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Remote Selling: Video Selling and Building Trust Online

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
17 min read

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.

Remote Selling: Video Selling and Building Trust Online:

Full Transcript

In 1960, the US presidential race was between a young John F. Kennedy and the older, more experienced Richard Nixon. Some people watched the debate on TV, others listened on the radio. TV watchers thought Kennedy won, while radio listeners thought Nixon won. Unfortunately for Nixon, radio watchers were in the minority. And as the fabled story goes, the more energetic and confident JFK won the debate.

There are two lessons we can take from this. Number one, the content, the actual words that we say and their meaning, is only part of what’s communicated. And two, when people see you, they can have a totally different impression than when they just hear you. In this episode of Modern Sales, we’ll dive deeper into remote selling, this time with a focus on video selling and building trust online.

Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast that’ll help you sell more by understanding how people buy. I’m Liston Witherill, founder of Serve Don’t Sell, and I dig through academic research, interview people inside and outside of sales, and nerd out on psychology, economics, and neuroscience to figure out how people make decisions. And I am on a mission to change the way 100 million people sell so that buying B2B services can feel just as heartwarming as a puppy meme. Wouldn’t that be nice?

If you’re listening to this on Spotify, hit that follow button so you don’t miss an episode. And if you’re listening on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, please subscribe and leave an honest review, as long as it’s five stars. It helps me get the word out for the show so we can together change the way 100 million people sell. Thank you in advance for your help.

Quick announcement. Starting next week, as I’ve mentioned over the previous weeks here, I am ramping up the publishing schedule to two episodes every single week. Every Tuesday you’ll get a solo episode just like this one, just like the ones I’ve been publishing. But then also, every Thursday you’ll get an interview episode. I am really excited about the first interviews that are going live. That all starts next week. And I’m launching a YouTube channel that includes a video of each of those interviews, so look out for that. That all starts next week going to twice a week publishing. Now to the show.

This is the second episode in the remote selling series where I’m going to give you an absolute crash course in selling your products and services online. I’ve been doing it for six years, operating my company and all of my work 100% remotely, so I know a thing or two about this. I’ve sold well over a million dollars in services during that time so what you’re going to hear during this episode is based on my firsthand direct experience.

Last time, I covered the basics, and this time we’re diving deep on video selling and building trust. What might surprise you is just how much more successful you’ll be if you use video. Yes, you will win more deals, but how many? I’ll tell you right after this short break.

Welcome back. I touched on this last week, and the truth is selling remotely can feel a little bit forced at first, maybe even a bit awkward. If you’re used to being in person, there’s something about the feel of the room, the energy that people give you. It’s just a lot easier to pick up in person. And one of the ways that you can make remote selling much more effective is by using video. According to one study by people who used video closed 41% more deals on average than those who didn’t.

But, being effective is hard. It really comes down to proficiency and building trust. Because for you, selling over video might be unfamiliar. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever recorded the sound of your own voice, but I can tell you from firsthand experience when I did, the first thing I said was, “Do I really sound like that?” The same is true with video. We can feel a little bit awkward. We can look at ourselves and feel like we look or act a little strange or we’re just not quite sure exactly what we look like to other people. So, a lot of us don’t like to see ourselves on video. And look, it can be awkward, but it can be awkward for your prospects, too. They may not be used to using video. So just remember we’re all in this together.

What I insist that you do is take steps to cut the awkwardness and reduce the learning curve right away. If you can make it easy for prospects to participate in this new video selling and buying reality, then you’ll be doing your prospects and your clients a favor. With video, familiarity breeds trust, and it’s way faster to become familiar with someone with video than without. In this episode, I’m going to go over hosting video meetings, I’m going to go over other uses of video within sales, and then I’m going to give you some additional ways to build trust through the process.

Now, I mentioned this last week, but in your video meetings there’s 81% more self-reported trust using video, meaning people are more likely to trust you, 81% more likely to trust you, meaning that of all the people who went to video meetings versus non-video meetings, 81% of those who went to a video meeting ended up trusting the other person more. So first thing to do, and this is really easy, is just switch on that webcam. Make it easy for you to do video meetings. And part of that, it has to do with your setup at home, or in your office, or wherever you’re taking these meetings.

