Closing Time

Virtual Selling Tips: 4 Simple Ways to Build Rapport and Engage Prospects via Zoom

Remote sellers: how are you creating connections, building trust, and cementing rapport without feeling inauthentic?

The goal is to provide your prospects and customers with a unique experience online or via Zoom that captures their attention and makes you memorable for weeks after your call has ended. The million-dollar question is…how?

The secret lies in being intentional in the way you communicate so you can win every virtual relationship, even if you don’t win the deal.

Join Ravi Rajani in this episode of Closing Time to discover four simple virtual selling tips to establish rapport without appearing pushy or artificial. You will learn how to purposefully utilize your Zoom background, demonstrate your interest in potential clients, and use storytelling techniques to engage and connect with your virtual audience.

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Being intentional with backgrounds

When it comes to virtual interactions, there’s a unique opportunity for sales representatives to stand out and build rapport with buyers. In a world where every demo, discovery call, or QBR can feel the same, setting yourself apart and creating a memorable experience is crucial. One aspect that sales reps should consider is their Zoom background. While some people prefer natural or blurred backgrounds, others opt for image backgrounds. Ravi favors real backgrounds over virtual ones. Virtual backgrounds can be useful in certain situations, such as when you need to avoid showing an unprofessional or distracting element in your surroundings. However, they can create a slight disconnection from the human-to-human conversation that we strive for.

If you choose to have a virtual background, like your office setting, it’s essential to use it with intention. Here are two ways to approach your background:

1. Breaking the ice: Consider what elements you include in your background that can initiate a conversation. For example, Ravi’s background features Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and Gandhi, along with quotes that resonate with him. When someone joins the Zoom call and notices these elements, they often ask about them, leading to a discussion about favorite movies or quotes. By intentionally showcasing aspects of your personality and values, you create an opportunity for a genuine human conversation from the start.

2. High-impact questions: If the other person doesn’t initiate a conversation about your background, use their virtual background as a conversation starter. Take a moment to scan their background and ask a high-impact question related to something you notice. This approach allows you to gather insights and stories from the buyer, fostering a deeper connection and understanding.

By being intentional with your Zoom background, you can leverage it as a tool to engage with buyers, spark meaningful conversations, and establish a stronger rapport. Remember, creating a personalized and memorable experience in the virtual space can set you apart from the competition and leave a lasting impression.

Asking high-impact, open-ended questions

What to research before meetings

In the virtual world, sales reps can bridge the 2-dimensional gap and engage buyers effectively by asking great questions. How? The most crucial part of the process happens before the Zoom call itself—proper research.

Rather than rushing from one meeting to another, consider these three key pieces of information before joining a call:

1. Find a personal piece of information about the buyer. This can be discovered through their LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram profiles. Approach this with tact and avoid delving into their personal lives too deeply. The goal is to uncover something personal, unrelated to work, that can help establish a connection.

2. Find something professional. LinkedIn is an excellent resource for this. Look for job postings or activities that indicate their passion and expertise within their industry.

3. Be aware of key themes or market trends in the wider industry. This information can be used to initiate conversations about current happenings and position yourself as a trusted advisor.

By conducting fast research using these three areas, you can ask questions in a way that sets you apart. One effective approach is to ask open-ended questions rather than closed-ended ones. While there’s a time and place for both, open-ended questions encourage the buyer to share stories and provide deeper insights. For example, instead of asking, “How long have you suffered with this problem?” try asking, “Can you tell me about the time when you realized this was a huge issue for you?” This approach invites the buyer to share a personal story and engage in a meaningful conversation.

Using CRM data for research

There’s one important aspect that often gets overlooked before a Zoom call: checking the CRM. Leverage the valuable information stored in your CRM system to gain insights about your prospects prior to joining the virtual call with them. Take the time to review your recent call reports from past interactions, whether it’s six months ago or three months ago. Look for personal details or discussions about their lives during those conversations. By remembering and referencing those specific issues, challenges, or wins in their lives, you can make a lasting impression.

Why does this matter? Well, the truth is, most people don’t truly listen. When you demonstrate that you not only heard them but also retained and cared about what they shared, it makes them feel seen, heard and understood. This ability to genuinely connect and show empathy becomes a powerful trust accelerator.

Beginning Zoom meetings by "Stacking the Energy"

Ask these three question to stack the energy

When presenting on Zoom to a large group of people, it’s essential to capture their attention and maintain high energy throughout the session. One effective method to achieve this is with Ravi’s “Stack The Energy” methodology.

To set the stage, think about your favorite comedian’s Netflix special. They don’t simply jump into the topic and introduce themselves. Instead, they build participation momentum. Similarly, you can create energy and engagement in the virtual world using the chat function. Here’s how Ravi’s Stack The Energy method works: before diving into your main content, ask three high-impact questions progressively.

1. The first question should have a low pain threshold. For example, ask, “Type ‘yes’ in the chat if you’re still committed to your New Year’s resolution.” This question encourages easy participation and generates responses in the chat.

