In my first article as DIGITAL SALES EXCELLENCE – author I introduce a new term and give the ultimate tips for videocalls with the experience of the Corona times.
The ultimate tips for video calls with the experience of Corona time.
B2B, B2C, B2B2C, B2G, … these abbreviations stand for different sales channels. I would like to add a new approach based on the experiences made in the last months: B2V – Business-to-Video. This is the appropriate description of the many video calls we have made with our customers recently. But how do you prepare yourself and your sales team for B2V? Here is my suggestion on how to do it.
And then Corona came
The COVID-19 lockdown has sent many of us to our home office for several weeks or even longer. I found it interesting that there were suddenly so many instructions on how to organize yourself in the home office. This was nothing new for me, as I have been working from home regularly for over 15 years. The difference is that back then, it was made easy and nobody gave much thought to what else was needed besides a printer and an internet connection (very, very slow back then). The hype and the many home office life hacks are very amusing for me. Nevertheless, it doesn’t always fit: only about 40% of all activities can be done regularly in the home office and hardly anyone thinks about how to manage IT security and work safety in the home office.
The biggest and most important lesson from the Corona period is that discipline has improved considerably. Today, it is already considered unseemly to be even one minute late for a call. Discipline also means that everyone has their microphone off when they’re not speaking and out of consideration, especially in video conferences with participants from underserved Internet areas, we have now all learned to switch off the camera after the initial short wave greeting. This usually makes the connection more stable and increases the transmission quality.
Another new feature is that participants are better prepared. I haven’t always experienced this in the presence meetings. Agendas are actually read and people even think about them in writing beforehand (“I’ll quickly share my screen”)!
My experiences and tips from 15+ years of home office
First of all: home office or video conferencing has nothing to do with digital transformation or digitization, this is the classic “digitization” by replacing something that is analog (physical meetings) with a digital tool. I have explained the difference between the two terms digitalization and digitization here.
It is also interesting to note that there are now intensive thoughts about giving employees more frequent home offices. My experience is that I am more productive in the home office, but more creative in the office. The small conversations in the hallway, in the kitchen, or at lunch are the salt in the soup, and I get valuable impulses from them. Simon Sinek describes this very well in this short video.
The new behavior also has far-reaching effects: Due to the increased use of home offices, corporations around the world are thinking about terminating office space and building smaller ones in the future. If there is a need for presence work, employees can work in the company’s own decentralized “Cosy Hubs” or book coworking spaces on a daily or weekly basis at short notice in major cities.
Siemens has announced that it will continue to rely on mobile working even after the Corona pandemic. 140,000 of the 240,000 employees worldwide will no longer have to go to the office or to the factory two to three days a week. “We have seen how productive and effective mobile working can be. Some prejudices have disappeared into thin air”.
Allianz CEO Oliver Bäte even believes that office space can be reduced by a third in the long term. He wants to save 50 percent of travel costs in the long term. “We don’t need all this travel anymore.
I don’t even want to join the religious war about which app or application is best suited for video conferencing and in my opinion, it is obsolete. I work as an interim manager and in sales. So I always have to take what my clients or their customers specify: Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Blizz, Cisco WebEx and more and more Google Meet.
My experience is: they all work! And depending on what the IT department considers to be more secure (data protectionists have reservations about all solutions), this is simply taken. In practice: the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, for example, works entirely in the Google Cloud. Flexibility is required here. In principle, all solutions work equally well for the user.
I would also like to go into more detail here about the points that you can influence yourself to be in the spotlight as a professional.
Of course, a fast internet connection is important (50 Mbps at least). But how fast is it really? Rarely as stated in the contract. I can recommend a great website that makes it easy to check: fast.com. Based on this result you can complain or change your provider if necessary.
I also recommend to close all unneeded programs during a video call or to use a blocker application like “tripmode” to only allow internet access to those applications that are really needed for the video conference. This prevents a software update or synchronization of the dropbox during a presentation. In any case, Outlook must be closed. At least (and this applies in general): please turn off the notifications via a new mailbox. The pop-up window disturbs, distracts, and there might be a mail with an order from the competitor of the person you are talking to…
It is also advisable to equip the smartphone with all apps since WLAN is not always available or you sometimes have to participate from on the road or from the car. Teams and other software work very well on the iPhone, for example.
Communicate at eye level
The most important point for me is to participate in the video conference while standing. This way you can communicate with the others at eye level provided the video camera (don’t forget to clean the lens) is positioned at eye level. This is not always easy to achieve, but it seems to be much more present when you speak standing up than when you loll around in a comfortable office chair. Newsreaders on television, for example, are always standing. This also prevents people from looking down on others from above, which can be intimidating or condescending. This also avoids that the viewers do not look into the speaker’s nose from below! Because that really doesn’t look nice, but it is the usual picture we see in almost all video conferences, isn’t it? Stand in such a way that the head is not cut off, so do not get too close! Above the head there should still be some space, but not too much either. And the most important thing: always smile!
The video background can be individualized or blurred (“blurred”) with most software packages today. This looks good at first glance, but on the second and more detailed view, you can see that either a yellow veil can be seen as an aurora around the head or sometimes the head is cut off at an angle. For little money, I bought a photo background that hangs behind me in the room and gives a better impression than faded in photos.
It is also important that you download, install and test all software tools before. With some of them, you have to register additionally, but with most of them, you don’t have to. They will run in the browser, but you have to test them as well. Google Meet for example runs best in Chrome. The performance test should be done at least one day before to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
Personally, I don’t like headsets, I think they always make you look like a DJ. The microphone and speaker technology built into laptops does not meet my quality standards. Here I have learned to appreciate my small “Jabra Speak 510” loudspeaker. I can take it with me everywhere without any damage and it works really well.
In a web seminar (attention, the name “Webinar” is protected) with several speakers, instead of switching back and forth between the participating speakers, it is advisable to collect the presentations in time and summarize them in a single file (eg PowerPoint). Please make sure that the original formatting is retained when inserting the slides, otherwise, it will look bad…
Put yourself in the right light
For a visually successful video call, the light, the illumination is crucial. The best light should come from the front and from below, not just from above, from a ceiling light. This should be switched off. A cleverly placed guide light, which illuminates the speaker from diagonally below (under light) is highly recommended. There is also a battery version available and you can easily position it optimally. The guiding light can be additionally softened by a “softbox”. For this purpose either a high-quality solution is available (e.g. Aputure AL-MC), where you can also adjust the color temperature exactly (ideal: 5600 Kelvin) or you use the simple solution of a make-up light (e.g. MÜLLER-LICHT LED Belle Lux). If you do not have additional light, you can also open a simple white page (e.g. a blank Word file without text) on your computer and use the computer light for illumination. Wearers of glasses*, should watch out for reflections and position themselves so that there are no reflections.
The dress code should not be too casual for a video call. Here too, it is important to show respect to the listeners and other participants and to appear at least “business casual”. Please note: small checkered patterns on shirt or jacket lead to the so-called moiré effect, which irritates the viewer by flickering. If you have a tendency to oily skin, it helps to powder yourself briefly. This has nothing to do with vanity, it just looks more professional.
Here a video with some good tips
And why does the signature say “Will we all become British now?”
We all admire the British, how they wait in a neat line for the bus. I hope that a lesson from the Corona period will be that in the future, doing this one after the other and keeping our distance will become part of our daily routine, of our lives, and that everything will be a bit more orderly. I hope.
These hints are not meant to be instructive, but to increase your professionalism and be respectful to the other participants.
Click here for the original article in German on the DIGITAL SALES EXCELLENCE website.
© Copyright RALF H. KOMOR, July 2020
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