Although eye contact is a cultural issue, and not all cultures use eye contact in the same way, it is generally considered a good thing in sales. It is a technique that needs to be used with caution, as too much direct eye contact can also be uncomfortable for many people.
As a sales professional, using eye contact is important to convey your sincerity and interest in the customer. It also projects your sense of honesty, trustworthiness, and commitment to the other person. It is also a way to connect with the other person on a more personal level by providing your undivided attention.
An Eye Contact Experiment
A quick way to understand how eye contact impacts a conversation is to do an experiment with a loved one, friend, or colleague. Start a conversation with the individual and maintain natural eye contact. This includes looking into their eyes when they are talking and maintaining that contact comfortably when you are sharing information.
Note their engagement. Do they maintain eye contact and “lean into” the communication? Do they seem interested and focused on what you are saying?
Now, break eye contact but continue the conversation with the same tone, cadence, and topic. Look to the side, look down, check your phone, or gaze around the room at others. What happens to the conversation? Do they stop communicating as effectively or do they shut off their contribution to the conversation?
Take a few minutes and ask the other person what that experience was like for them. Listen carefully to the differences they felt in the communication between eye contact and no eye contact. This is exactly the same experience as customers have during a sales call.
Eye Contact Online
With so many sales conversations happening virtually through online platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and other systems, it is essential to create a sense of eye contact through the online experience.
Take the time and position the web camera so you are looking directly into the camera lens. This creates the impression for the other people on the call that you are looking into their eyes.
Additionally, check your lighting. It should be in front of your screen, not behind you. This lights up your face and allows easy visibility of your eyes. If the light is behind you, you will appear dark and in shadows, which creates a barrier to effective eye contact.