Sales people have a simple yet powerful tool at their disposal that could help them close more deals . That tool is eye contact. In an age where there are low barriers to digital connections, eye contact brings a personal touch to sales engagements and can help your product or solution stand out from the rest. Unfortunately, making eye contact isn’t always as easy as it should be.
As humans, we respond to eye contact. Inc.com contributor Sims Wyeth writes, “When you look someone in the eye, he or she is more likely to look at you, more likely to listen to you, and more likely to buy you and your message.”
Need proof? Wyeth refers to a study in which researchers at Cornell University altered the gaze of the rabbit on boxes of Trix cereal. “Adult subjects were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands if the rabbit was looking at them rather than away,” he writes.
Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, explains: “Making eye contact even with a character on a cereal box inspires powerful feelings of connection.”
But making eye contact during a sale isn’t just about making prospects feel good. It also gives sales people clues as to how to personalize their pitch. “When your listeners see your eyes scanning their faces, they feel encouraged to engage with you. They feel encouraged to signal to you how they feel about what you’re saying—with nods, frowns, or skeptical raisings of their eyebrows,” writes Wyeth.
Instead of staying the course and plowing through a generic PowerPoint presentation, sales people should tune into these non-verbal expressions. Acknowledging and even responding to these expressions enables sales to engage more personally with prospects and, potentially, counter any objections before they become solid roadblocks that prevent a sale.
“Even though it may seem that customers have very similar needs or problems to solve, they all want to be treated like individuals. That’s what happens when you make eye contact; you see the client as an individual and you begin to personalize your approach. Not only does that make you more likely to win the business, but you earn their trust and loyalty for the long haul,” says Lisa Ayers, Vice President Enterprise Sales East at Polycom.
Unfortunately, sales people who cover large territories or are selling into departments where resources are already stretched thin may find it difficult to get face time with prospects. Sales organizations can increase opportunities to make eye contact with prospective clients by communicating with them via video conferencing technology. A video call enables sales and clients to meet face-to-face when distance or busy schedules make travel prohibitive.
When using video conferencing for sales calls, it’s important to use a simple, reliable, enterprise-grade solution that incorporates features and capabilities that enable participants to focus on business—and not the technology. For example, it should be simple for the prospect to join the video conference from any device. If either party is fiddling with the technology then no one is making eye contact.
In addition to baseline functionality, there are innovations that improve the experience as well. If the sales person is working from a noisy office or joining from the airport, for example, technologies like Acoustic Fence to block external noises that could be distracting.
Some sales people may find the actual act of making eye contact itself difficult. “A lot of what used to be done face to face is now done via computer mediated communication and I think that’s sad because what we’ve lost is the humanness of contact and conversation,” suggests Dr. James Roberts, Professor of Marketing at Baylor University. “When we lose our ability to relate to people, to empathize with people, we care less about those people.”
The reasons we default to digital communications vary – we may be more accustomed to looking at their mobile devices because they primarily communicate digitally, or they may work remotely and are accustomed to not making eye contact with the people to whom they speak. Either way, a video conferencing tool can be a valuable tool for practicing eye contact. Sales people can record their calls with prospects and coworkers, and review them to determine whether they’re actually making eye contact.
Even when going into a conversation with eye contact and empathy in mind, the siren song of smartphones is strong. “89 percent of Americans say that during their last social interaction, they took out a phone, and 82 percent said that it deteriorated the conversation they were in,” said MIT Professor, Sherry Turkle in an interview promoting her last book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.
Regularly using a video conferencing solution as part of the normal workflow – checking in with a manager, for example – can give sales people practice making – and maintaining – eye contact when the stakes are low and help them become more comfortable doing so.
Making eye contact is a seemingly simple yet powerful tool that can transform sales meetings into meaningful engagements. As any good salesperson will tell you, purchase decisions are made based on emotions and relationships. They may be rationalized with data, but they are made based on how those decisions make the customer feel. When you make eye contact, your prospects will feel a personal connection that makes them more comfortable doing business with you today and in the future. And with a video collaboration solution, the opportunity to make that connection is just a click away.