EPISODE 456: Virtual Presentation Skills Expert Julie Hansen Says Doing This Will Enhance Your Customer Connections

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Optimal Sales Mindset virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on November 22, 2021. It featured an interview with virtual presentation skills expert Juilie Hansen. She is the author of the 2021 Top Sales Book “Look Me in the Eye.“]

Find Julie on LinkedIn.

Julie’s TIP: “Everyone needs to watch themselves more on video. Watch a recent recording or record your next interaction and play it back. Time every time you make eye contact with yourself. Every time your on-screen persona makes eye contact with you, the real person, have a stopwatch to time that. Then I want you to add up that time and divide that by the time of the entire call. If it is less than 50%, which for most people it is significantly less than 50%, you got some work to do because you’re missing that opportunity to really build that connection. Also, look at what your face is saying. If you’re sharing something positive, did your face support that? Is there variety in it? Is it just a blank slate the entire time? Those are good starting points.”


Fred Diamond: Julie Hansen, it’s great to see you. You’ve done so much amazing work over the last 18 months. You’ve done a lot of great work before that, of course. But when everybody shifted to virtual, when everybody had to start selling from their homes and their basements or wherever it might be using Zoom or Google Meets or Teams, we’re using GoToWebinar right now, everybody had to figure it out. What’s even crazier is that we’re 18 months into wherever we are into. You and I talk about this all the time, people still struggle.

There’s questions like, should you look at the customer? Should you look at the dot? Should you look at the camera? Should you be yourself? Should you be bigger? Should you stand back? Should you move forward? Should you use your hands? Virtual background. GoToWebinar makes it very difficult to use a virtual background, whereas Zoom, it’s an integral part of the system. I’m standing right now, you’re sitting, I guess.

First off, I do want to acknowledge that your new book is out and it just came out and it’s absolutely fabulous. Look Me in the Eye: Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners, and Teams. This is your third book, so congratulations. I’m actually finishing my third book. I’m reading my third book right now, so hopefully we’ll catch up with you at some point. It’s great to have you here. You are the expert. You’ve heard me many, many times and probably right now I’m doing something wrong, I’m talking all the time.

I have the world-class expert on using video and Zoom to sell and to present yourself. We’re talking today about three must-know acting secrets for selling with video. I do want to acknowledge, we had you on the IES big stage a couple years ago, you’re a well accomplished actor. You were on Sex and the City. By the way, my best friend from high school was the editor of Sex and the City.

Julie Hansen: Really?

Fred Diamond: Yeah, Michael Berenbaum is a ACE award winning editor.

Julie Hansen: I know that name, yeah.

Fred Diamond: I was on the set of the show a couple of times and so good for you. First of all, how are you doing? How are things going?

Julie Hansen: I’m doing great, and things are going well. You talk about reading your third book right now, so I assume you’re in the process of reading it. Get ready to read it 100 times more before you hit the publish button.

Fred Diamond: We actually are working on a couple books right now. We are working on some of the lessons we learned from the over 450 Sales Game Changers podcast episodes, but let’s get back to you. Again, we’re talking today, and we’ve been talking for the last 18 months. We actually had you on one of our shows in 2020 and we were first talking about some of the things you need to do.

Julie, we’re doing this show on September of 2021. I was on a meeting yesterday, and people were late. It was supposed to start at one o’clock Eastern time and I was on it 12:59, 1:03, two people started to come in and I heard the ubiquitous, “You’re on mute.” Give us some of your top-level things. We got a whole bunch of questions here that are flying in from the audience. Just give us some top-level things about what’s going on right now, September of 2021 that you’re really harping on?

Julie Hansen: Sure. Well, I have to set the stage a little bit. We jumped on virtual, many people for the first time 18 months ago and I have to applaud everyone for doing a job that they weren’t familiar with and very quickly going, “Okay, how do I get online? I got to get a camera. I got to get a mic.” We all got online, we got our technology set up, and then things plateaued. We’re on, everything should work, right?

What we’ve done over the last 18 months, what I’ve seen is after making those preliminary adjustments is we’ve thrown a lot of technology at this problem. We’ve got new tools where you can engage people with this, you can do poll, you can do this and that. We can come up with better questions and rapport building. But we haven’t addressed the basic issue which people do not know how to do and there’s no reason they would know how to do it, which is how do you connect with another person through the camera, and how are people experiencing us on their screen? Because there are some things that are very different about how the camera reads things and the fact that we can only see 10%, maybe 15% of someone’s body and their body language. Most people don’t know what that 10% or 15% is communicating to another person.