But what I would tell you is there’s this fantasy of work from home that you can just sit a laptop down and get your work done. And that may be true for you. For me, it’s definitely not. I have a lot of equipment. I have a lot of gear. It’s set up permanently. I use a desktop computer for almost all of my work. And the only time I’m working remotely, in normal times that is … This is recorded on March 31, 2020. I’m in the middle of the lockdown. But in normal times, the only time I would work remotely is if I were writing or creating content. I would never, ever, ever take a call away from home that was a video meeting. So keep that in mind. Have your set up. Make it permanent. Think about all of the bells and whistles that you need in place, and I’m going to go over a lot of those here in this podcast.

Now, whenever you start your video meeting, do not skip rapport building. This is true of all types of selling. In those first few minutes, your goal is to make the other person feel comfortable being there. Show them that you understand them a little bit. Show them you did a little bit of homework on them. Ask a question about something that they’ve mentioned on their social profile, or maybe a past job, or maybe something else that you might have in common. But go ahead and do your rapport building. And I’m not a fan of trite business advice, but this is worth saying, smile. Be energetic in the meeting. Because if you are, it’ll make the other person just a little bit more excited to be there with you.

Now, I want to give you some tips on looking your best on video. If you want specific gear recommendations, I’m going to mention some things here on the episode, but there’s also a link in the show notes to an article that I wrote about remote selling. In that article are links to all of my specific hardware recommendations. So if you want those links, go click the link in the show notes. It’ll take you to an article on the Serve Don’t Sell website, and it has all of the links for my gear recommendations.

So number one, still dress for work. Now, when I was in grad school, I was told by the career office that if you have a remote interview, still wear a suit and tie because, hey, that’s what you would wear in person, and it’ll make you feel more professional. I don’t agree with that, actually at all. That’s never worked for me. But what I will say is if you’re doing a video meeting and you’re wearing a sweatshirt, and sweatpants, and an old t-shirt with holes in it, the other person’s going to see you and you’re going to be a little less confident on the camera than you would be if you were dressed normally like you were going to a regular meeting.

So that’s what I would say. Whatever the regular type of dress is in what you’re doing, go with that. If you’re a suit and tie everyday kind of person, that might be a little bit weird from your house, but definitely wear at least a collared shirt or just a nice shirt and jeans. So still dress for work because you are still working.

The number two recommendation I have for you is to make sure your webcam is at eye level. Now, eye contact is a very, very important part of in-person communication. And if you get your webcam at the right height, you’ll be able to simulate eye contact with the other person. If you’re using the webcam on your laptop, the only way to do this is if you prop your laptop up on some books or something else that gets it a few inches off the desk.

I’m tall. I’m six feet, five inches tall, or about two meters, and so I need quite a few books to get my laptop up off the desk. What I have is a webcam that’s mounted on top of my monitor. The monitor can move up and down, and it’s plenty tall for me. So get your webcam at your eye height so that the angle to your face looks like it would if someone was actually sitting across from you so that it sort of simulates the experience of being right across the table from you.

Which brings me to point number three, make better eye contact as much as you can. So when the other person is talking, I’m typically looking at my screen because I want to see their facial expression and read their body language in addition to listening to them talk. But whenever I’m talking, I’m staring not at my screen but directly into the webcam. And if you look directly into the camera, it’s going to give the other person the feeling that you’re making eye contact with them.

Now, this is really important. There’s lots of studies about how to build trust and they all say make more eye contact. Don’t make so much more that it’s weird, but definitely make eye contact because people will often interpret that as you being truthful and having integrity and ethics. So definitely make eye contact. And the way to do that is to look directly into the webcam.

The next thing is to get a better webcam. Now, you don’t have to spend a lot on a webcam. The Logitech C920 is something like 50 or 60 bucks. I bought a really fancy one. It’s called the Logitech BRIO. It was about $160. It’s HD and 4K. It looks not as good as my phone might, but it looks really good. It’s more than enough to shoot really clear video. And importantly, I can always put it at their correct height. So going back to this height thing, right?

So if you’re using your webcam … I know some older laptops, like there’s a line of Dell laptops where the webcam is right above the keyboard but on the bottom of the screen. Essentially, that means the angle is up your nostrils. And I don’t know about your clients or anyone else you meet with, but I certainly don’t want to talk to you with a view up your nostrils. And I’m pretty sure no one else does either. So one of the problems in addition to the webcams being pretty crappy on a laptop is that they’re just not in the right position in order to simulate someone sitting across from you at the table. So do yourself a favor, get a better webcam, put it at the right height.

