Decoding Sales

Episode 26: Selling over Zoom

February 28, 2022
Decoding Sales
Episode 26: Selling over Zoom
Show Notes Transcript

Zoom fatigue, everyone has it because it's taken over our lives. But what makes a seller successful over Zoom?

- Zoom etiquette for dealmakers.
- Peter's stack rank of Zoom backgrounds (including the weirdest Zoom background he's ever seen).
- How tools like Zoom and Slack work together to change the game.
- Tips for successful - non-embarrassing - demoing over Zoom.

Plus we try out publishing automated transcripts for the first time!

Alex Allain:

Welcome to Decoding Sales, a podcast, where an engineer, that's me, Alex, and a salesperson

Peter Ahn:

that's me, Peter

Alex Allain:

talk about the art and science of sales as it relates to life in business. In this episode, we are going to talk about something that is a little bit modern and cutting edge and relates not just business, but to any, with COVID many of your interactions, Zoom etiquette. We're going to cover, what should you be doing in Zoom what probably shouldn't you be doing in zoom? How do you look professional? How do you bring it to the next level? Leaders spend a lot of time over the last year, talking to people over zoom. Like many of you have his goal is to impress them and make them think that they should buy this product. So this is something he's thought a lot about. So if you are wondering how do I up my zoom game, or you're just curious to hear how a professional thinks about. making zoom work for them this is the episode for you. All right. Peter zoom. First question. So we're on the zoom and people start joining. What makes a good first impression on zoom?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, my opinion. it's all about awareness. it's all about awareness of when to start the meeting, how busy people are. You know whether or not folks are comfortable sharing their screen even right. And being able to break the ice as quickly as possible. There's nothing more awkward than getting on a zoom call when you know, there's five people that are going to join and when you don't greet the first or second person that joins. So I think it's always important to have some of that small talk. No, of course, a lot of what I say is, Hey, where are you located by the way? Or how's your day going? and anything really to get folks to open up, I think is important, especially for the first or second people. I also like to actually, give some appreciation and gratitude for the people that are on. I probably almost like a hundred percent of the time if I get on a call and somebody's already on it, or, they join right at the half hour at the top of the hour when the meeting starts, I say, thank you so much for being on time. I'm sure you're really. and I think that's like that even that simple phrase, I think is pretty powerful because I'm on back-to-back zoom meetings and I think it's similar for the people we're selling to. So I think it's important to acknowledge the distress that comes from these virtual meetings. Just with an acknowledgement to say, Hey, like I know your time's valuable. Thanks for getting on this.

Alex Allain:

So the flip side, what are some things that. As a seller or mistakes you've made or seeing prospects and make you go, Ooph, this is not the zoom call I want to be on.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, I think as a seller, the number one mistake you can make is being later to the meeting than your potential prospect or customer. I think it's always important to be on. time or even early. So that folks aren't waiting for you because remember you're the one usually asking for their time. So I think that's the first thing. I think the second thing is just, make sure you have all your audio, your screen-sharing all set up. There's nothing worse than getting ready to show a demo and then you share your screen and your personal text messages are on full display and unfortunately I have made that mistake.

Alex Allain:

Or if you're like slacking about the prospect and some notifications come up.

Peter Ahn:

Of course. And prospects have definitely done that, where they accidentally share their slack. I've seen that before and I've seen them talking about us, actually our team. and it's a little bit embarrassing depending on what you send. But, I think for sellers, it's important to take at least five to 10 minutes before meeting to clear your screen to make sure distractions are gone. Because I think there's a level of polish and a level of, respect that, that shows that you're ready to show your screen and that, you're not going to fumble around when you joined the meeting.

Alex Allain:

You can't possibly be serious. You spend 10 minutes before every meeting, closing.

