Nonverbal communication plays a significant role while communicating with prospects. Expressions, gestures, and hand movements allow us to say something beyond mere words. They enable the prospects to read between the lines and see under the carpet. But the COVID-19 outbreak has made wearing masks mandatory, which is causing serious trouble to companies, especially salespeople, to make the required impact.
Maintaining social distancing in meetings is the new normal. People are advised to cover their mouths to avoid the spread of the virus. But it’s hurting business dealings. According to a 2013 study, patients had more negative perceptions of doctors who wore masks during the consultation than those who didn’t.
Although we are living in a socially distant world, following are a few basic skills you should teach your employees to ensure effective talent management.
1. Practice using your mask voice
The quality of your voice plays a significant role while communicating with prospects. Two people speaking the same thing but in varying tones will elicit different responses from the audience. But when you put a mask over your mouth, the rules of the game change. Prospecting during COVID is a challenging task as it doesn’t allow you to use your voice effectively. Here is a tried and tested strategy, PAVE — Pause, Accentuate, Volume, Emotion — that will help you make the right impact on your audience.
a) Pause: In normal circumstances, the mouth’s visual cues enable the listener to know when he can respond. But since that isn’t possible now, you can pause here and there so that the listener gets an opportunity to make their point.
b) Accentuate: Highlight certain words/phrases to make a profound impact on your audience’s mind. Use varying tone, pitch, and intonation to keep your ideas forward.
c) Volume: The mask can lower the loudness of your voice. So it would help if you spoke a little louder than you do while you aren’t wearing the mask.
d) Emotion: Wherever required, use positive emotions like awe, excitement, sympathy, compassion, and gratitude.
2. Learn the art of active listening
We have learned in the above points that a mask is essential for safe meetings. Here is another technique that you can use to compensate for your hidden face — Active listening. It is an art that takes a long time to perfect. You can use this technique to make your conversation partner feel comfortable. You can start by making sounds of understanding like “Mm-hmm.” You can also use phrases such as “I’m listening” or “That’s great. What happened after that?” to express interest in what the prospect is saying.
If you feel the prospect is expressing negative emotions by any chance, you can paraphrase it as follows: “What I get is…” or “So you mean that…” and then continue the sentence in your own words. This technique will significantly increase your perceived likeability and build rapport.
3. Make fair use of gestures and body language
Maintaining social distancing in meetings is essential, but it can deteriorate their quality. Using your body language effectively can make impactful sales pitches and increase the possibility of converting the prospect into a paying customer. A good rule of thumb is to increase your hand gestures by 10%.
For having safe meetings with your prospects, you shouldn’t insist on handshaking. Instead, you can wave your hand. Although handshaking builds trust and confidence, waving is a better alternative until the pandemic lasts.
4. Watch your toes and torso
We may unconsciously ignore this, but our toes can reveal a lot about what we are thinking. For example, a hungry man’s toes pointing towards the door indicates that he is searching for food. The prospect can take it as a sign of disinterest that may reduce their probability of purchasing the product. While prospecting during COVID, it’s advisable to keep your toes and torso aligned and facing the prospect.
5. Practice smiling with your eyes
Smiling is a robust nonverbal indicator that shows you are excited to talk and deal with prospects. The famous proverb “A person who smiles more, gains more” is right in the business context. But unfortunately, you cannot project a broad smile while prospecting during COVID. An essential component for maintaining social distancing in meetings is the mask. Since it covers your face, you cannot show your mouth. Thus, it would help if you learned to smile with your eyes.
Studies show that smiles with eyes that look sad, fearful, or angry are perceived as not happy and don’t portray the emotion of friendliness that we connect with a smile. The indicator of a genuine smile is the formation of wrinkles at the outer edges of your eyes. To bring a natural appeal to your smile, you should practice smiling in front of a mirror.
The more the employees are comfortable accepting the realities of this changing world, better will be the communication and skill development initiatives to manage the talent pool effectively. Candidates that are more effective in dealing with these unprecedented situations will create a better platform of sustainability and growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the business landscape. Old business techniques are becoming obsolete and new ways are emerging. Physical touch — such as handshaking, hugging, and high-fives — are no longer advisable. Unless the world gets its first COVID-19 vaccine, practicing social distancing in meetings is the only way to avoid contracting the disease.
Wearing masks is an integral part of conducting safe meetings. And they will remain for the foreseeable future. Even after the world becomes free from the COVID-19 virus (which all of us hope happens soon), the tips mentioned in this article will help you make the right impact on your prospects and convert them into paying customers.
Nishant likes to read and write on technologies that form the bedrock of modern-day and age like Web Apps, machine learning, data science, AI, and robotics. His expertise in content marketing has helped grow countless business opportunities. Nishant works for Sage Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd., a leading provider of CRM and ERP System to small and mid-sized businesses in India.