“Of course I care about my customer!” was Tonya’s response when asked “What Happened to Empathy in Virtual Meetings?”
Tonya was horrified at my question. But it seemed valid after watching a recording of her interrogating – I mean, doing discovery – with a customer in a virtual meeting.
Tonya said all the right words and asked the right questions. She even established that the prospect had a real need for Tonya’s solution as it would alleviate the endless overtime the prospect was facing. However Tonya’s face remained a mask of detached coolness throughout the call. Even as the prospect described a recent weekend spent at the office resulting in missing her son’s season-ending baseball game.
I was disappointed for her, but not surprised, that the conversation did not advance past this initial meeting.
Listening without showing empathy, compassion or understanding can make your buyer feel like a slide under a microscope.
Tonya argued convincingly that she deeply empathized with her prospect’s situation and was shocked that this was not communicated. Tonya’s situation illustrated a common challenge sellers’ face with prospects today: what happened to empathy in virtual meetings?
The fact is, it’s not enough to feel empathetic on video; you must be able to reflect back to your customer that you understand and care about what they’re saying in more than words. Like many emotions, empathy is easily lost in virtual communications as sellers are either too distracted to react or unaware that their face, body, or tone is not communicating those feelings adequately on camera.
Relationships require reciprocity and vulnerability.
That means letting your customer see how you feel about what you’re saying or hearing. When your face doesn’t communicate any emotion, you are like that detached newscaster who delivers devastating or fantastic news with the same neutral expression.
Further compounding this situation, many of the small verbal signals we use in person to indicate we relate or feel for someone, like “oh, mmhmm” get lost on video due to the two-way nature of the medium. While the empathetic body language we use in person, like leaning forward or nodding, can take on a more aggressive meaning on video. And falsely over-acting empathy is easily read and instantly disliked by your prospect.
How to Communicate Authentic Empathy on Video
Authentic empathy comes from a strong feeling or emotion. You need to feel as passionately and deeply as possible about your customer’s situation. If you’re indifferent or too detached from a particular prospect’s situation, you will struggle to find that organic expressiveness. This frequently happens on video. It’s easy to detach from your feelings and go on autopilot when rushing from one virtual meeting to the next.
This often requires digging a little deeper into what specifically is at stake for your prospect. What happens if they don’t solve the problem or choose the wrong solution? Emotions don’t respond to vague facts and intellectual ideas. Tapping into why your conversation really matters can quickly trigger these emotions.
Tapping into what’s at stake for your prospect may be all that is needed to light up your face with the appropriate emotion, like empathy.
Once you’ve connected to a strong feeling, your face will take it from there—most of the time. But for many sellers, despite feeling deeply about your customer’s situation and your role in helping them transcend it, you may find that those feelings are not being displayed on your face. Here’s why:
Reconnect Your Face to Your Feelings.
Most people have a blank, default expression on camera that they remain largely unaware of. It gives off no emotion of feeling. I call it RBF: Resting Business Face. Like many business professionals, those years of repressing your instincts may have—pardon my highly simplified description here—disconnected the wiring between your face and your feelings. While you might be able to get away with this in person as your entire body is used to communicate feelings like empathy, on video, your face and voice you’re your only tools.
So what can you do when you feel empathy, happiness, concern, or hope, but your face isn’t communicating those emotions? You can learn to use your facial muscles more consciously and re-train those atrophied expressive muscles.
Click here for my quick 7 minute Power Warm-up.
To not use your face on video to express emotions like empathy, interest and passion is a poor use of prime real estate.
Yet jump on any virtual meeting today and you will see a swath of blank faces, from the presenter to the audience. It begs the questions: if your face has nothing to say, why have your camera on?
If you are ready to tap into the power of building personal virtual relationships through the screen, I’ve laid the path out for you in my new book that won the Gold Medal Top Sales book of 2021, Look Me In the Eye: Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners and Teams. In it you’ll find all the steps and tactics you need to engage your audience.
Get your copy today on Amazon.