Peter Ahn:

sometimes I do to be completely honest because you never know what state your computer's in. Sometimes I actually do have 30 tabs open and I try to flip through, make sure I'm not closing the wrong ones. but I think the point more is like not how much time it takes. The thought you take to make sure you're prepared so that you're not scrambling. I'd rather 10 minutes before prepare for a call and then have an extra five minutes to catch up on work rather than like scramble in the last, like two minutes before a call starts to do that now on the prospect end what are some etiquette, pointers, obviously if you did agree to take the call it's important to be engaged. I've definitely had prospects where it's clear that they're texting or that they're not paying attention. And, in some cases, we have a pretty notable investor in Jeffrey Katzenberg, even when he's on the call we've had situations where it's obvious the other side, isn't paying attention. And after the call we'll text and he'll be like, I almost was, I was like this close to. calling the meeting, because how rude is it when somebody is trying to perform for you when somebody is trying to sell you something or get your feedback on something to not even pay attention. And I think we all know folks are busy, but if you have set aside the time to look at a product, you should give that seller the respect of preparing for that meeting.

Alex Allain:

Maybe they were reading his Wikipedia page.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, that could, I'm sure that's happened before. Yeah. Looking up his history and all his headlines,

Alex Allain:

Exactly. I do. I do want to touch on something briefly, which is the power of the ability in real time to be using slack behind the scenes on zoom. I think that's quite powerful and it's not something you get in an in-person meeting. It'd be very rude, right? If you're on your phone, texting your peers about the conversation you were having in front of. But it feels like slack and the combo of slack and zoom for private chat can make a lot of things can eliminate, you have situations where you don't know the answer and you need to consult with the rest of your team. That actually lets you solve it in real time, rather than having to go back and wait. And I know we've talked in previous episodes, you're talking about email responsiveness, for example, the value of being super responsive. So I'm curious for your opinion. Slack during the meeting. Do you agree? Disagree, neutral. What's your opinion?

Peter Ahn:

I think it's a, it's such a powerful tool. Especially if it's relevant to the conversation, of course, if you're slacking about something else and that's not appropriate, but there are many times when I might ask. Technical specialist, just to gut check, a assumption I have about a workflow, or I might coach one of my sales reps or my customer success managers to jump in or Hey, by the way, Alex, remember there's four minutes left in this call. Let's make sure we cover the question they had in the beginning. sometimes you can say that during a meeting live and it's appropriate, but other times it's better to just slack the person or message the person. By the way, we also have slack channels with our customers, by the way. sometimes we actually even like message our customers during the call. Sometimes you have five people on our side and five people on the customer side. And so some of these, backdoor conversations can happen with people one-on-one. I've definitely had folks like message me directly, even on Zoom, just a direct message. to talk to me about the meeting or about something funny, I said, And I think that's there's like a special, multithreading, that can happen when you do that. And it can be very helpful in my opinion. It has to be not distracting obviously, but I think in most situations it can be extremely helpful, additional layer of context for the meeting. Alex just messaged me on chat while I said that.

Alex Allain:

Testing it out. see how it works.

Peter Ahn:

Exactly.

Alex Allain:

