(Mis)Reading Body Language on Video Calls
Resting Business Face
Reading body language on video calls is like learning another language! Many movements and expressions can have completely different meanings on video than in-person – most of which have nothing to do with you or your message.
Misinterpreting those signals as a salesperson can cause you to lose your mojo – and the deal if you’re not in the know! Here is a common example of customer body language that is widely (mis)read on video:
Resting Business Face
“Resting Business Face” (noun) – informal
(Typically with reference to a salesperson or business professional) a bored, disinterested, or unhappy expression attributed to or unconsciously adopted by a person attempting to be professional during business meetings, video calls, etc.
As a salesperson trained to check-in or switch gears if your customer seems to be showing a lack of interest, it’s easy to take this blank stare personally and assume the worst: My customer is bored, impatient, or disinterested – what do I do?!
The knee jerk reaction for many salespeople is to rush through their presentation or call, growing ever more uncomfortable until their projection becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In reality, this assumption based on expression alone is typically incorrect.
What’s the problem?
The problem is that virtual audiences tend to be more passive – engaging less and observing more.
Put the average person in front of a screen and they instantly slip into observer mode, they might as well be snacking on some popcorn and sipping a Coke (and this is especially true of customers who are anticipating a pitch or presentation). This passivity is communicated via limited body language and their expression (or lack thereof), AKA resting business face, is easily misinterpreted.
PRO TIP: Don’t let your customers be passive! By continuously checking-in/asking questions, you are ensuring that your customer is an active participant in the video call and not simply a passive observer.
How to Respond to (Mis)leading Body Language
The general rule of thumb on reading body language is simple – don’t overreact or jump to conclusions! Typically, a bored expression or someone sitting back in their chair does not guarantee boredom.
When uncertain, look for information/facts that support your theory – Is their tone distant and flat? Does it seem like they are caught off guard when you ask a direct question? Do their answers reflect growing impatience? These concrete questions can indicate whether or not your customer is truly engaged, interested, or has something else entirely pressing on their mind.
Curious to learn more about reading and using body language, making eye contact, and keeping your audience engaged during your video calls? Check out the Selling On-Video Master Class.
Julie Hansen is a video and sales expert, and the author of Look Me in the Eye: Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners and Teams. She is the creator of the Selling On-Video Master Class based on her work on over 50 commercials, films, and television shows, including HBO’s Sex & The City.