Have you ever been in a live meeting where the presenter rarely took their eyes off their slides, looked down most of the time, or never quite made direct eye contact with you? This is the equivalent of what your customer experiences when you fail to look them in the eye—via your camera—on video.
Consistent, quality eye contact on video is not easy, but it is a non-negotiable for virtual sellers, here’s why:
Why Good Eye Contact on Video Matters:
- It Builds Relationships. Eye contact is one of the quickest and most effective ways to connect with another person and build a relationship. You may be able to build a relationship without it, but it takes much longer—a luxury most salespeople don’t have.
- It Establishes Your Credibility. We look people in the eyes to determine if they’re telling the truth—whether they’re 6 or 60! Research shows that two-thirds of the population believe that people avert their eyes when they are lying or feel guilty.
- It Projects Confidence. Direct eye contact projects confidence while trouble meeting a person’s gaze indicates an insecurity that the seller may not feel.
- It Makes You Appear More Likable. People are considered more likable and friendly when they deliver a direct gaze, and likability increases with the duration of their gaze. All things being equal, people do business with people they like.
5 Types of On-Screen Eye Contact
Despite the many benefits associated with direct, consistent eye contact, a shockingly small percentage of people are doing so successfully. Here are the five types of eye contact I see sellers making on video:
1. The Screen Starer.
The Screen Starer spends most of their time gazing at the customer’s image, their slides, or their tools. By doing so, the Screen Starer is not meeting their customer’s eyes and looking down, a dangerous combination that leads to high tune out and low relationship potential. The Screen Starer often feels very strongly that they are making eye contact when looking at their customer’s image. I have had to crush this magical thinking for more than a few Screen Starers.
2. The Close, But No Cigar Speaker.
If you and I were having a face-to-face conversation and my eyes were focused an inch to the right of your eye, you’d probably get self-conscious or wonder if someone was creeping up behind you. Accuracy matters on video. As the only mammal with visible whites of the eye (the sclera), it is easy to tell where someone is looking…or not looking (especially on video where your face is spotlighted).
3. The Darter.
The Darter flips focus between camera and screen, camera and screen, trying to cover all their bases. Shifty or erratic eye movement is closely associated with a guilty conscience or fabricating information. Not qualities you want popping into your customer’s head.
4. The Seller in the Headlights.
Have you ever seen someone on video who is technically looking at you, but appears to be staring into a black abyss? While their eyes may convey direction, there’s no meaning, emotion or intention in them.
These four types of eye contact are all incredibly common, but ultimately ineffective at encouraging engagement, building trust, or fostering a relationship. Contrast this with the fifth type of eye contact below, The Connector.
5. The Connector
The Connector has a friendly, consistent, intimate gaze that makes you feel like you are sitting across from them having a chat. It’s easy to feel like you know The Connector because their eye contact is so direct and open. Perhaps you’ve even experienced that feeling of connecting with someone whom you’ve never met in person. Maybe it’s Jimmy Fallon, Brene Brown, or your local sportscaster. How do they do it? How do they make you feel like they are talking to you when they have an audience of thousands, even millions?
Creating Personal Eye Contact on Video
No one is born with the ability to communicate effectively with another person through the lens of a camera. Actors, television hosts, news and sportscasters all have adopted specific skills that allow them to connect with each person on the other side of their screen. I know because I was one of those actors.
The first thing I learned about making personal, direct eye contact with an audience on video is that you must place your focus on talking to one person—no matter how many people are on your call. Video is a personal medium. Each person is having their own individual experience with you. And when you speak to an individual, your focus is much tighter, your gaze more intimate, and your body language more specific and less presentational. When you are talking to a group, your eye contact is impersonal and less focused; your movements larger and broader. People know the difference, even if it’s only on a subconscious level.
Personal eye contact is just the beginning. There is still much to learn on how to create personal, friendly, direct eye contact that builds relationships on video. I cover it all step-by-step in my new book, Look Me In the Eye: Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners, and Teams, out soon. Get on the list for a free chapter and updates here>