This is the most common mistake sellers make when video conferencing.

I really hate my webcam. (Ok, hate is a strong word.) I have a good camera, but I don’t like the way I look. (Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t lie.) I feel totally uncomfortable staring into my camera. It feels artificial and not at all authentic, but that’s the only way to make eye contact online. Worse, some applications don’t allow a green screen. Oh, no! I have to clean up my office and get just the right angle for my webcam? A total pain, if you ask me.

I miss in-person meetings, lunches, and conferences. It was so much easier to build relationships in person. I got to know people professionally, as well as personally. We went from shaking hands to looking at a camera. Our new way of building relationships was Zoom. (It even became a verb.)

Many companies survived and others thrived during the pandemic, but they forgot to enable their sellers to build relationships via video. If virtual sales training was ever needed, this was the time. Sadly, it hasn’t happened in most companies.

The skill that has been the most lacking is looking directly at the camera. It feels so artificial and bug-eyed. (It still does for me.) However, if you look at those little boxes on the screen, your audience sees you looking down.

The importance of eye contact in sales (even virtual sales) can’t be overstated. Without it, your prospects figure you’re not interested, and they tune out.

I Can’t See You

Early on in the pandemic, there was a learning curve as we all adjusted to virtual sales meetings. Many of our customers didn’t even have their cameras on. How could we build relationships without seeing anyone? We sat through boring PowerPoint presentations with no discussion. It took awhile to learn Zoom and take advantage of breakout rooms, chat, hand raising for questions, getting our video positioned properly, and mics and speakers set. Virtual backgrounds? (Green screen business did very well.)

Enough complaining. Now I tell myself to listen up. Virtual sales is not going away, so I’d better up my game. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with Zoom, but the camera … still my nemesis. It’s also my only way to make eye contact with many clients and prospects, so I’ve learned to live with it.

Stop Making Virtual Sales Mistakes and Start Making Eye Contact

Need to up your virtual sales game? Julie Hansen’s new book, Look Me in the Eye: Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners and Teams, is here for you to devour.

As a trained actor, Julie understands the importance of eye contact and knows how to use the camera to connect virtually. And her book brilliantly translates that expertise for salespeople. As she puts it, “It’s being authentic in a virtual environment—which is what being in front of the camera is.”

I’ve been working virtually for years, but boy, I learned a ton from Julie’s book, including the art of “smeaking.” This is not one of those books you can just read once and put it down. It’s like a training manual, with exercises and opportunities to practice and refine what you learn. After all, using the camera is a new skill for most of us, and as with any skill, you must practice. Here’s what she says:

“Initially, we were so delighted to have the ability to hear and see each other, that turning on the camera seemed sufficient. Then we quickly became immersed in the tools and technology, like platforms, backgrounds, microphones, polls, virtual whiteboards, nifty animations, and magnifications to support our efforts to connect with customers. With each tool, we imagined getting ever closer to recreating that in-person experience. I think most would agree that this approach has fallen far short of expectations. Managing tools is not the same as managing relationships.

“Tools can’t make the connection between you and your buyer meaningful or memorable. Tools can’t build a relationship through the camera for you. For that you need new skills. And that’s what this book is about.”

There’s so much to learn, so start where you need the most help. (If you don’t know, I’m sure others will tell you.) Practice one thing at a time. I’m practicing using my hands on video, even though I was always told it was distracting. I can tell you this. Just gesturing gave me energy and brought out my personality. I wasn’t reading off a script. I felt like I was talking directly to you. And right now, that’s a win!

Don’t wait another minute. Get Julie’s book and start “smeaking.” Then check out her blog to find out what other virtual sales errors you might be making on video.

(Featured image attribution: George Milton)