A lot of miscommunication, a lot of misconnections, and a lot of people just like you said, very late, very bored, very disconnected. What I’ve been working on and what the crux of the book is really about is, certainly some of those basics like, how do we make it easier for our customer to see us, to hear us, to understand us? But technology only gives you the potential to build a relationship. The building is up to you, and it’s up to you to build it in this stage and you need to know how to work that stage and what your tools are, and how it impacts your audience. There’s just a real general lack of awareness around that.

Fred Diamond: I got a very simple question to get things started with. Even though I’m very funny, I’m also very serious. I take this seriously. I want to make sure that the half hour we’re going to spend with you, we have a whole bunch of people watching us live and we have over 2,000 people download our podcast. I want to make sure that they’re getting value out of the 30 minutes that they’re giving us. I have something, though. Right here, I have a little post-it note. I’ll even show it to you. It says, smile. A very simple question. Should we be smiling? Should we be serious, like really dour looking? Give some of your advice. We got some questions actually that are flying in here.

Julie Hansen: Okay, good. Thank you for bringing that up. I have a chapter in the book on expressions and smiling and I can absolutely say everybody on this call needs to smile more. There is a typical face that you see on video calls, and it is this face. If you’re not watching, I have a very bland expression, it doesn’t give away any clues. I call it resting business face. It is completely devoid of emotion and it’s the standard face that we often bring to when we sit in front of a screen. Not only do we see that in our customers and panic and associate all kinds of not necessarily realistic meaning to it, but that’s the face that we often show up with.

When you only have this much space to communicate, you have this screen and your face is part of your communication tool, you have to be able to use it. I often tell people, your face should tell me how you feel about what you’re talking about. I hear salespeople say something like, that’s going to save you a million dollars and their face looks like they might have just said, pass the salt.

It’s like, if it’s good news, then I want to see it on your face. If it’s serious, of course, you don’t want to smile. But your face, that is just one of the tools that it has to supplement some of the energy and connection that we’re missing in person. I would say, why have your camera on if your face has nothing to say? Why am I looking at your face if it’s just a vehicle for you to say words? Right?

Fred Diamond: RBF, resting business face. We have questions coming in about building relationships, but I want to ask you a slightly different question. Again, we’re 18 months into the pandemic, the Delta variant is still around unfortunately. We don’t know what’s coming next. Hopefully at some level we’ll get back to the stuff we had done prior. Of course, we all know the world has changed forever. I don’t want to go down that whole path and be naive and say things are going to go back.

One of the keywords, Julie, that comes up all the time now is fatigue. As a matter of fact, I talk about this on every webcast we do. Back in June, I had a guy named Tim Solms who’s the Senior VP of Public Sector for Dun & Bradstreet. I said, “What are your corporate priorities right now?” He said, “Managing the fatigue of our employees.” This was in June, and that stuck with me so hard, and people are tired. Someone actually just commented here. Jason just said, “I’m doing 10 calls a day.” That’s a lot of calls on a video. I presume you’re talking about on video, Jason.

But how do you maintain energy? Because the 8th call and the 9th call and the 10th call, that’s just as important as like the first five calls. Even if we didn’t have this, and we’re still doing phone or whatever it would be, every time you attack a call, before we did today’s webinar, I said to you, “Julie, do you recommend that people take a breath before they start?” I took a deep breath, hit the start button, took a second, then we were in. Talk about fatigue and energy as you’re doing multiple calls through the day. Then we’re going to start digging deep into building relationships.

Julie Hansen: Okay. That’s a great question because it’s real, and the challenge is when we approach a call expecting our energy to just turn on like a switch. As an actor, I learned you don’t wait to be in character to be fully ready to go when they hit the camera, and turn the camera on or draw the curtain. You got to be in that state 5, 10 minutes before. Nobody can go to 0 or 100 like that.

You do have to bring more energy to a virtual call because you probably heard this saying that the camera adds about 10 pounds. Unfortunately, there’s some truth to that because it flattens everything out but it also depletes a lot of our energy. You have to show up with actually more energy virtually than you do in person, because we don’t have the benefit of that energy that we feel when we’re in the same room with someone and the screen waters it down. You do have to work at it.

We used to have that time to regroup in between meetings by getting in our car or maybe we’re on the road and it’s just individual meeting, and we don’t have that. You have to manage your own schedule. Your customers, too, are racing from meeting to meeting. I always like to schedule 45-minute calls instead of an hour. You’ve got 15 minutes to regroup, so does your customer, they appreciate that and really hold true to those times also because it is important. You have to manage your own energy.

