No, this is not a random series of numbers.
It's a breakdown of what matters the most when you are interacting with someone:
- 7% is attributed to verbal communication;
- 38% to tonality;
- And a staggering 55% to body language
We make connections and assumptions about the person we are about to interact with way before a word is spoken. You make critical decisions based on fidgety hands, wrinkled brows, or shifty eyes. Often, this is muscle memory and you judge non-verbal cues without even knowing it.
Creating a connection through your eyes is crucial to making your prospect feel like you are not blindly rattling off a script. It is a sign of empathy and confidence, both of which are important pillars of emotional intelligence. And emotional intelligence is a critical sales skill.
(Eye) Rolling into the Post-Pandemic Virtual World
Eye contact and eye movements make up a considerable part of the non-verbal communication in a video conversation. With everyone communicating through screens, the way you maintain eye contact while talking to a prospect matters more than you realize.
Communication experts largely agree with this conclusion. According to body language and virtual communication expert Mark Bowden, "If I get strong eye contact and get close proximity with you, and you're in a safe place such as your home, your brain produces a neurochemical called dopamine. It's the neurochemical of positive expectation and optimism." (Mark is also an advisor at Sybill)
Generating optimism is part of converting a prospect into a buyer. Your prospect should be able to trust you and get a good feeling about your product and what it promises to deliver.
When they are talking, and you look away, you are signaling disinterest.
When you look directly at them, you acknowledge their presence and subtly indicate that you are there for them.
You will not make your prospect feel comfortable if you are in a stare-down contest with them or do not meet their eyes at all.
A university study from 2005 concluded that when a person is doing a virtual presentation - if they gaze directly into the camera (even for a mere 30% of the duration), listeners are more likely to retain what is being said. This is because they feel acknowledged by the presenter, and hence, are more engaged.
Information retention is critical in sales because if your demo or pitch is not memorable, the prospect is not likely to convert.
Moreover, maintaining eye contact exudes a sense of confidence. If you are shuffling papers around during a product demo or looking everywhere except at the prospect, they will assume that you are unprepared, not bothered, or unsure and nervous about the product.
Often, you can make up for an eye contact faux pas in an in-person environment with your gestures, walking, or other nonverbal cues. However, with just a screen at your disposal, the nervousness (or any other emotion) in your eyes will shine through immediately.
But, how do you ensure your eye movements are positive?
How much eye contact is too much?
Is there such a thing as "optimal" eye contact?
How does one know they are staring to an almost uncomfortable and unforgivable degree?
Before jumping into our tips specific to virtual calls, remember that widened eyes signify curiosity and positivity, whereas narrow eyes indicate suspicion or worry. You can confirm this with a quick glance at your sales call review notes to understand your prospects’ subtle reactions to eye movements.
Eye contact tips for your video calls
How to get eye contact right on video calls –
- Position your laptop so you look directly at the lens, not the screen
- Consider strategically placed add-on monitors or sticky notes
- Focus your eyes on any one participant on the video call, if looking at the screen
- Try to be natural, like you talk in real life
Now, let’s dive in deeper.
Tip 1 - Position your laptop so you look directly at the lens, not the screen
If the lens of your laptop’s webcam is located on top of the screen, you will be looking down at the prospect. If it’s at the bottom, you would be looking up.
You need to be at eye level with them, just like you would if you were sitting across from each other. Gauging the optimal position may require trial and error, but this extra effort to forge a genuine connection will pay off.
To make this work perfectly, you will have to position your prospect's video screen image wherever your lens is located so that you can see them simultaneously without breaking eye contact.
Remember, your prospect needs to see you and vice-versa clearly, and that shared energy will contribute towards acing the sales call.
Tip 2 - Consider strategically placed add-on monitors or sticky notes
If you have to refer to notes or slide decks, use a second monitor positioned next to the device you are using for the sales pitch or demo. If that's not feasible, consider pasting sticky notes around your screen so that you can read from them without having to look elsewhere.
Tip 3 – Focus your eyes on any one participant on the video call
Focus on one person as you look into the lens. This advice differs for the virtual space (in-person, scanning the room while talking would be better) because shifting your eyes too much on camera will make you look distracted.
Alternatively, when you look squarely at the lens, everyone will feel you are looking at them. Thus, that personal connection will be forged.
Tip 4 - Try to be natural, like you talk in real life
Employ all your usual sales strategies for an engaging conversation, and don't get too caught up in your eye movements; otherwise, it will seem mechanical. Instead, mirror your prospect’s non-verbal cues, and don’t overthink it.
If you are uncomfortable with social interactions in general and eye contact makes you anxious, it may not seem natural, but you will get there.
What can Sybill do to help?
Your sales pitch may be making you nervous already. You don't need the extra burden of getting flustered over your eye movements and gestures.
At Sybill, we can help you and your sales teams build long-lasting client relationships by improving your body language communication through our AI-based coaching. These tips are based on real-life video calls and are designed to help you understand your body language strengths and weaknesses.
Learn about other tips to dramatically improve your sales calls.
How have you solved the lack-of-eye-contact problem in your sales calls?