So for our listeners, I said, that's a good point. One, thing I'm curious about, it seems like it, the zoom model puts a lot of pressure on people to be both present in that meeting and simultaneously aware. Of what other people are doing and you get that in all conversation, right? you have that emotional channel of trying to track what other people are thinking and saying and how, what they're saying matches what they might actually do or not. So there's always multiple channels of communication going on, but slack kind of adds this new channel to the mix and really ups the complexity. you also mentioned the zoom chat and. I find zoom chat, like quite good in large group meetings, because you can have kind of an interesting side thread, but the etiquette of that is a little fraught. You don't want to interrupt somebody, but you don't want to take over the conversation if you have a side point and just unmute. There's no easy way to get in. I'm curious when you're on with prospects, do you ever use the zoom chat? How do you engage, with that?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. So I typically don't use the zoom chat, but prospects, do you know? And oftentimes when I'm showing slides or showing the demo, I think prospects, a lot of them are, hesitant to. Even though I say, Hey, feel free to interrupt me with any questions, because I want this to be a conversation, not a one-way pitch. So oftentimes prospects, especially if they're in a group, we'll put in the zoom chat, like a technical question that we can get to later. And then I think as a seller, it's up to you to revisit that. Until I repeat it for the group, because not everybody's going to be keyed into that zoom chat window. So there's a lot of situations where I'm like, oh yeah, Alex, let me answer that question for the rest of the group, Alex, just asked, where relays are located or where our data centers are located. Let me dive into that a little bit. I also think the being able to orchestrate the room, making sure that you see the gallery of people who are on the meeting and then being able to pick up. head nods. And also when people unmute, that's also a really important skillset to have. There's a lot of times when I say, oh, Hey Alex, it looks like you went off mute. Do you have a. So it's important to create that space. When you see something visual that says, Hey, somebody wants to speak up. There's also like that hand wave thing, or that hand raise thing in zoom that you can use it's up to you because as a seller, you're the moderator to be able to pick those things out the head nod, or the engagement is really interesting as well. I think sellers should not be afraid to say, Hey, Alex, like you look a little confused. Can I explain that a little. Or I see some head nods, Alex, you just nodded your head. hopefully that's a good sign. What are you thinking about this? and inviting the prospect to. have their engagement be acknowledged, I think is really like good. It gives you that dopamine hit. If you're the prospect that oh, Peter actually appreciates what I'm doing. And then on the flip side, I also actually find myself using a lot of hand gestures like I'm doing right now, during meetings and I purposely bring them in front of the camera. Because it's, I think subconsciously I want people to understand when I'm getting really passionate about a topic and who knows if it helps, actually, I'd be curious to, I'd be curious to poll like a bunch of my prospects who have seen me do that, but I do think people kind of gravitate towards, whole body movements.

Alex Allain:

So you were talking about the visuals of Zoom a little bit. I'd love your opinion, best and worst types of Zoom backgrounds.

Peter Ahn:

I think the best zoom backgrounds are ones that showcase a little bit about the person's personality. I'll give you a few examples yesterday. I had a conversation with the head of it for Fender. It's a guitar company, one of the largest guitar companies, they do a billion dollars in revenue a year. And he had a set of 10 guitars in his background that were like lit up as if they were in a museum. And this amazing conversation started and it's like totally on brand with where he is. And I looked at his LinkedIn profile, of course he'd been at Fender for 18 years. And it's just like fun to start those conversations and say Hey, So is that like a guitar for every year? You've been at fender, so that's really fun. And then, I love getting on calls. Marshall Kurtz obviously from Dropbox, like he's one of my favorite people to get on calls with because his background is his gallery of video consoles and video games from the eighties and nineties. So I've gotten used to saying to prospects, Hey, if you sign this contract, you can pick something off of Marshall's video game shelf. We're talking to network architects. A lot of those folks love video games and old consoles and things like that. I've been on calls with prospects that have a library of max from the eighties and nineties. Amazing.

Alex Allain:

how many prospects have taken up Marshall on that offer?

Peter Ahn:

No one, but live on the call almost a hundred percent of the time it gets a laugh, And then Marshall will actually bring out like, Mario brothers three or something and show it like in the case. And, obviously it gets a kick out of everyone.

Alex Allain:

Okay. So what you should do, Peter is for the next big holiday, you want to celebrate and celebrate your customers or the next milestone, you gotta send them all like a video game cartridge.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I know. we've got to figure that out. Gotta hit up Marshall. I'm sure he has 500 of them in

Alex Allain:

You can probably buy these things cheap on eBay, right?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, maybe. Yeah.

Alex Allain:

don't ask him. He'll know.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Marshall, if you're listening to this, he does listen to our episodes. So maybe he'll hear this.