Next up, have some decent lighting. So if you’re in a room that has natural light, usually natural sunlight is going to be more than enough to make you look great. And in fact, natural light is usually the best source of light because it’ll give you the most natural colors. I can’t really set up my computer facing a window, and so I have natural light coming in on one side and then I have a light permanently mounted up above my monitor directly behind my webcam and that light shines right on my face and it simulates that I’m somewhat attractive. So that’s good. So definitely get your lighting in place.

The next thing you can do to improve how you look on video is to internalize this. This is not soccer. This is not football. You can use your hands. Some of us are a little bit more expressive with our hands than others. There’s all kinds of jokes about certain people being “talkative” with their hands. I tend to be that way in a remote setting. Actually, scratch that. I tend to be that way always. But I think one thing that using your hands and using gestures does when you’re doing a video meeting is it’s another layer of your communication. Your hands are doing some of the talking for you. They’re emphasizing points that you’re making. So a lot of the things that you would do just as an effective speaker, as an effective communicator, you still should do when you’re in a remote setting, but they tend to have a little bit more meaning because the other person isn’t in the same room with you.

Now, in terms of your webcam, make sure that you crop yourself correctly. That means your head should be basically in the middle of the frame in the upper third of the frame. If you’re not sure what that means, just google proper webcam framing and you will find more resources than you ever needed or wanted on this subject.

Next up, clean up the mess in the background. If you have a messy room, if it’s really busy behind you, clean some of it up. Take some of it out. I would rather err on the side of having nothing behind you than having too much. I think it’s great to include some things in your office that say something about who you are. Today, I saw a video of Mark Cuban doing a LinkedIn live, and he had his Dallas Mavs NBA championship trophy on his desk next to him. Now, I don’t have one of those. Certainly if I did I’d probably have it on my desk next to me, but I don’t have one and you don’t have one either. You don’t need that.

I’ll give you another example. I have a client who’s a cyclist and really loves to ride his bike, and he has his bike mounted on the wall next to him. I think that’s great. For people who are also bike riders, they’ll see that and maybe strike up a conversation. That may be part of the rapport building that he does. And for other people who never mention it, they’ll still know, well, he must like to ride his bike because that’s what’s on the wall.

So I think it’s okay to have things around you that indicates something about who you are, the way you work. My background is my office, which I think is totally appropriate because I’m running a business here. So I think it makes sense that it looks like you’re here with me in my office. So just if it’s messy, clean it up and take things out if you can.

And finally to look your best on video, get a better microphone. Of course this has no bearing on how you look on video, but the quality of your sound will make a big, big difference in how you are perceived. Even if you have to struggle through listening to other people who have really crappy microphones, and you will, that’s okay. Remember, our goal is to make the experience better for them as much as we possibly can.

So in your meetings, do those things. Look your best on video. That’s going to make a big difference. And now, with all of those same things in place, I want to talk about other ways to use video in the sales process.

I really like custom videos for one big reason. You cannot fake them, at least not yet. Certainly the day will come when we all can send fake videos, but it’s not here yet. So when you send a video, it feels like you’re talking directly to the person, if you do it right of course, and it feels delightful. It feels to the person like they matter, and that’s pretty important. So I’m going to give you four separate ways to use video through your sales process in an asynchronous way.

So number one is whenever you’re emailing with someone, consider sending them an email message. I like to do this when I’m prospecting because it shows the other person that they’re the only one who received that. The tool that I like to use is called Loom, L-O-O-M, .com, and it allows me to create and send my own custom video. I’m mentioning the person directly. I’m mentioning their company. And then it creates a GIF that I can paste into the email. And when someone receives it, they just click on that GIF and the video plays on a landing page. It’s amazing.

They have a pro app that allows you to trim videos. And one feature that I love, I can add a CTA button, a call to action button, that allows people to schedule a meeting with me, or go to an article, or whatever else I’m reaching out to them about. So in your prospecting and other email communication, consider adding a video.

The next thing you can do to use video in your selling is send the same thing you would send over email but on LinkedIn. So try sending a video over on LinkedIn. Same exact process. You record it quickly, you drop a link in the chat directly to that person. And if you rename it in Loom, it will also rename the landing page. So when you paste that link, the preview of the page will have their name and the name of their company as the title of the page if that’s what you named it. I think that’s awesome. Again, a huge moment of delight. Most people have never received anything like that, so I would definitely recommend you try it.

