The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic sent workers scrambling for shelter earlier this year. Though many bemoaned the forced isolation, there was one pixelated light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Videoconferencing unlocked humanity from the clutches of quarantine and supported a work-from-home (WFH) mentality that kept the economy inching forward. Indeed, during the first month of the pandemic, more than 300 million people crowded daily into a rectangular on-screen Zoom portal.

Though accessible technologies made virtual connection possible, one thing remained out of reach: the human touch. Robbed of the flesh-pressing, back-slapping, three-dimensional personal connectedness of face-to-face commerce, sales professionals had, like it or not, become “Zoombies” — and with this transformation, beholden to the two-dimensional limitations of the virtual selling arena.

Sales professionals thrive off reading body language; they can pick up on certain subtle cues, like a flinch or a fidget, to their advantage use the dynamics of the room as data points that improve the odds of closing deals. In fact, the most effective sales professionals are so effective at reading people that they sometimes aren’t even aware of how much of this data they are picking up — it’s almost an unconscious radar.

Zoombies have little to distinguish themselves from other emotionless faces that appear, ad nauseam, throughout the typical virtual workday. With some form of WFH measures likely to persist for some time to come, how can you, as a sales leader, help your team focus on two critical questions:

      • How can we restore humanity to our “Zoombie” world?
      • How can we pick up on that psychological data that is so critical to the sale?

Fortunately, there are a few ways to capitalize, and restore some semblance of humanity to, the computer-borne sales artifice:

Commanding Attention

It’s easy to hide behind technology. For prospects on the other end of the line, what may appear to be focus may simply be an act to cover rampant multitasking (usually accompanied by far too many keyboard clicks, darting eyes or the elimination of the buyer’s video feed altogether). This multitasking can leave sales messages fragmented or only partially delivered.

Encourage your sales professionals to ask more questions, to probe deeply to reach the heart of the matter:

    • I’d like to make sure I am communicating clearly about my offer. What do you think about it?
    • What do you think of what I said? Do you have any specific concerns about the details of our product or service?
    • Do you mind if I share my screen to show you some visuals around our offer?

Interpretation Is Everything

Digital communications are only as good as the people involved in them. Without facial expressions or a subtle chuckle to help them along, we need to deliver virtual messages with extra care and attention to tonality (anyone who has misjudged the tone of a text message knows the risk involved). Here’s where a little psychology can come into play for your sales professionals: Whether buyers are using the camera or not, they should listen closely to the nuances in their buyers’ voices — not just what they’re saying but how they’re saying it. Heightening awareness of those nuances will help sharpen your sales reps’ attention and inform a successful response.

Caring Is Sharing

With our regular routines still upended, it’s important to remind sales professionals to deliver the caring attention that their buyers need in other ways. One thing that everyone has in common is the struggles caused by the pandemic. It’s OK to advise your sales team to start calls with a sympathetic ear by, for example, asking how the buyer’s day is going. Working at home can be challenging, and a little kindness can go a long way. Listening with empathy connects human beings through a common experience. Something as simple as saying, “Yes, I know that feeling,” can bring the seller and the buyer closer together.

Remember, most professionals have been relegated to a “Zoombie” world of teleconference calls. The ones who can be authentically human will gain an edge over the ones who are just faces on a screen.

What are you doing to help your sales professionals to avoid becoming a “Zoombie”?