How to Read the Room: 14 Tips for Virtual Sales Calls

Whether you’re selling over the phone or using a virtual meeting tool, learning to interpret body language will be a powerful skill.

Body language is communication. It clarifies meaning, ensures engagement and drives participation. According to, 55% of face-to-face communication is done through body language. Which means that if you're selling to someone you can’t see, your understanding less than half of what they’re telling you.

Whether you’re selling over the phone or using a virtual meeting tool like Webex or Zoom, learning how to recognize and interpret body language will be a powerful skill to have.

Malcolm Gladwell calls body language “micro-emotions”. The tiny facial expressions, the subtle tics, the postures and gestures that are present in every face-to-face meeting are the unspoken language that communicates, even more than words, how we really feel.

Audio-only meetings are a minefield. It’s tough to get a clear picture of what someone is thinking when all you have to go on are their voice and intonation. But there are ways to try to improve the odds; to let you figure out your potential client’s feelings and intentions without the help of body language.

How to tell how well a sales call is going:Salesperson monitors screens

  • The quality of the answers they’re giving you – if you’re hearing a lot of one or two-word answers to your questions, it’s a bad sign. Your prospect is either uninterested or distracted. When someone is genuinely interested there is almost always a good flow to the conversation.
  • The quality of the questions they’re asking you – if your prospect is engaged on a deep level, they will ask penetrating questions that get to the heart of what you can offer them. If you’re not hearing smart questions, it may be best to schedule a meeting for another time.
  • Are there clearly defined next steps? – Any sale will have a clear path forward, a process that involves a next meeting, an exchange of documents or something that indicates progress. With Webex collaboration tools, you can begin the next steps right away, which will shorten the sales cycle. Remember, without a next step, the sale will stall.
  • Is the prospect excited to take the next steps? – You’ll know you’re on the right track if your prospect is already talking about or planning to take those needed next steps. If you can answer yes to this question, then well done!

Even if you are getting a good sense of how a virtual meeting is progressing, there are still times when you can feel uneasy about a prospective client’s true feelings. Some people are just wired to tell others what they want to hear. Try using these next tips that deal with how to tell if someone’s trying to deceive you.

How to spot deception in a call:

  • First establish a baseline during opening chit-chat – This is when the person has no reason to lie and you can get a strong sense of their natural tones and speech patterns. If, during any point in the meeting, you sense a change from the baseline, it’s usually brought on by anxiety. A single deviation from the baseline may not mean much, but if you hear it multiple times there’s likely some deception happening.

Learning to control your own body and becoming sensitive to the nuances of conversation will help you reach your sales potential.

  • Response time – A fibber will have a slower response time than someone telling the truth, because they need time to figure out a plausible lie. A truth-teller doesn’t need to think about their answer, they just state the facts, right away.

  • The “Well” technique – Ask a simple yes or no question. If the person begins their answer with the word “well…” then that suggests they are not comfortable giving you a straightforward answer. They’re hiding something.
  • Word fillers – non-words such as “umm, uh-huh and ah” are another way for liars to buy themselves a moment to formulate a fib. Very few people can speak in a complete, uninterrupted flow but if you hear many of these sounds, it’s likely you’re not hearing the truth.
  • Avoiding direct questions – if you are hearing a lot of evasive answers, or people are answering your questions unsatisfactorily, that’s a sure sign that they are uncomfortable giving you a clear answer. Watch almost any interview with a politician to see this method in action.

Try combining your new lie-detector skills with the following tried and true techniques that will present yourself and your company in the best possible light.

Fine-tune your Virtual Body Language

Virtual meeting computer with global visuals

  • Keep vocal tones in the mid-range – Speaking in a relaxed tone of voice will let the person you’re talking with know that you are confident in what you are saying and in what you are selling. While you don’t want to sound like a robot it’s best to avoid extreme high and low pitches as they can be interpreted as a sign of worry.
  • Wear a smile: a quick anatomy lesson - When you smile, the soft palate at the roof of your mouth rises. This makes sound waves more fluid, which gives your voice a warm, pleasing, enthusiastic tone.
  • Practice recording yourself – Webex allows you to record yourself. This is a great way to see what works and what doesn’t ahead of time, without any pressure. Use a headset whenever possible.
  • Sit up straight or stand up – If you are hunched over it slightly muffles your words. An upright posture will make you more clearly understood, and you’ll feel more in charge.
  • Act like someone is closely watching you – You wouldn’t want your boss to see you operating at less than 100%, so this little trick will force you to stay focussed on your conversation, avoid the myriad distractions that can de-rail a sales call.

Face-to-face or video meetings aren’t always possible, but all meetings are affected by body language or it’s absence. Whether it’s on the phone, on Webex or Zoom, learning to control your own body and becoming sensitive to the nuances of conversation will help you reach your sales potential.

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