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Tips for Professional Video Calls and More Questions for August and September

Plus how to get your staff to REALLY listen and not just stop talking.




video conference

Do you have any tips for looking professional in video calls? It seems they are going to become a regular part of doing business.

For things not to do, type “video calls gone wrong” into Google and spend 10 minutes having a good laugh (key learning points: wear pants, close the bathroom door, stash your bong … ). After that, trust your common sense and stop worrying how you’re going to look or sound. “You don’t have to be a news anchor or a television personality. What you really want is to be sincere, be yourself, and make a personal connection when you can’t be face to face,” says Scott McKain, the CEO of consultancy Distinctive Presentations. He also confirms your hunch that video is here to stay and not just for conference calls. You may also want to investigate using a video email program to send a video message as a follow-up to an in-store visit.

In these socially constrained times, what’s the best way not to offend a customer who extends his hand in greeting?

Elbow bumps and non-contact Asian-style greetings have all been suggested in the media, but we like sales trainer Shane Decker’s straightforward approach: Say, “I’m so glad you came in. We’ll shake hands when we can. Let’s pretend that we did.” Nothing remedies an awkward situation quite like well-articulated lightheartedness.

I have a brand name line that’s underperforming and am thinking of discounting it to ensure I’m not stuck with it at Christmas. Are there legal risks?

It nearly always comes down to the agreement you signed with the manufacturer or brand owner, says Barbara Mandell of Dykema Gossett PLLC, which focuses on antitrust and intellectual property issues. Mandell notes there are three basic kinds of pricing programs that manufacturers seek to impose on retailers. The first is minimum advertised price, or MAP, programs (under which the manufacturer states it will only sell to distributors who advertise resale prices at a level at or above X dollars. Typically, these programs do not restrict the price actually charged). Second is co-op advertising programs (which also restrict price advertising, but only on those ads paid for by the co-op funds). And third is “Colgate” policies, in which manufacturers set a “floor” resale price and announce that they will only sell to dealers who abide by it. The punishment for violating any of these programs is usually termination of supply, regardless of how much you’ve spent on supporting the brand. If you’ve got concerns, you may want to seek legal advice on whether it’s worth cutting the agreed prices, Mandell says.

Apart from telling them to talk less, how do I actually get my staff to become better listeners?

Robin Dreeke, a former head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program, says the secret lies in an appreciation that good listening is more than simply shutting up. “Listening is having nothing to say. There’s a difference there. If you just shut up, it means you’re still thinking about what you wanted to say. You’re just not saying it,” he writes in It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques For Building Quick Rapport With Anyone. The reason is that customers can tell you’re not focused on what they’re saying. Instead, Dreeke suggests, do this: “As soon as you have that story or thought you want to share, toss it. Tell yourself, ‘I am not going to say it.’ All you should be doing is asking yourself, ‘What idea or thought that they mentioned do I find fascinating and want to explore?’” Get your sales staff and opticians to take such an approach in their interactions with customers and the results could potentially be revolutionary. No sales pitches. Just responding to what customers are telling them. That’s listening.



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