Alex Allain:

All right, Peter, back to zoom backgrounds real quick you were about to talk about your zoom background for the listeners on this podcast who've never seen Peters, zoom background. It's a blank wall right now.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. And actually, so I'll say I was going to say, speaking of best Zoom backgrounds, if you can't have anything about your personality, you got to bring your personality and then make sure the background is not distracting. Cause the worst zoom backgrounds are those backgrounds where there's a ton of distraction. if there's like a ton of clutter or. it's like extremely hard to focus on the actual presentation or the conversation itself. that's not good. it's funny. I actually, got on a call with a prospect and there Zoom background, I thought was their room and there was like a bed and still wonder what happened in this call, but halfway through the call, a woman comes into the room and sits on the. no joke sits on the bed behind him and he's completely like emotionless and just going through the meeting. And my CEO is on the call too. And we're just like, after the call, obviously we were like, what happened there, but I thought about it and I actually think it was a video, like something where maybe like after 25 minutes. he just he's like the video has this woman walk into the room, but, is that the best zoom background or the worst? I'm not sure. it's very memorable, but obviously you can't do that. If you're a seller, if you're a prospect and somebody's selling to you, maybe you could get away with it. But I thought it was a little bit unprofessional.

Alex Allain:

I'm guessing that deal did not go through.

Peter Ahn:

no. It's a great company to be honest, but, they, we haven't yet pursued them fully.

Alex Allain:

I think he might've been fucking with you.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah.

Alex Allain:

so what's your opinion on virtual backgrounds like the one you were just describing?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. I think, I think, if they say something about your personality, I think they're great. I've had folks who like put a background of them, like looking they're like in a Star Wars ship or like the Star Trek ship. And that's cool. Cause that's a conversation starter. I think like backgrounds with like your company logo, that can be like pretty safe. I wouldn't say as exciting just cause it doesn't really say much about your personality, but, I think they're fine. I don't think they're great to be honest with you though. Cause they're still clearly virtual. And, I don't think they add much to the conversation. I think being able to see, person's real environment and like some of their character and personalities, like much more interesting.

Alex Allain:

All right. So your hierarchy would be what, like a nice background with shows your personality followed by a blank wall.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, let's say blank wall. I'll say, for your, for the listeners, I am moving to, so in my new house, I'm going to try and reimagine my background a little bit, add a little personality. But yes, if you can't go with a, personality driven background blank, non-distracting background.

Alex Allain:

All right. Blank, not distracting. And then blurred background. And then virtual background, or how would you give me your stack rank here.

Peter Ahn:

That's a good question. I think virtual background It still has opportunity to show your character, right? So I'll go with virtual background and then the blur background. Cause whenever I see a blur background, I always wonder. Okay. So some messiness, somebody is trying to hide in the background, which is totally fine.

Alex Allain:

yeah, that, that person has some dirty laundry and some plates somewhere in there.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah. We're just totally fine. we're in the pandemic still and people's lives, aren't glamorous right now. And so totally respect the blurred background. It's better than having a bunch of distractions behind you.

Alex Allain:

All right. Kids and pets.

Peter Ahn:

Oh, I love kids and pets; our like VP of people has two kids and she had to keep them home for two weeks. And they're like in and out of the screen. I already had respect for her, but I have so much more respect for being able to hold a meeting and then poor, like fruit loops for her kid. Who's like screaming, And then pets always a great conversation starter. I found out at Twingate I feel like 80% of our employees have cats. And I know you have cats. too.

Alex Allain:

Excellent Zoom, maybe not background, but they're like accessories.

Peter Ahn:

Oh yeah, for sure. They're not, yeah. They're not loud. And. Yeah, it's funny. We've even had some pictures shared where cats are looking at the screen, like during the pipeline meeting, like looking very like serious that seriously at the numbers. So yeah. I think that's pretty fun.

