Finding success as a sales professional requires a unique blend of skills and traits. From public speaking to analytical thinking, problem-solving, in-depth product knowledge, and persuasive abilities, it can often feel like a juggling act. The most successful salespeople know how to leverage tools, technology, and hacks to work more productively and personalize their customer interactions. But as technology continues to advance and communications preferences and expectations shift, how can the modern sales professional best use all the tools at their disposal? One of the most underutilized pieces of technology in the sales arsenal is simple: videoconferencing.

While the use of video has gone mainstream in the workplace, there’s still ample opportunity for sales teams of all sizes to leverage the power of video conferencing. How and why? And what can sales leaders do to help their team members overcome camera-on-phobia and learn to feel more confident during video meetings? Keep reading for practical advice your sales team can use to land more sales calls, close more deals, and host more effective videoconferences in 2020 and beyond.

3 Reasons Sales Professionals Should Increase Their Use of Videoconferencing in 2020

In the age of automated emails, chatbots, and templated sales pitches, sales professionals who employ a more personalized approach have a unique opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition. From landing the first meeting to nurturing customer loyalty, here are three reasons why sales professionals should use video conferencing.

Videoconferencing is the Next Best Thing to Meeting In-person (and Your CFO Will Thank You)

If you take any sort of “Sales 101” course, you’ll likely learn that face-to-face meetings are the best options for building rapport, making the pitch, and closing deals. However, meeting face-to-face isn’t always feasible. With sales professionals now covering larger territories than ever, scheduling has become more complicated, and getting budget approval for travel costs is tougher, too. Thankfully, improvements in videoconferencing technology and broader accessibility to free and no-cost platforms mean that holding pitches and client meetings via video are not only a viable option, they're the next best thing to an onsite. Bonus: as CFOs put more pressure on employees to cut travel spends in 2020, and more and more enterprises look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, video conferencing can help satisfy both those needs. Pro tip: if you’re looking for a simple way to host a videoconference with a prospective customer, try 8x8 Video Meetings. It’s completely free.

Video Offers an Opportunity to Stand Out During the Prospecting Phase of the Buyer Journey

According to Ringlead research, getting on the phone with prospects remains a top challenge, with 80% of calls being sent straight to voicemail. And while technology has offered more ways than ever to reach prospects, it’s also muddied the waters. The average American worker receives more than 120 emails per day (and their click-through rate sits at around 3%) and spends more than 1,000 minutes using social media each week. Given the high volume of information making its way to tablets, laptops, and smartphones each day, it’s becoming harder and harder to land business meetings with traditional email or phone tactics. So what’s the answer? While a carrier pigeon or snail mail might make an impression, there’s a much more practical way to catch the eye of prospective customers: video. Most videoconferencing tools offer the option to record and share recordings (with 8x8 video meetings, you can do both for free with a registered account). So the next time you’re tempted to fire off a dull, templated email heralding your products’ best features, consider taking 5-10 minutes to record a personalized prospect video. Introduce yourself, show that you’ve done your research, and share specific ways your business can help the prospect solve some of their biggest challenges. Send the video via social media, or upload it to YouTube and embed in your introductory email. Quick hack: be sure to include the word “video” in your subject line. Studies have shown that emails including video see higher open and click-through rates.

Videoconferencing Boosts Meeting Attendees’ Engagement Levels

Landing that initial call is a big win, right? Not so fast. If you typically host introductory calls over the phone, you may want to rethink that strategy. In a groundbreaking study several years ago, Dr. Donald Wetmore, founder of the Productivity Institute, uncovered that 90% of people daydream during calls. What are some ways to hold your audience’s attention? The easiest way is to turn on the cameras. Studies have shown that when participants meet via a video, they’re less likely to multi-task and more likely to retain the information being presented to them. And on average, video meetings are even a little shorter than conference calls. While there’s no guarantee that hosting your first call via video rather than phone-only will result in a closed deal or new business, it certainly doesn’t hurt your odds. And, again, adding the personal touch that video provides can make your company more memorable when you’re meeting with a prospect who’s evaluating other options.

If you’re now convinced that turning the cameras on could be the key to your sales success this year, but not loving the idea of seeing yourself on video, keep reading. Video-phobia is a real thing, but luckily it’s easy to overcome. Here are eight tips for boosting your confidence and hosting video meetings with ease.

8 Tips for Hosting Video Calls with Confidence

#1: Ensure You Have Great Lighting & A Reliable Microphone

Proper lighting and sound can make or break a videoconferencing experience. If your attendees can’t hear or see you, then what’s the point? With so many products available, weighing the options is overwhelming--especially for video novices. Luckily, small adjustments can make all the difference, and even the most budget-friendly tools can go a long way in improving how you present yourself via video. Here are a few quick tips for ensuring you have optimal lighting and sound quality on your side.

Don’t underestimate the importance of good lighting! Poor lighting can skew facial expressions and create unneeded distractions for everyone involved. Looking for a low-budget, easy-to-setup solution to your lighting woes? Here are a few options:

Once you’ve got your lighting under control, you’ll want to focus some effort on audio quality. Yes, most laptops come with built-in microphones. No, the audio quality isn’t the best. Thankfully, improving the sound on your next videoconference is often as simple as purchasing a USB microphone. Here are a few options to fit any budget.

