapport-building success with video for the foreseeable future:
Get a good light.
This one improvement alone delivers massive, positive results because very few people have the right lighting in their office for making video calls (especially those of you in home offices these days). Invest in a video-grade LED light and a small tripod. Position it so that it’s facing you at eye level (not from below…unless you’re wanting to scare people). This helps your customer stay focused on your friendly, well-lit face and on your clear message.
Don’t put a bright light behind you on a video call otherwise you’ll look like a creepy talking shadow. Audiences hate that! The same goes for natural light coming through a window. Close the curtains and let your newly acquired front-facing LED light do its job. The key here is to eliminate visual distractions so that it’s easier for people to see you.
Upgrade your camera.
For some, this is a good-to-have but not mandatory upgrade. Most built-in cameras on recently manufactured computers and mobile devices can do a competent job for video calls, but many are limited to 720p (1280×720) resolution. That can get tricky if you require fine-detail views or if you move around a lot on a call. If those sound like familiar issues to you, consider upgrading to a webcam that supports 1080p resolution and that shoots at up to 30 frames per second.
Use gallery mode.
Whichever video conferencing platform you choose (e.g., Zoom, Skype, Google Meet), it’s critical you set it up properly so you can see everyone on your call, and so they can see you, too. Typically, there are two modes for this. Speaker mode gives full-screen treatment to whomever is currently talking on the video call. However, it gets distracting very quickly on calls where there are multiple speakers. Gallery mode is better. It ensures every participant is visible in their own window, so you can always see everyone’s reactions to a conversation even when they aren’t talking. Rapport building is always a personal business: even online.
We’ve all been on a video conference call before where there’s persistent echoing and audio feedback. It’s maddening. Eliminate that risk on your end of the call by using a Bluetooth headset (I recently switched to the Jabra 75T model and love it). When you sound better (along with looking better thanks to the previous tips), people pay attention.
Plan ahead to avoid screen shares.
Screen-sharing mode can quickly become a distraction for some audiences, making your job as a top seller harder to do. Send your presentation materials to participants in advance of your scheduled video call so that you can avoid having to share it during the call. Your audience will be able to review it early and stay focused on having a conversation with you when the video conference call starts.
Use two screens if you must share.
Sometimes, screen sharing is unavoidable. In those cases, work from two screens: one for gallery mode and one for the material that you’re sharing. This avoids confusing screen shares where you lose your ability to see people or they lose the ability to see you.
Stand for attention.
Here, what works for in-person presentations remains just as vital for virtual ones. When you opt to stand rather than sit while making a presentation, your energy level goes up, your delivery is more natural, and your audience’s attention is sustained.
Never allow a technology-driven medium to depersonalize the way you connect with others. All the time-honoured tips for personalized rapport apply in virtual meetings. Make eye contact with your audience members by looking directly into the camera (never facing sideways). Always address people on a first-name basis. Offer friendly, personal comments to other meeting participants the way you would during an in-person gathering. Use the chat function to send questions or make comments to the group. Don’t talk over people! Instead, raise your hand. Pause. Then state your name before talking: “This is Colleen, and I have a question.”
Video conferencing isn’t the same as working a room at an in-person meeting. But its biggest shortcoming—the uncomfortable factor—can be addressed quickly and effectively with just a little bit of planning and care. The result will be better rapport with others, growing confidence in yourself, and accelerated sales for your organization.