Alex Allain:

cats are always stalking. So we've talked a lot about when somebody's on-camera when somebody's off camera. Good, bad. I assume as the seller, I think we've even talked about this--you have to on camera and I think you've also mentioned that often your prospects are, will be off camera. Like how does that talk to me a little bit about the dynamics there and also opinions on profile photos.

Peter Ahn:

Oh, great question. yeah, I think on off-camera as a seller, definitely. I think it's etiquette to show your face in my opinion. and as a prospect, if you're not on camera, I think it's good to call it. I mentioned why, so that the seller doesn't feel awkward, And there's very legitimate reasons. Maybe your bandwidth, isn't good. some people are like, Hey, listen, I just rolled out of bed and I'm in no position to want to see my face. And I don't think you want to see my face either. And so I think that's fine. And then I think it's important for the seller to match. I like to keep my camera on, if the prospect doesn't keep it on and it's a little bit of an awkward start to the conversation. Also turn my camera off. But I'm not a huge fan of like sellers turning their camera off as default, because I think showing the engagement, like showing the, how you've prepared for the meeting is really important. so that's All I'll say about that. so if you're a prospect, call it out that you're off camera so that the seller understands and doesn't feel awkward if you're the seller like match the prospect, and have a conversation about it. I don't think it's. I don't think it's out of the question to just discuss it really quickly in the beginning. in terms of profile photo. I don't think that matters to be honest with you. I think it's fine to have a profile photo, but I don't think it's a big deal if you don't have one. the reason why I say that is because, we all have LinkedIn most folks have LinkedIn, like 99.9% of the people I speak to have LinkedIn. So as a seller, I'm going to the LinkedIn profile anyways. So I get a sense for, oh, who they are, what they stand for and like their history from that. and remember if the prospect doesn't have zoom, they're not going to have time to upload a photo before typically. So I, I don't think it's a requirement to say Hey, I don't see your face. Can you upload a photo for me?

Alex Allain:

All right. So let's talk a little bit, a bit more about the visuals. How much you judge somebody for camera quality for the angle of the camera, lighting, quality, that sort of thing. And how much do you think about it as a seller?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. as a seller, I don't judge anybody for camera quality to be quite honest with you, just because I think environments change all the time. like sometimes you might have to go into the other room cause you're, maybe your office is being taken up by something else. I will say if I notice amazing camera quality, I'll call it out. like Jeffrey Katzenberg, for example, when he moved into his new home, like his background was like so amazing. So I said, Jeffrey, is there like a crew over there that just set up your square, Your virtual square. And he played along with it. He's oh yeah. I you know who I am. So like of course I have a camera crew here. Like even for my zoom meetings, of course he's joking. I think maybe not actually. and then I've spoken to like it folks who like really get involved with like their mic set up and their camera setup. And so I've gone on one call with the head of it where clearly he had invested in his camera. So I said Hey Mike, your camera's amazingly crystal clear. or Hey, your voice, your mic is amazing. What Mike is that? And I think people appreciate that because folks who put in time to high quality things, obviously want it to be recognized. I think.

Alex Allain:

So it's not it's, it's not a big deal if it's not there, but it can it can be upside. It can be a plus both as a seller probably looks it's good to look good. But also if your prospects look good, it gives you another. It seems like you're all about those conversation starters, you can talk about. And when everyone is in a, maybe six by six or eight by eight, 10 a box,

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, exactly. I don't know if you remember, but I used to have my Peloton in the background. Do you remember that? Like a while back?

Alex Allain:

I do.

Peter Ahn:

And, that was a huge conversation starter because a lot of my prospects had Pelotons of their own. So a lot of folks would actually like a couple of prospects started following me on. And a lot of folks would be like, Hey, look at my Peloton. And we would bond that way. And then of course there's a meeting we had with Peloton too like the company. So then of course, like the first two minutes of that was me talking about Peloton.

Alex Allain:

I feel like it could get a little awkward if they're following you on Peleton and they're emailing you and you're like writing back at the same time or something. And they're like, he's like responding on his Peloton what?