#2: Be Mindful of Your Background

You’ve purchased a portable light, and your USB microphone is ready to go. Now it’s time to think about what meeting participants will see in your background. You can have the best lighting in the world, but if you have people walking in and out of the room behind you, or a cat stepping on your keyboard, you may want to rethink your setup. For distributed workers, in particular, finding the right background can be a challenge, but it’s one well worth addressing.

“I have worked remotely full-time for about half of my 20+ year career, and I like to remind people that video conferencing is the norm now, so it helps to build your professional brand when you have a distraction-free, professional background during your conference calls,” says Julia Joy of Z Group PR.“ If rearranging your room to show only you at your desk is not an option, then an inexpensive room screen can create a more professional appearance."

No budget for a meeting space makeover? A simple green screen or room divider is your friend. Decide among your sales team if you’d like to have a consistent background for video meetings, or if you want to have the flexibility to show some personality. For organizations looking for uniformity, affordable, portable step and repeats are a good option.

#3: Dress the Part

This may go without saying, but putting your best foot forward in meetings also means dressing in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable. With distributed, work-from-anywhere teams becoming the norm, and corporate dress codes continuing to relax, one of the common reasons why people shy away from turning their cameras on is due to their wardrobe. Don’t let your outfit or a bad hair day deter you from engaging with your prospects and customers in the most effective way possible. Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to look your best during a videoconference. As someone who’s spent the past seven years working from home, I’m a big fan of wearing business casual blouses with yoga pants. ;-) All jokes aside, make sure you’re never caught off-guard if a customer or coworker wants to turn on the cameras. Here are seven tips for looking your best during video conference calls.

#5: Make Sure Your Meeting Environment is Distraction-Free

Whether you work from home with pets, or in a cube-filled open-concept office, you’ll want to find a quiet space free from background noise to host a videoconference. Barking dogs and chatty coworkers are fun in small doses, but can quickly become distracting for meeting participants. If you’re in an office, book a private room with videoconferencing capability to host your meeting. If you work from home, make sure to secure your pets, close the door to your office, and turn off any devices that might interrupt you. (Bonus: if you have a particularly vocal pet, check on this blog post for tons of practical tips for working from home with pets)

#6: Choose Your Videoconferencing Tool Wisely

Let’s take a step back for a moment and cover one of the most critical ingredients for videoconferencing success: the platform. There’s no shortage of availability, but not all video conferencing tools are equal. Before you dole out the budget to invest in a new provider, consider your needs. Here are a few important questions to ask when evaluating options:

  • Are there any time limits?
  • Does this solution offer recording capabilities?
  • Will this solution work well for both Macs and PCs?
  • Can I use this solution on-the-go on my mobile phone?
  • What sort of plugins or downloads will meeting attendees need to participate?
  • How much will this solution cost per user?

Fun fact: with 8x8 Video Meetings, you can meet without time limits, from anywhere, with no plugin downloads required--all for free. And yes, by signing up for a free account, you can record and save meetings to share later.

#7: Make Eye Contact & Treat The Meeting Like a Face-to-Face Conversation

For videoconferencing newbies, one of the most awkward parts about being on camera is knowing where to look. Should you look directly into the camera? At the slides being shared? At other participants? Are hand gestures appropriate? First, take a deep breath and stay calm. Next, imagine you were in the same room as the people you’re meeting with via video. How would you answer these questions in that case? There’s no reason to make a video meeting awkward or stressful. Treat videoconferences like in-person conversations. If you’re the type of person who likes to use hand gestures, don’t feel like you need to pin your hands to your desk just because you’re on camera. Behave naturally, make eye contact, and speak conversationally. You might soon forget the camera is even there.

#8: Practice (and Preparation) Makes Perfect

Last but not least, it’s important to go into any meeting feeling prepared. You probably wouldn’t fly across the country and meet with a client without first setting an agenda, so why treat a videoconference any differently? Here’s a helpful checklist for preparing to host a productive videoconference:

  • Send an agenda to all participants at least 24 hours in advance. Be sure to make it clear that you’ll be using video, and offer login instructions and any helpful tips about accessing the platform, or testing sound and picture quality.
  • Consider the seven tips above before it’s time to start your meeting. Make sure your lighting and mic are set up and working, your meeting space is secured, and your outfit is wrinkle-free and camera-ready.
  • For important client pitches, practice makes perfect. Hold a dry run 24-48 hours in advance. If you’re planning to screen share or use slides, don’t test that functionality on the fly. (And make sure all the files you’ll need during your presentation are easy to access. Don’t keep meeting participants waiting and don’t waste valuable meeting time trying to get organized)

A little preparation and planning can make all the difference in establishing trust and credibility.

Bringing It All Together

Videoconferencing offers untapped potential for sales professionals who are looking for ways to schedule more meetings, close more deals, and build better relationships. Don’t let a bad hair day or camera-phobia prevent you from achieving success. By utilizing the advice in this post, you’ll be well on your way to hosting more effective sales calls with the help of video conferencing software like 8x8 Video Meetings. Ready to give it a try? Be sure to let us know how your sales team is using 8x8 Video Meetings. Drop us a Tweet: @8x8.