Over the last few weeks, most of us have gotten a crash course in the remote working lifestyle. We’ve moved into home offices or set up workspaces around the house, learned through trial and error where the best internet connection is, and probably forgotten to mute ourselves before using The Parent Voice at least once.
While there have been many challenges during the COVID pandemic, we’ve proven our resilience through our ability to adapt. Storefront markets have moved online. Restaurants have switched to carryout-only models. Marketers and Business Development Representatives have moved meetings and sales calls online.
And even though we’ve all done an incredible job adapting to our new normal, there are still ways that we can improve. For example, now that you’re pretty used to video calls, did you know that you should be looking out for these six things?
First and foremost, let’s talk about all that background noise. You know what I’m talking about — children playing, car horns, wind blowing, dogs barking, police sirens. All these sounds that you are used to living with on a daily basis (especially if you are a big fan of the open-window lifestyle like I am) can be such a distraction to your sales calls and meetings.
Even if they don’t drown you out or make it harder to hear your prospect, they can be frustrating for others to hear. Not to mention the fact that solving the mystery of an unexplained sound is one of the easiest ways to distract someone.
Fortunately, this is one of the easier problems to avoid. Unlike the unruly interruption of a dog with the zoomies who just can’t understand why you aren’t as excited as they are, ambient noises can often be shut out by closing a door, shutting a window, or turning off the air conditioner, television, or radio.
This one is probably too obvious. You know you don’t want to be interrupted in the middle of your pitch, nor would you want your prospect to suddenly stop listening to you to answer a question or get the phone. It’s the height of bad manners — we already know that.
And yet, interruptions still happen. Especially right now, with children home from school, significant others also on lockdown, and pets so excited to have you home they cannot be contained, interruptions are hard to avoid. But it’s still possible to try — and it really shows that you’ve gone the extra mile when you do prepare well.
First, make sure that your cell is silenced, your notifications are muted on your computer, and your smartwatch is turned off or put aside well before your call starts. This is an easy way to prevent interrupting noises and keep your full attention on the task at hand.
Next, make sure that everyone in your household is aware that you are about to be on an important call. Tell significant others not to interrupt and ask them to run interference on pets and children, if possible. If you are a single parent or pet parent, try to schedule your meetings during nap time or an afternoon lull.
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to make small children and animals understand the importance of not interrupting, so it’s important that you have a space where you can shut the door and have privacy, if possible.
If you don’t have that option, such as for single parents of very young children, simply inform your prospect that you may have a toddler run in to ask a question so they are prepared ahead of time. If this happens, answer the query or solve the problem as quickly as possible, apologize for the interruption, and pick the conversation right back up.
The most important thing to remember is that sometimes things happen. We’re all just doing our best — especially right now. But make every effort to prevent the preventable and stay on track!
Okay, I know that you probably don’t have a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar prominently displayed in your home office. That’s not really what we are talking about. Although if you do have political or provocative wall hangings you might consider removing them from the frame. It’s your home, feature what you will, but ensure that nothing that could offend or distract your client is featured in the shot when it’s so easy to move to a different space.
But more realistically what I mean here are the small, easily overlooked things that could be considered distractions or take away from your credibility. Is there a restroom behind you that someone could potentially walk into while you’re on your call? It happens, check YouTube! Do you have family members in and out of the shot? Is there a very cute but highly immodest cat cleaning himself just over your shoulder? Is there a television playing reruns of The Office that can be seen? All of these are things that we may not even think twice about when working from home. They simply are the reality of a full, bustling house. And yet they can be very detracting when you are trying to make your best pitch.
Now, let’s move away from literal backgrounds and talk about the virtual backgrounds available on some conferencing platforms. Just because you have the ability to make it look like you are on the deck of the USS Enterprise, doesn’t mean you should do so. Playful virtual backgrounds are great for mixing up weekly staff meetings or spicing up your next D&D session, but they aren’t appropriate for sales calls.
You know that if you were driving to meet a client you’d leave with plenty of time to ensure you don’t arrive late. You’d GPS the directions ahead of time, check on traffic, ensure that you have everything you need prepared, and leave early. But we don’t always approach virtual meetings with the same attitude.
It’s easy to believe that since we aren’t actually going anywhere for virtual meetings, we don’t need to prepare early. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. Being punctual is essential for any meeting, but for a sales meeting, it’s arguably more so. And being late to a meeting that doesn’t require any travel time? Yeah, that’s just not a great look for anyone.
