Why Sales Calls Will Never Be the Same Again

The events of the past few months have changed forever the world of work. Although there had been some moves already for people to work from home, there was still a great deal of resistance towards it. That’s because despite evidence to the contrary, many managers still held to the archaic idea that if people weren’t within their eyesight, then they couldn’t be trusted to do their work. It took a pandemic to get them to change their minds as the Government forced millions of people to work from home, overriding the requirements of employers.

Since then, many of those workers have discovered the freedoms that working from home has given them. They still care about their work and do it diligently, but the stresses of the office, the constant ringing of the telephone and other disruptions haven’t been there to make it more difficult, and so they’ve been able to accomplish more in less time. And the absence of a long and tiring commute has also shortened their work day and enabled them to relax and spend time with their families. Many, many employees will resist the pressures to give that up.

Working from home, however, has also brought changes in the way that sales are made. The lockdown put an end to “flesh-based” calls and forced them online. That changed the dynamics of the business meeting, not least because subtle changes in things such as body language were lost.

 

Online sales meetings have caught many people off-guard. That’s because each of us has many lives. We have the life at work. We have the life at home. We have the life with our mates, and the one at church. It’s rare for these different lives to meet, never mind overlap; but that’s exactly what the lockdown has done. In many ways, it has caused our working life to overlap our non-working life.

You’ll recall the now viral video of the Professor Robert E Kelly whose little girl got away from mum long enough to run into the room where dad was having a live interview on national television. Mum is seen scurrying into that room to retrieve their daughter, but not before making the audience aware that far from sitting in an important room in a distinguished building, he was really just in a spare bedroom.

That immediately changed our perception of him. That made him ordinary. Like us.

The same thing happens when we have a video sales call between people who are at home. Suddenly, the room itself - your cat wandering in front of your screen or your child running into your “office” - changes our perception of you. We realize, in a way that we hadn’t before, that you’re just like us. The mystery is gone.

This can be a good thing or a bad thing.

All sales are based on trust. The bigger the deal, the more trust is needed; and the more trust that exists, the greater potential for doing business.

 

Who you are online is who you are offline

If what people learn about you by seeing you at home is consistent with what they know about you as a salesperson, then your credibility goes up. But if you’ve presented yourself as one thing, and it turns out that you’re something else, or you’re perceived to be something else, then people won’t take you seriously. In other words, the need for professionalism has literally come home. You can’t leave it in the office. You can’t be in your best bib-and-tucker at work, and be a slob at home because when people see how you live, they’ll assume that it’s also true of your work.

Nearly everyone who’s online knows about LinkedIn, for example. Ostensibly, this platform is for business professionals, though it’s remarkable how amateurish many of the profiles are.

Less well known among professionals is Facebook. Now you may be thinking that it has nothing to do with business; but it does, and for more reasons than you can imagine. For now, ignore the adverts and the groups, and instead, think about your personal page or wall.

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their wall on Facebook. This is a platform where people “let their hair down” so to speak. They’re more candid. They say what they think in words that they might not use in a business meeting. They also post pictures that they wouldn’t want their boss to see.

You have limited control over this.

There’s a setting in Facebook where you can regulate what posts people can see - everything from just you to all and sundry. The thing is that what you post can be shared. Even if you’ve turned off people’s ability to do so, that won’t put a stop to it. A simple right-click-save image will bypass all of that. And so if you have any embarrassing pictures on your wall, then you might be wise to remove them now that we’re in an online world.

 

Online is different from offline

This illustrates another unexpected difference between an in-person meeting and one that’s online, and it’s akin to the mistaken belief that a website is nothing more than an online brochure.

A video sales call isn’t just a sales call that’s online.

That’s worth saying again.

A video sales call isn’t just a sales call that’s online.

That’s due in part because of the reasons already mentioned. You’ve heard that the medium is the message. The same thing is true here. The discussion is about business, but the environment isn’t. That’s a crucial distinction.

It means that it will be especially difficult, at least until you get into the habit of thinking in this way, to imagine that you’re at work when you’re really at home. In other words, you will have to make the deliberate effort to put yourself in the work frame of mind regardless of where your workplace happens to be. When you have an office to go to, then it’s easy because to a large extent your location, not to mention the journey to get there, does that for you; but when you’re at home, you have to pretend that it’s true. You have to persuade yourself that you’re really at work.