Certainly, if there are calls where you don’t need your camera on, and I say that not giving permission for salespeople to turn it off. But when a relationship isn’t going to be impacted by that, when you can’t impact it necessarily, it’s a peer that you’ve worked with for years, it’s a manager that you just have a catch up. Think about those opportunities to go dark. But anytime a relationship matters, you should have your camera on.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here that comes in from Mark. Mark says, “Well, okay, Julie, what can we be doing to create more meaningful relationships?” He also says here, it’s harder than I thought it was. It’s interesting. Thanks Mark, for the question. Once again, we’re 18 months in and people are still doing a lot of these types of things. They’re evaluating, where are we with our relationships?

I don’t want to go down the whole personal route, but a lot of people are evaluating their lives. We did a show yesterday with the great Bob Greene and the topic was, how sales leaders can avoid The Great Resignation. There’s estimate that said, 40% to 50% of people are going to be quitting their jobs. That’s unbelievably ridiculous. Let’s talk about meaningfulness in relationships when we still have the video.

Julie Hansen: That’s where that really is the difference maker here. You can’t just turn a camera on and see somebody and the relationship is going to flow. Just as you can’t sit in a room with someone and expect the relationship to take off. But like I said, we’re relying on technology and our words to do a lot of the heavy lifting here. It’s like, “Well, what can I say to make this relationship grow?” We’ve got all these rapport builders and questions, and those are great. I’m not saying they’re not important, but there are some qualities that need to be in place for any relationship to grow.

Experts tend to agree there are maybe about 10 or a dozen, but some things like expressing interest in someone, being a good listener, empathy, trustworthiness, credibility. If those things aren’t present, and by present, I mean the other person doesn’t see them, then you’re going to have a hard time with all the rapport building questions in the world establishing a relationship.

What happens is most of us, we have honed our face-to-face skills our entire life, so we know how to in person express empathy, and we know how to listen and to pay attention. But on camera, it’s very different. We don’t know that many of the signals that we give off in person are being lost on camera or are non-existent. For example, let’s say, Fred, we were at a networking event, and you were talking to me and I’m listening to you, but I’m looking all around the room. How would you feel?

Fred Diamond: I’d feel the person is not interested in me.

Julie Hansen: Right. You feel like they’re looking for something better, right?

Fred Diamond: Next person to talk to. 

Julie Hansen: Yeah. That is basically what we do on video. We are looking at our screen, we’re looking at our slides, we’re listening, and we feel so intently that we’re listening to the other person, but because our eyes are not on that camera, which are the window to our customer, it feels like they’re not being heard. They may give you a benefit of doubt, say, well, Fred is probably looking at the screen, but logic doesn’t build relationships. Relationships are built on feelings. If I feel like you’re not listening to me, then that does not help our relationship get off the ground.

Fred Diamond: We have a follow up question here that comes in from Tristen. Tristen says, “Well, if I’m looking at the camera, how can I read body language?” That’s also an interesting question. I did a road trip where I went to as you know, I was going to come back to Denver, but I actually met with about two dozen IES members and sponsors and friends and it was such an eye opening thing meeting in person because you can look at their entire body, you can make eye contact, you’re not conscious of looking at something specific, and you can look around and you can have the environment. We’re all in pretty much mostly the same environment, our basements or home office or wherever it might be. Talk about reading body language if you’re telling us that we’re supposed to be looking at the camera, so that we can give that type of degree of attention.

Julie Hansen: There are times where we absolutely, positively need to look at a camera to make someone feel heard and seen. You have to know what those times are. For instance, when you’re speaking, which is counterintuitive, because I want to look at your face. But when you’re speaking to make you feel heard, I need to be looking at the camera. Now what you can do, what you certainly want to do is, set up your camera, remove those images, so they’re as close to that camera as possible, but it’s likely not going to be a great fit.

Then if you have more people in the meeting, those images are going to move around. You can always pin the decision maker or the speaker, but you have different levels of reading body language. I teach using, first of all your peripheral vision. If I’m looking at my camera, and I’m not looking at you, Fred, but I’ve got your image on the screen, I can see you nodding your head, I can see what you’re doing. I can see you smiling. We can see an awful lot with our peripheral vision. Our vision doesn’t just end if we’re not in our direct eyesight. But we’ve never really had to use it on demand.