I’ve found it most helpful to begin preparing for meetings approximately 10 - 15 minutes before they are scheduled. I first straighten up around the room — particularly focusing on anything that might be in the background, as mentioned above — and then set up my desk with everything I could possibly need for the call. I rehearse the points I need to make during the meeting to make sure that I’ve covered everything and then test the camera or microphone. Additionally, I log onto the platform, whether it be Google Hangouts or Zoom or UberConference, roughly three or four minutes early to test the connection and ensure all settings are functional.
This might be overkill for some, but it’s a great way to make sure that I am on time and well-prepared for the discussion at hand!
You know how frustrating it is to miss words or lose calls because your signal is patchy or your battery is dying. It’s infuriating enough already. But on a sales call it could be detrimental because you could be missing valuable information that would help you solve the prospect’s challenges or meet their needs.
Of course, sometimes things happen that we could never have foreseen. Things such as... I don’t know, a cat knocking your cell phone into a glass of milk one morning (yes, that can happen and milk is apparently iPhone kryptonite).
But, freak accidents aside, you can be as prepared as possible to prevent technology mishaps by ensuring you’ve charged all electronic devices, practicing the call ahead of time to test the connection, and not moving around while on the call.
If you are not used to making calls from your home, set up a practice call with a coworker or family member to work out any kinks before they occur with your potential client. For example, I realized recently that my apartment has a few dead service areas that pop up if I pace around while on the phone. I used a practice call to figure out exactly where they are and now know the best place to be to avoid them.
Being Too Friendly
This one may sound weird. After all, how can anyone be too friendly? But it’s possible! Think about it, you are hosting a work meeting, a sales meeting, at that. This isn’t your old college chum calling to chat for your Whiskey Wednesday rant-fest. You need a professional manner for something like this and being too casual or familiar could kill it before it’s even begun.
How does it happen? Maybe it’s because we are in our homes and have copious amounts of snack foods hidden just out of view of the camera or have children/pets running noisily around in the background or because we aren’t actually dressed from the waist down, I don’t know!
But reasons don’t matter — the fact is that we are far more casual and overly-familiar when on a video call than we would ever consider being in person. And while that may make some prospects more comfortable, it could just as easily turn others off to you and your wonderful offer.
When you hold a sales meeting in your office, you are the epitome of professionalism — standing when they enter, greeting with a firm handshake, offering beverages or other comforts, etc. Now, of course, those things are impossible through a computer screen, but it’s still possible to hold onto that professional manner. Try to emulate that to the best of your ability on your virtual sales calls!
How to Prepare for Your Video Sales Call
It can be difficult to get your head in the game for a client meeting when you aren’t in the office. But there are still ways to prepare to make sure you’re presenting your best self. Here are some things to help put you in the right mindset for your next video sales call:
- Get dressed and styled as if you were meeting the client in your office. This will prepare your brain for the meeting and put you in a professional mentality.
- Set up your computer at your desk or table with everything you need well ahead of time and let anyone in your household know that you are not to be disturbed or distracted.
- Sit up straight! It’s so common to slouch while we are working from home — even if we are sitting at a desk — simply because we are in our comfortable space.
- Greet your guest formally and thank them for taking the time to speak with you. This is a small thing, but we would thank them for coming out to our office and they deserve the same courtesy here. Similarly, you wouldn’t greet an in-person prospect with a casual “What’s up? How’s it going over there?” like you would a good friend or even a coworker. When you have many video calls with casual acquaintances — like, say, during a pandemic lockdown — it can be easy to make this your default setting, so watch out!
- Listen carefully and take notes, making sure they are finished speaking so as not to interrupt. There are several social cues that let you know when someone is finished talking in person that may be missed or lagging behind on a video call. Make the extra effort to not interrupt.
- Send a follow-up email with the notes from your meeting, another thank-you for taking the time, and well wishes for the rest of their week or weekend.
- Immediately finish writing up your notes and save or store them in a safe place. For someone like me, who prefers to handwrite notes during an interview or call, pieces of paper and notebooks can be easily misplaced at home.
Are you still trying to figure out how to weather the storm and get accustomed to communicating in the digital era? Check out some of our related blogs:
- How to Weather the Storm as a Small Business
- Face-to-Face Networking in the Digital Age
- Why Your SEO Strategy Should be Top Priority Right Now
- 3 Ways Small Businesses can Improve Their Digital Presence
Need additional tips or help? We've Got You Covered!