That means that your office has to function as if it was offline.

 

Light and sound

Whether you’re using the latest GoPro or the camera in your computer or phone, you have to consider basic things such as lighting and sound.

Cameras have built-in electric eyes. They will automatically adjust according to the light that’s nearest to you. If you have a sunny window behind you, then that will put you in the dark. The way to fix that is to put the light in front of you.

You can experiment on Zoom or even with just the camera on your computer. Sit in front of it, and then move the light while watching your image. You’ll see what causes your face to light up, and what puts you in the dark.

When you have an online call, you want the other person to be able to see your face clearly. This will make them feel like they’re talking to you; not that they’re in the presence of someone who’d rather remain anonymous.

Sound is something else that you can’t take for granted. The mics in computers these days are quite good, and you may not need to buy anything else; but you must recognize that it will pick up everything. If you can hear it, and sometimes even if you can’t, then the computer mic will pick it up as well. So sensitive is the mic that on some recordings, you can hear people type.

What this means for you is that you have to be aware of “noises off.”

When you’re working from home, chances are that there will be other people, animals, or both in the house. And so you have to do whatever is necessary to minimize the noises that they make. Of course, you can’t just tell them all to take a nap while you have your sales call. You have to learn to work around it. This is one reason why people use more expensive mics - those surrounded by a foam or fluffy sleeves, or some kind of screen. Those barriers inhibit such noises.

 

Appearance

You also must dress appropriately for the meeting. That may sound obvious, but more than one person has been caught wearing a shirt and tie on top, but shorts and flip-flops on the bottom. Not only will you look like a phoney; you’ll feel like one, too, if you don’t dress the part.

If you normally put on make up, or shave, or shower before you go to the office, then make doubly sure that you do those things for your online sales call.

It’s worth remembering that all video conferences can be recorded. Zoom makes that function available to the person who hosts the meeting. But even if you don’t host it, you and whoever is in the meeting with you may have that capability via some other app on your computer.

 

Online everyone is equal

It may seem odd to suggest that online, everyone is equal; but for reasons mentioned earlier, an online call is a great leveler. Whether you’re sitting behind a big oak desk or on top of a bar stool, any perception of your power - your presence - will be lost in an online call. And so you have to take command of the sales call in a different way.

One way to is look into the camera. This isn’t an easy thing to do because you naturally want to look at the person on your screen. But the thing is that that person’s image isn’t going to be where the camera is. And so you have to deliberately look into the camera so that the other person feels that you’re looking at them.

Think back to your flesh-based sales calls. What was your reaction to people who didn’t look you in the eye at least some of the time; whose gaze seemed to be at something else in the room?

Exactly the same thing happens when you look away from the camera.

 

Online isn’t second-best

There are other reasons, however.

One is that a video call isn’t just a second-best option. It’s an entirely different one, and that’s the same mistake people who think that their website is just an online brochure make. Just as print media and online media are different platforms, so is an online meeting, and one that is off-line. Although there are similarities, that doesn’t make them two version of the same thing.

And so you have to treat the online meeting differently. You’ll come unstuck if you try to make what you do online just a wifi-version of what you do offline.

 

Sales calls will never be the same again

It’s possible that you’re looking forward to the day when things go back to normal; not the so-called new normal, but the one that you once knew. And the truth is that those days are gone. That’s because the world - your world - has gotten more than a taste of what online can do. They’ve been given a 5-course meal.

Research has shown that far from the commonly quoted 21 days, in actuality it takes around 66 days to form a new habit, depending on how difficult it is for you. The UK has had more than three months to get used to the new normal and, to a certain extent, have forgotten what the old normal looked like. Green Flag, for instance, has reported that people have forgotten how to drive their cars, and how some of the functions work. If a few months can cause you to forget the basics in your car, just think how much you’ll have forgotten about how face-to-face meetings were held.

The fact is that although people remember face-to-face meetings, they’ve learned that online ones can often achieve just as much and with less hassle. And that means that you can expect your prospects to question even more the need to get together at all.

The bugs of online video conferencing have been worked out. It’s up to you to figure out how to maximize its potential.

 

Want to know more about why sales calls will never be the same again? Contact me here

 

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