It’s a latent skill that we can use here. You can see major movements, major changes in behavior if someone’s distracted, if they’re moving around a lot. Then of course, there’s times where I want to check in for more detailed view. I want to do more of a micro check-in. I want to do those at times that are not going to be so disruptive because I’m really breaking my connection with you when I start looking elsewhere. Because unlike in person where if we were in a room together and I looked away, you know that I’m still present because you know I’m looking at a picture on your desk, or I’m looking at your hands. I have no idea what you’re looking at if we’re on camera and if you’re not looking at the camera. No idea.

Fred Diamond: Julie, we have a couple of questions coming in here. Denise says, “I get mad when the customer doesn’t turn on their video. I expect their video to be on. What should I do? Should I insist?” Denise, that’s an interesting question. Thank you so much.

Yeah, that happens sometimes. You don’t know what the customer has going on. Maybe they’re not dressed for the meeting, maybe they have some kids in the back or whatever it might be. From a connection perspective, what do you do? Do you insist? Do you reschedule the meeting? Again, you don’t want to tell the customer, I’m not going to have this meeting if your video is not on because we’re depending upon the customer’s relationship. What do you do if they don’t turn it on?

Julie Hansen: You never want to make someone feel bad or forced into a corner. Like you said, you don’t know why they don’t have it on and there could be a very personal reason and that can really set you off on a bad footing if you start to insist. I think there’s a number of things you can do to make it more likely they’ll have their camera on, which is ahead of the call say, “Hey, I’m going to have my camera on, I hope you will too. Really looking forward to seeing you.” Or, “I’ve had so many calls with people that don’t have a camera on, it’d be great to see your face, your real person.”

You can make it fun and light. Then if they don’t have it on, you might say, “Hey, I don’t know if you know this, but your camera isn’t on.” Then if they say, “Well, I’m not using it”, you let it go. It really doesn’t matter. Yes, it would be ideal if we both had our camera on and you could read their body language, but here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter from their standpoint. They get to see you and they get the benefit of you, and your energy, and your eye contact.

This is where acting comes in. You have to really see them in that camera, and you have to see their face and you have to be talking to them and you have to visually imagine their reactions. That’s how you make a dynamic conversation. If I can’t see you and I say something humorous, I got to imagine you’re smiling. Because that’s going to then make me feel more confident. It’s like, yeah, so Fred, you get it. You have to fill in those gaps because most people, they’re reacting just as they would if you were in person, but we just can’t see it.

I don’t know why, but as humans, I think a lot of times we just expect the worst. We think because we can’t see them, they’re just sitting there with a stony face. They’re just judging us and they’re bored, they may well be planning on doing some other activities. You have to see them as alive and engaged so that you are engaged because it will bring the best out of you and will keep them from engaging in all those distractions.

Fred Diamond: Julie, one thing we talk a lot about is how much talking you should do as a sales professional versus the customer. One thing we like to say is that, if the customer does 90% of the talking it’s a great call. Now that’s a little bit different if it’s a demo because they’re expecting you to take them through things. In a typical discovery call or you’re talking about contract or things like that, we like to say the customer should be talking. What do you do if the customer’s just not being responsive?

It’s interesting, we don’t know what the customer had. We talk about us being fatigued, but the customers might be fatigued. You just mentioned a second ago, they may have their cameras off because something’s going on in their home or wherever it might be. How do we keep our cool? I like the way you just said, make pretend that they’re smiling and engaging with you. But give us some more thoughts on how we could be our best selves.

If we were doing meetings live in a conference room, you could see when the customer shuts down. You could see if maybe they’re disputing what you’re saying or you can see if they’re thinking. People are nervous when people aren’t talking on camera. I know we only have like 15 minutes and you have another Zoom call coming up and I have another Zoom call coming up, so I got to maximize this amount of time. Talk a little bit about that. What should our mindset be when the customer isn’t necessarily being as engaging as we hoped that they would be?

Julie Hansen: Sure. That is the other huge problem. We’re talking about building relationships but also engaging. People are notoriously passive on video. Think about, it goes back to that on-screen behavior. We sit in front of a screen, we are expecting to be a receiver of information. Especially if you tell someone you’re a salesperson, and they’re expecting a pitch or a presentation or a demo, they’re not expecting to be active. You have to break that right away. Certainly, one of the things you need to do is engage right away so that they understand that this is not the pattern that you’re going to settle for.

