by Gordon Menzies

Since the dawn of interpersonal communication, some fundamental principles have emerged that are never going to change, period!

If you are a Sales Professional who wants to succeed, you need to adopt these basic principles as part of your pitch, or take it from me? You will fail. Or even better.. Just put them into practice in your personal life. That way, they will be engrained into your customer engagements as well.

The human brain is hard-wired to make decisions very quickly. Put differently; a potential customer can decide in seconds whether they will like you or not.  This phenomenon occurs as you meet someone for the very first time. It is not a personal thing; it is simply the human brain at work. As you are no doubt aware, in sales, the first meeting is also the most important.  It is where first impressions are formed and opinions are made, leading to the exchange of valuable information. So, I ask with tears in my eyes (no pun intended), why on earth would you lower your chances of success (or give a competitor an unnecessary advantage) by not practising such a simple yet crucial step in your sales process? Look your potential customer in the eye! The value that it adds is extraordinary.

Have you ever heard the phrase; what the eyes see, and ears hear, the mind believes? Every critically acclaimed sales author that I know of has placed this simple act at the forefront of successful human engagement. Dale Carnegie, Daniel Goleman, Stephen R Covey and many more highlight eye contact as one of the most vital skills to master in sales.

When you look someone in the eye, it tells them that you’re trustworthy, that you’re interested in what they have to say, it demonstrates both empathy and respect. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who doesn’t look you in the eye and thought, “Is this person lying to me? Or, are they even listening?”

To illustrate the importance of this practice in your day-to-day dealings with customers, I’d like you to imagine yourself in a fight with an invisible opponent. In this case, your opponent is the human brain in a person you’re meeting for the very first time. By not looking them directly in the eye as you shake their hand, you have just picked a fight with neurons firing in their brain. You can’t see them, but they have already mustered an army that is attacking you and your pitch from all sides. Why would you put yourself through this utterly unnecessary pain and make the sale so much more challenging to get? Why? Why? Why?

So, now that we agree that eye contact is a vital step in human engagement, let’s look at some new developments in our landscape. I imagine that many who are reading this article are thinking, ‘this guy has no clue what he’s talking about!’ Yes? Doesn’t this idiot know that in the last 16 months, face-to-face human engagement has dropped by over 70 per cent? The answer is, yes, he does.

This is why I am raising this topic because, while this behaviour is essential to human connection, it is much more challenging in our current digital engagement environment.  Today we are faced with putting this technique into practice on video and, in some cases, from home,  often with clients who have not turned on their camera. Welcome to the 4th industrial revolution. Thank you, Covid-19, for your sanctimonious contribution to humanity and the way we connect.

The good news here is that we are all in the same boat. Lockdown was ground zero for all of us. There was an immediate need to re-invent what we do and how we do it. Zoom became a buzzword, and we began to evolve. So much has changed in the way we now engage with customers and there is so much technology available to us to streamline these processes and bring the online experience as close to face-to face as possible. Our home offices now look more like film studios with all the audio-visual equipment. The keyword in that phrase, by the way, is, Visual!!! They still see you, and those neurons will still fight you. This brings me to my final point.

Please do not, for one minute think, that because you are now engaging with customers remotely, that the fundamental and proven principals of human contact do not apply. This assumption will be your greatest downfall in this new sales arena. My advice is to start by making small changes, and one of the most important is to look directly into your camera lens.

In summary, you have just given yourself the VERY BEST chance of getting the deal without even opening your mouth. And, keep it up, because the basic rule of thumb is as follows: Maintain eye Contact from the 1st Handshake to the last.

I sincerely hope this message has demonstrated the importance of eye contact in a meeting. If not? Read again!

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and good luck with your sales endeavours.