Digital selling (Part 3)

Come across as professional online: Here's how!

Consultations via screen - many newcomers sit in front of customers like a deer caught in the headlights.  "But that usually comes with practice," says sales coach Leif Kania, speaking from experience. Do you also want to come across as professional online? Our expert's tips will help you gain confidence. 

May 31 2021

Image and sound make their own rules 

First of all: If you sell digitally, you don't have to conduct every customer conversation on the screen. A needs analysis, for example, can also be done well on the phone. Only when it comes to presenting planning proposals does the video call come into play. At the latest then, however, the question arises: Where and how do I do this so that I achieve optimal results? How do I literally put myself in the right light? 

In the digital sales conversation, technology becomes the mediator. Image and sound, however, play by their own rules. And you should know them if you want to come across professionally online. 

Do I have to present in the showroom? 

Now you might think: if it's your turn to make a video call during the presentation, you should do it in the showroom. But taking customers virtually into the showroom is part of the freestyle. The core of the consultation takes place at the table. There are also practical reasons for this. 

"You don't always have everything in the showroom that the customer wanted or that you planned," explains Leif Kania. "I would then demonstrate that with the colourful bouquet of digitalised content that is available to me. Videos, photos or even websites I share on the screen alternating with sketches from the planning software." 

Focused in the showroom 

A trip to the showroom can supplement this selectively. But it is technically more complex, the coach points out: "Because of the distance to the camera, a radio microphone or headset are particularly important here. And you often need much more light. Ideally, therefore, there is a prepared setup with lamps in the corners I want to show. If I don't have a tripod, someone has to walk with the camera." 

Those who use an external camera should also familiarise themselves with the settings in good time: "If I move, the focus may wander and blur may occur. Factors such as distance and aperture play a role here. I should test this in advance and adjust the depth of field, otherwise it will look distracting." 

At the desk: avoid distractions 

The rest is relatively simple. Namely, you look for a fixed spot. Once set up, it is quickly ready for use and you will come across as professional online if you adjust a few screws. It starts with the choice of space. 

"I should definitely try to avoid all distractions and background noise," advises Leif Kania in relation to clientele and colleagues. "The ideal room is one that is little frequented or not used at all. It should not have a high ceiling and should either be furnished or have acoustic walls to avoid reverberation." 

Announce consultations 

But what if space is at a premium and you can't avoid the hustle and bustle? Not bad! For video calls at the counsellor's desk, merely inform those around you to avoid the following scenario, which the coach encounters time and again: 

"Someone sees me sitting at the computer, talks to me and only notices from the panic on my face that I am talking to a client. Unfortunate! I can prevent this with a colourful sign and a message such as 'I'm currently inspiring my customers online! Then everyone knows: Ah, he or she is not talking to himself, but doing a consultation." 

A flagship background 

No matter where you sit: If you want to come across as professional online, make sure you have a clearly structured background, because after you, that's the next thing your counterpart will notice. The backdrop should neither steal the show nor give rise to false conclusions about your person. Because there is a reciprocal effect here, says Leif Kania: 

"In the case of clutter, dirt or wilted flowers, pigeonholing takes hold and we transfer the characteristics of the surroundings to the person in it. So I should think about how I want to appear. Ideally, I choose a background that matches the theme and make sure it looks tidy and modern." 

Don't clutter up your surroundings, as this is distracting. Instead, set meaningful accents. Perhaps underline your expertise with a saying or a mood board with the season's trend colours?

You sell furniture, not travel 

The coach knows that it is tempting to conceal chaos or bare walls with a virtual background. But that is not a good solution, he says, because: "We notice that. Especially when people beam themselves to the Cayman Islands and we know they're sitting in Krefeld at four degrees and it's raining! That creates mistrust, because they want to hide something. I therefore advise against it." 

