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It's much easier to build rapport with your buyers if they have their camera on in video calls. Here are 4 ways to encourage them to do so.
January 23, 2023
Nishit Asnani

It’s hard to communicate with a prospect who doesn’t turn on her camera.

Over the last couple of years (and for many, even longer than that), salespeople across industries have faced this challenge - how do they get their prospects to turn on their cameras?

As I’ve talked to 300+ salespeople over this time period, I’ve heard this problem voiced many times. I’ve also heard a few solutions that have really seemed to work well for many in sales.

If your entire sales process is based on audio calls and in-person meetings, this article may not be relevant to you.

If you or your team have video calls Zooming in the mix, read on!

Why is it a problem that your prospect has video turned off?

Sales is about building relationships.

The longer the sales cycle and the more complex the product/service, the more critical it is to build strong relationships with your buyers.

And it’s hard to build a relationship without seeing the other person. The smiles, the eye rolls, the body language, and the tone - everything helps in understanding the other person, their thought process and personality, and what excites them.

This is all integral to building a rapport with the prospect. And most of it is gone when there is no video of the person to engage with.

Experienced salespeople struggle because most of them are used to selling to buyers who they can see and understand based on their reactions, just as much as their words.

Even then, some of them are able to do just fine since they have a solid grounding in sales.

Newer reps don’t even have that - and it turns out that selling to a black wall on Zoom is quite a challenging task.

Why do some buyers keep their camera off anyway?

Most sales today is not a zero-sum game. There are strong reasons why some buyers don’t turn on their cameras though:

  • Availability: They are taking the call while traveling or without access to a computer: most common among executives and senior leaders.
  • Vulnerability: They don’t want to feel vulnerable. This is most common among buyers who are not as socially savvy, e.g. those not in sales or customer support. They may perceive you being able to see their outfit or their background as being too revealing, or just a hindrance to their personal space.
  • Lack of perceived engagement: They feel that keeping the camera off allows them to be more comfortable. Isn’t it far more peaceful to take a call while you look away from time to time and can feed your dog on the side as well? The crux of the problem here is that they believe that the sales conversation won't be exciting or engaging enough.

Taking inspiration from your friends and family

The same people who don't turn on their camera on sales calls would be turning on their camera in certain other scenarios.

  • On a video call with their friends from school
  • On a family call
  • When in part of a community that they enjoy interacting in (like Thursday Night Sales, for instance)  

What do all of these have in common?

They involve interacting with people that a person feels comfortable with, and conversations that are fun to engage with. When both the people and the conversation are exciting, we want to be an active part of it.  

This insight could be the key to make it worth it for your prospects to turn on their camera while talking to you.

Here's what I've heard from salespeople on how they get their prospects to turn on the camera by being personable and making the conversation exciting.  

How sales reps and leaders get their prospects to turn on their camera

When proactive salespeople see a problem, they solve it. And many of the folks that I’ve talked to have found solutions to this problem as well.

Here are four ways in which they get their buyers to turn the video on in Zoom calls:

Tip 1: Turn on your own camera

If you turn your own camera on and keep it on regardless of your prospect’s camera status, it helps. After a while, people realize that you are friendly and want to engage with them on video, and they might turn on their camera as well.

When you keep your camera on for a few minutes, it indicates that you are okay being vulnerable. You value a proper conversation over the awkwardness of a situation, and you are comfortable in your own skin.

Vulnerability breeds trust and projects confidence. Both help remove barriers from the prospect’s mind.

Tip 2: Ask them to turn on their camera

The second most common way salespeople get their prospects to turn on their camera is by simply asking them.

Some salespeople have told me that they fear that it might introduce awkwardness in the conversation, but many more have told me that it works.  

Why does it work?

Asking politely is a sign of confidence and establishes that there is a certain way in which you do business. It also shows vulnerability - you are okay being told no.

Also, for less extroverted people, saying no is often harder than sitting in an awkward impasse.

Tip 3: Friendly tone, light content to start

Especially on the first call with a prospect, starting with some light-hearted banter might work well (it depends on their personality as well).

Start with talks of football or the weather or something else that you typically do to establish basic rapport - the prospect would feel engaged and in their comfort zone.

And that’s when the defenses come down, and they want to start talking to you like a friend. And isn’t that how you want to start a new business relationship anyway?

When you get to business in a couple of minutes, their cameras would already be on, and their minds would be open to new ideas.

Tip 4: Maintain dialogue and ask questions

Even if it’s a demo call, don’t make it drab. Don’t make your prospect want to look away and check their email.

Ask questions and make the call a two-way street.

The reason it works for salespeople is that when the prospect is already engaged in the conversation, they have no reason to look away for comfort.

Conclusion: getting prospects to turn on their camera is just the first step

There’s far more to building a relationship with a prospective buyer than just having cameras on.

It’s just the beginning. You need to establish trust, credibility, and competence and make sure there’s a fit.

There’s a long way to go, and you’ll need to agree with your prospects on many points before a deal is made (or not). Make a positive start by having cameras on and keen attention flowing through the call.

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