2 Ways for Building Trust in Virtual Sales Meetings
Trust is the foundation of any working relationship. While your credibility is likely no different in virtual sales meetings than face-to-face meetings, many salespeople unknowingly behave in a way on camera that undermines their efforts to build trust—and causes customers to question their credibility.
Traditional methods of building trust, like being customer-focused, communicating value, or building rapport fail on virtual sales calls simply because sellers are unaware of how the camera (and thus, their customer) reads and interprets certain on-screen behaviors.
Studies show that people often decide many things about another person within the first few seconds of meeting them. One of those decisions is whether you are trustworthy. Since this happens so quickly, much of that decision is influenced by the nonverbal signals you’re sending. That’s why it’s critical to know whether you are sending off signals that say “trust me” or “proceed with caution.”
1. Make Direct Eye Contact:
The eyes are the windows to the soul. Direct eye contact conveys trustworthiness, confidence, friendliness, and approachability. Studies show that most people associate averting your eyes with guilt, lying, or a lack of confidence. Yet jump on any virtual meeting and what do you see? Everyone is staring at their screens!
Some sellers try to remedy this by shifting their gaze from camera to screen, screen to notes, then back to the camera. Instead of looking engaged, sellers appear shifty-eyed and suspicious – the opposite of what they’re hoping to convey!
Experts say we should aim for making direct eye contact two-thirds of the time in order to build a relationship. Most sellers are falling well short of this on virtual calls, where it’s likely even more important that in person. Here’s why:
When sitting across from your customer and you break eye contact, your customer can see what you are looking at. They know that you are still engaged. Not so on a virtual call. When you look away, they have no idea what you’re looking at. Are you checking your phone, your email, or reading from a script? These are the types of doubts that erode trust and relationships.
How to Build Trust with Eye Contact
On video, the camera is the eyes of your customer. If you want to establish a connection with your customer and build trust, you must look at the camera. Not your screen. Not your slides. But your camera.
To start improving your eye contact, first determine how much direct eye contact you are currently making virtually by taking this quick test. If, like most people, you find it is well below the minimum level necessary to develop a relationship, you have some work to do. Start by looking at your camera when talking to friends or family. When you catch yourself staring at their image, quickly get back to the camera. Record yourself again after a few calls and compare to your initial test.
Pro Tip: Making eye contact via your camera is easier said than done! That’s why there’s an entire chapter devoted to it in my new book, Look Me In the Eye. Read more about it here.
2. Show Your Hands
Open palm gestures can send trust signals to other people’s brains, making them feel less threatened and more receptive, according to body language expert Alan Pease. It makes sense if you think about it. Open hands indicate we aren’t hiding anything behind our back and can be trusted.
But the “talking head view” that most people adopt on video makes it difficult or awkward to include gestures. When people do gestures on video, they do so the same way they do in person, loosely and ambiguously. But the camera’s narrow focus makes large or rapid movements unreadable and distracting. Small, unconscious movements, on the other hand, take on enormous proportions. Repetitive movements too can damage your credibility by making you appear nervous or suspicious.
Knowing how to adapt your movements and gestures for communicating on video is a must-have skill if you want to succeed in sales today.
How to Use Gestures in Virtual Sales Meetings
To leverage the trust-building power of gestures in virtual meetings, begin by making sure you are in a “medium close-up” frame. This means you are visible from the chest up with approximately a fist of space between the top of your head and the top of the screen.
From this position, you will likely need to raise your elbows slightly in order to have your full gesture appear in frame. Keep your movements slow and specific and remember, less is more on video.
Unsure what to do with your hands? Use them to punctuate your words. For example, when describing a person or an object, indicating size or distance, or expressing emotion. In order to build trust, make sure your gestures support your message, rather than detract from it or appear incongruent. Learn more here.
Building trust in virtual meetings can be done, but it requires a new awareness and knowledge of how your customer sees you and your behavior on their screen. Only then can you start to eliminate credibility-eroding behavior and introduce signals that build trust, like direct eye contact and clear, visible gestures.
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