Peter Ahn:

What's funny is I don't think we're far that far from having, zoom, Peloton integration, where you could take like a zoom meeting on your Peloton. Cause you have the screen right there.

Alex Allain:

Oh, man. I feel like that would be really difficult from my understanding of Peloton.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah. I think you'd look sweaty. Yeah. So you'd need like a whole nother set of filters to, help you out there.

Alex Allain:

oh, that'd be amazing. If there were some Peloton zoom filters that would just take the sweat off and make you look like bright eyed and like maybe a little tense, but but not.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. And then the laptop, like holder extension or something, So you could like type as well.

Alex Allain:

Oh, yeah, we're really getting, this is going to be the future. It's like the matrix. We're all gonna be producing energy on the Peloton while we interact with The Matrix through Zoom.

Peter Ahn:

It might be who knows? You never know.

Alex Allain:

All right. Everyone always talks about, you only have to dress from like your, your shoulders up. Do you subscribe to this theory? Are you always in your like casual, sweat pants, or do you think it's more important to, to look professional all the way down? Just in case the prospect asks you, Hey, Peter, you might just show me, I want to see, what you look like.

Peter Ahn:

no, I'm never done that. Never had a prospect ask me that. And I definitely think optimizing for like shoulder up is the most efficient thing to do. I won't go as far to say I'm like in my boxers, because I think I would just feel weird. You don't want to call like being so under dressed, but I am very casual. Like I wear sweat pants all the time and why, because it doesn't matter for the meeting, in my opinion, And if I'm at home, I might as well optimize for comfort.

Alex Allain:

Do you ever do the suit, the shirt and tie

Peter Ahn:

Never do that because that just feels like unnatural to me anyways. Like I, I would rarely wear a suit and tie. I have worn a hoodie to one customer meeting and I felt pretty casual, but I was really tired that day and just figured, what's the worst that could happen. But I try not to, usually it's like pretty neutral, like black shirt or, like a sweater or something of that sort

Alex Allain:

All right. thanks again to our episode sponsor Zoom we we're kidding, but if somebody from Zoom would like to pay us to sponsor an episode, that'd be great. Peter. What else should we cover?

Peter Ahn:

I think you did a great job covering most of it, I think in this virtual selling environment, Zoom, Google Hangouts is the norm. my parting thought is even though it's so easy to just pack your calendars with back-to-back meetings, because they're now virtual, take the time to prepare, take the time, to think about what you're going to say. You're going to present yourself, how you're going to present your screen because you still need to prepare. And polish, I think, is still important on virtual meetings. Maybe even more because you're not able to be there physically and to build relationships through like dinners and drinks and things like that.

Alex Allain:

Oh, I wanna pile on with a tip. Use multiple browser profiles. So all your bookmarks aren't up when you're demonstrating something in the browser.

Peter Ahn:

Great point. yes. Yeah.

Alex Allain:

If you're recording your demo.

Peter Ahn:

That's right. Yeah. You don't want your like Citibank or whatever, site that you go to

Alex Allain:

It's distracting. It's like some weird, it's like having a weird zoom background where it's got like some dirty dishes or something. Nobody wants to see your bookmarks where you bank, what other weird things you like to do as hobbies?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Good call. Good call. multiple profiles, browser profiles.

Alex Allain:

I might even go so far as to say, consider multiple virtual desktops so that you can really keep things clean and have

Peter Ahn:

There you go.

Alex Allain:

professional background.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah.

Alex Allain:

All right. Peter, this was another fun episode. For our listeners, if you enjoyed this episode, please give us a like on your favorite platform, social platform, where you've seen us or rate us in apple podcasts. Don't keep us a secret. If you didn't like what you heard. Great. We'd love to know why, what are we screwing up that we can make better in the future? Please email us podcasters@decodingsalespodcast.com. In either case we would love to hear from you.