But there’s a number of things that you have to do. Part of it is that, you said mindset. What I see is and a lot of this has to do with questions, how sellers ask questions. Because a lot of the questions I hear are, so does that make sense? All these little non-questions that are white noise. You’re not going to get much from that. We also ask questions without really expecting an answer because many of us have been so used to people being silent that they don’t even sound like questions. Like, is that a problem for your team too, Fred? It’s like, is that a question? It didn’t quite have the right uptick to it. She wasn’t looking at me when she asked it.

A number of things you can do just to make sure those questions are more likely to be answered is, first of all, just as a mindset to say, I’m going to get an answer to this question. When I am committed to getting an answer, I’m going to say it in a certain way, I’m going to make sure it sounds like a question and I’m going to look at the camera. Fred, are you seeing those same challenges today? I’m going to keep looking at the camera because here’s what’s happening. You know how you said in person you can see somebody’s thinking? They’re still going through that process. Fred is still he’s thinking, this takes a second. First of all, it’s like I heard a question, what was it? Do I have an answer?

Then here’s what happens when you have multiple people on the call, I think, is Bob going to answer that question? I bet he has something to say. Should I answer it? Because my manager’s on the call, I might look stupid. As the silence builds, the pressure builds and they’re like, okay, I’ll answer it. That is a much longer process than what we’re used to in person. If you jump in and just constantly fill that space, don’t give people more than 10 seconds, you will be answering all your own questions in the entire conversation.

Fred Diamond: Julie, we’re coming down to the end here and before I ask you for your final action step, your final bit of advice, you’ve given us so many great ideas. We’ve got one final question here. If you could be brief so we can get to your action point here, but what should people be doing more of on video? And conversely, give us one thing they should be doing less.

Julie Hansen: Great question. They should absolutely be making more direct eye contact. Eye contact, it helps to quickly build relationships, it’s proven to build relationship, it shows confidence, it shows interest. It’s absolutely vital, so more eye contact. Relationship experts say that to build a relationship you should maintain eye contact about two thirds of the time. That’s in person. For the many reasons, I think it should be more on video because we don’t know what else you’re looking at. Making eye contact.

What we should do less of is really, as we talked about, the talking too much. The monologues that we engage in. We have to break our content into smaller chunks. We should not be going any more than 90 seconds, two minutes max before we’re having some kind of engagement. It’s hard to stop talking because many times we’re afraid of the silence. We have to really embrace that silence and let people fill it once in a while.

Fred Diamond: Julie, first off, you’re our go-to. People ask me, who should I be talking to about how to get my team more effective? We’ve invited you to meet some of our members who have given overwhelmingly positive response to the great work that you’ve done and congratulations on the book.

You’ve really established yourself as the go-to expert on this and you’ve helped tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of sales and business professionals really optimize this during a challenging time. Before that you were helping people kill it with their presentations and all the great work that you did there. Congratulations to you

Julie Hansen: Thank you.

Fred Diamond: Again, you’ve got so many great ideas. Give us one final action step, something specific people watching today’s webcast or listening to today’s podcast should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Julie Hansen: Well, here’s what I’d do. I love a little bit of homework. Everyone needs to watch themselves more on video. What I suggest that you do is watch a recent recording or record your next interaction and play it back. First of all, I like to have people time every time you make eye contact with yourself. Every time your on-screen persona makes eye contact with you, the real person, have a stopwatch to time that.

Then I want you to add up that time and divide that by the time of the entire call. If it is less than 50%, which for most people it is significantly less than 50%, you got some work to do because you’re missing that opportunity to really build that connection. Also, I would say, look at what your face is saying. If you’re sharing something positive, did your face support that? Is there variety in it? Is it just a blank slate the entire time? Those are good starting points. In my book I walk through how to evaluate yourself because it’s very difficult to see yourself as others see you and we need some help being a little more objective with ourselves.

Fred Diamond: Absolutely, and be kind yourself. If you find that you’re struggling, just get Julie’s book, learn how to be better, be more confident, like we talked a lot about. Not just about video. One of the greatest bits of advice Julie that we ever got on the Sales Game Changers podcast and our webcast, we had a sales leader, his name is Gary Milwit with a company called JG Wentworth. It’s a company that sells settlements and those kinds of things.

I asked him for his bit of advice. He said, “Make who you’re talking to feel important.” That’s been probably one of the best things besides the last 30 minutes that I’ve had on our podcast. Make the person you’re talking to feel important. By looking at the camera, by paying attention to them, by having the energy and by just listening to what they have to say and really showing them attention. Once again, for everybody who watched today, thank you so much. Everybody who’s listening today as a Sales Game Changers Podcast listener, thank you so much, and of course to Julie Hansen, thank you.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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