For a lighter version of this, on the LinkedIn mobile app, for whatever reason it’s not available on the desktop … LinkedIn, if you’re listening to this, I do not understand your product strategy. I digress. On the mobile app in LinkedIn, you can hold a microphone button and record an audio recording and send it to people like a voicemail. Now, this is way faster than video. You don’t have to worry about how you look. And the way I use it is when I get inbound connections, I open up the mobile app and then I just record a quick 10-, 20-second audio note to everybody who connected with me and ask them why they connected and say, “I’d really love to get a response from you. Looking forward to it. Have a great day.” Super simple. And again, it’s a nice little touch.

Somewhat surprisingly, most people will not respond to you, or at least they don’t respond to me. I’m not sure why they connected with me in the first place. But for those that do, it really is a moment of delight for them and I get a lot of compliments about how cool it is that they received that.

The next way that I would use video is for all inbound leads. Any time someone is a lead and they come in, they fill out a form, they email you or your company, I would respond with a quick video in addition to whatever your templated responses. So if your process is someone fills out the form, you evaluate them, and then you send them a booking link, I would just end that email response with a booking link have a video where you introduce yourself, you say something about the company, you show that you’ve done some homework on them, and you invite them into a conversation. This is a great way to start the relationship, so I really recommend doing that if nothing else.

The last thing is you can use these custom asynchronous videos as a touchpoint for prospects, both old and new. The way I do that is, when I’m doing outreach especially, I’ll segment the most engaged prospects, the people who are opening the emails the most, the people who are doing the most stuff on my website. I’ll segment those out, and I’ll send them custom messages. So I’m not sending hundreds of these. I’m sending 5, or 10, or maybe 20 in a week. Not a huge number. It goes really quickly. And again, huge moment of delight.

Now, there are some other ways to build trust. Of course there are lots of ways to build trust, and trust is a huge topic. And if you’re interested in learning about that, go check out a couple past episodes that I’ve done about building trust for some more in-depth info. You can check out episodes 76 and 77 for more detail on the subject. But for the purpose of this episode and remote selling, the key here is really personalization. And that’s why I think video selling is so powerful is because it shows the other person that it is personalized, that you have taken the time to do something a little bit extra for them, that it’s also different. You automatically put yourself in a different class.

What’s funny about all of this is I know I’m saying all of it and you may be listening, and chances are, on average, you’re never going to do this, but I wish you would. Here’s what I would say. Give video selling a chance, even if it’s just the prerecorded stuff. Try that. Send it out as part of your prospecting or as a response to inbound leads or to your existing prospects. And if you sent 10 of those, I would be very surprised if you didn’t get at least one response with someone saying how much they enjoyed it. So definitely, definitely, definitely try it.

The key idea here is to treat remote selling like in-person selling, which means do things that are truly personal and truly don’t scale. Now, I could get into the nitty-gritty of sort of sales operations, and technology, and how to leverage it all in order to scale more than you could without the right tools in place, but by definition, if we’re sending video, it’s limited in how much we can scale it. It’s limited by how efficient we can be and how much time we have to do it. And that’s a good thing. In fact, that’s why video is so powerful in the first place.

So there are plenty of other ways to build trust besides just sending video. A lot of it has to do with your firm’s reputation. A lot of it has to do with your reputation. Personal branding is a factor here. The quality of your advice and the questions that you ask, all factors. Again, go back. Listen to episode 76 and 77 for more info on that. But the thing I want to leave you with is this idea of how powerful video really is.

So here are the key takeaways. Focus on the 80/20 of your video. Do your meetings over video using Zoom or a similar technology, and do some of this asynchronous video. Make sure you look good on camera, get dressed for work, have good lighting, have good sound, have a decent webcam and put it at the right height and make eye contact with it. And then consider all the other ways of using video asynchronously, over email, over LinkedIn, to your inbound leads or email subscribers, and as a touchpoint for prospects, both old and new.

That’s it for this episode in the remote selling series. Next week, I’ll be diving deeper into the remote selling process and how it may differ ever so slightly from the in-person process, particularly how long you should count on the process to be and how long it may take people to get comfortable with you, and therefore how to structure it correctly.

If you aren’t already subscribed to this podcast, please do so by clicking the subscribe or follow button. You can also get notified of all podcast episodes by visiting Thanks to everyone who makes this podcast possible. Juan Perez is our editor. Marianne Nokum is our show assistant. Our show theme and ad music is produced by, yes, me, Liston Witherill. And show music is by Logan Nickelson at Music for Makers as well as Epidemic Sound. Thanks so much for listening. If you’re getting something out of this podcast, please tell someone. I would love it if you shared it. My name is Liston Witherill of Serve Don’t Sell, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

Modern Sales Podcast