Folds for success 

Also taboo for the background are windows. Unless you want to go unrecognised in the dark against a glaring rectangle - and that's pretty much the opposite of coming across as professional online. So, as mentioned in episode 2, invest in a video light that you place in front of you. This way you are not only independent of external lighting conditions, but also well "readable", as Leif Kania explains: 

"With online counselling, many body language elements from the 'real world' fall away. So we want our clients to at least perceive our facial expressions very well. Illumination with artificial light accommodates the legibility of the laugh lines, so it conveys emotions that are important for sales." 

Want a thick headset, become a pilot! 

Speaking of facial expressions. You already know that you should use a wireless headset for all-time good sound and even more so in the exhibition. But you can still improve on good ones if you want to be perceived as naturally as possible. 

"I don't recommend the classic headset with huge ear cups and a strap in front of the mouth because it covers part of the face," says the coach. "I don't usually have conversations with people who have a headset on. It's just distracting and doesn't fit." 

Watch out for external speakers! 

Unobtrusive in-ear headphones with an integrated microphone are better and solve another problem that can arise when the sound comes through external speakers. If their voices are amplified by the counsellor's microphone, customers might hear themselves. This echo can quickly become stressful, warns Leif Kania. 

Communicate at eye level 

Now for the camera position. It must not be too low, otherwise you will look down on your customers. This does not only imply superiority in the idiom, and it is not for nothing that one speaks of communication at eye level in conversations between equals. This is why you also appear more respectful and professional when advising on site if you are not enthroned in the boss's chair while your counterpart sits on a visitor's chair. 

In online counselling, too, the pitfall is usually in the object, says the coach: "Especially when I use the camera of my laptop, the relatively standardised desk height combined with screen height and angle leads to the camera being at neck or chin height. Then I haven't created an even ratio and my counterpart has to look up." 

The lions' den 

It's not only from a psychological point of view that this is unfavourable. Consider what your customers get to see when the camera is positioned underneath! You'd better save the sight for your ENT. It has a deterrent effect during the counselling interview. An absolute no-go is therefore to take the laptop at its word and place it on your knees. 

Incidentally, the ideal image section extends from the solar plexus to just above the head. Perhaps you have a height-adjustable desk to improve the camera position and angle? Or you can place your device in an elevated position. If planning is your profession, you are sure to find a solution. 

Clothes make the man 

Now all you have to do is dress up. Choose a shirt or blouse, preferably in one colour. Don't go too colourful. Do without checks and patterns. The rest is a matter of taste, says Leif Kania: "I think it's good to work with contrasts. With a dark background, I would choose a light shirt and vice versa." 

And what about down below? Since Corona, we know how tempting it is to keep your pyjama bottoms on when video conferencing at home. After all, no one notices. From a psychological point of view, however, clothing helps us to come across as professional online. 

"With a suit and tie, I automatically feel different and radiate that. That's why I would always dress for business. This also includes sensible footwear, because that gives support and not only keeps my proverbial feet firmly on the ground." 

Have a plan B 

Great, you've thought of everything! But what if you are great prepared and the technology fails? Even though you have dutifully charged the battery of your headphones and plugged everything in properly? Leif Kania advises a contingency plan:  

"If I go through possible breakdowns in my mind and note down what to do if an unforeseen event occurs, I can react calmly and professionally at the appropriate moment. Then, for example, I have a spare headset with cable or the customer's phone number at hand, so I can call and discuss everything else." 

Conclusion and outlook 

Even if they sometimes interfere unpleasantly: camera and microphone are mediators. But they present us with a technically modified section of reality and guide our perception. You can come across professionally online if you play by the rules of the technology. The rest is practice. Have a plan B and prepare yourself. You will also have to shape the content of the digital conversation a little differently. But more about that next time. 

Now it's your turn! 

How do you feel about consulting on screen? Do you have any questions about how you can present yourself even better? Then post them in the comments!

Author: Christine Piontek

Contact persons
Portrait of Leif Kania
Leif Kania Human Ressources
Möbel Kania Consulting GmbH
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