2. The second question should aim for a medium pain threshold. Ask something quantitative: “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself as a storyteller? Type your number in the chat.” This question assesses the audience’s self-awareness and provides valuable insights for later evaluation.

3. The third question is a high pain threshold question, which dives deeper into their interests or fears. For instance, you could inquire, “If there was one thing you could learn by the end of this presentation to make it a home run for you, what would that be?” The chat should be lively and engaged by this point, making participants more likely to respond openly.

The Stack The Energy method creates a dynamic atmosphere and helps you gauge the audience’s interests and needs. It allows you to pivot your message to make it more relevant and impactful for your specific group – in addition to setting a positive tone, capturing attention, and laying the foundation for a memorable and impactful session.

Prepping before meetings

Effective preparation is key to success on virtual calls. Don’t leave it to chance or rely solely on intuition. Take the initiative to develop an audience engagement plan by writing down your questions beforehand. These questions should align with your understanding of the audience and their specific needs. Consider conducting a survey beforehand to gain insights into their pain points and desired outcomes for the presentation.

Having these questions prepared in advance allows you to maintain control and structure during the call, while also demonstrating your professionalism and commitment to the audience’s needs. It ensures that you’re not relying on chance or improvisation to engage the audience. By being prepared, you enhance your ability to connect with the prospect and tailor your presentation to their specific interests.


Are there ways that a zoom call is better than in-person? We’re going to talk about optimizing your virtual calls in today’s Closing Time. Hey, everyone. My name is Chip House. I’m CMO at Insightly. And welcome to Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders. Today I’m talking to Ravi Rajani. He’s a speaker, storyteller, and he’s host of The Influential Communicator podcast. Welcome Ravi. How are you doing, my friend? Good to be here. Yeah. It’s so great to have you on the show. And, you know, it’s funny because you’ve probably noticed this, too. You know, some people that are really excited to get back to the office. Right. And me myself, just here at Insightly, there are definitely some people who are really excited about getting back to the office, though the team is entirely virtual. So we recently had a team offsite, and it was incredible to spend time, you know, with all of our team members. And we got a lot done. With that said, you know, day in, day out, all our teams are on Zoom. And I know you’ve got a strong opinion on on how to make these just as powerful. Let’s talk about it. Well, it’s interesting you say that, Chip, because from my perspective, it’s not that I think in-person or virtual is better for us. I think there’s debates, pros and cons for both. But what I find to be my truth is that there’s a lot more of an unfair advantage to be achieved virtually because a remote first world is still in its infancy. So in a sea of sameness, every demo, every discovery call, every QBR, looking and feeling exactly the same, virtually there’s great scope to differentiate yourself and really make yourself memorable. So that’s what I would say. So, Ravi, there’s tons of aspects to pulling off an awesome virtual call. And right now here we are. We have our natural backgrounds, but some people have a blurred background. Some choose to have a different background every day. Some have the same old background. Is there a way that we need to think about the background that we have and how that influences our success on a call? Yeah, I mean, people have different perspectives on this, Chip, and I think I’m personally only a fan of virtual backgrounds, you know,. I suppose ones where you have London Bridge behind you, but actually you’re in your office at home. I’m only a fan of those if it’s worst case scenario, and you really have to showcase something, which deters people from a hole in your wall or something crazy that’s happened in your background because I feel like it’s slightly creates a disconnection from the human to human conversation that we really want to have. But when you do have a virtual background, just like us, which is our offices, I don’t think people use it with enough intention. Here’s what I mean by that, Chip. There’s two ways we can think about our background. Number one is what are we placing in our backgrounds for the individual who hops on that Zoom call to break the ice with us? Now, here’s what I mean. If you look at my background, there is Muhammad Ali. There’s Bruce Lee. There’s Gandhi. And there’s two quotes which I really resonate with, which purposefully and intentionally showcases my values and a little bit about who I am and my personality. And a lot of time on a call, Chip, somebody goes. Who’s that in your background? Is that Bruce Lee? Oh, I love the movie Enter the Dragon. What’s your favorite movie by Bruce Lee or what’s your favorite quote? And immediately we’re beginning a human conversation, so that’s one way to do it. The second way is if somebody doesn’t break the ice with you on a call, well, how will you scanning their virtual background to ask a high impact question, which gives you a story as a response? You’re totally right about that, Ravi. I probably should have a picture of my favorite drummer back here. Probably a picture of Neil Peart from Rush who’s sadly passed on, but gigantic drum set. It would probably actually barely fit into the frame, but there’s a way to ask a high impact question in a phone call. Right. And you’re great at it. And so what kind of tips do you have for, you know, in sort of the two dimensional world, how do you kind of bridge that gap by asking great questions? I think actually, Chip, a lot of the battle lies with what you do before the Zoom call, because a lot of the time what happens is we rush from call to call to call, and we don’t effectively do research. Now, the first thing I would think about for all of you listening to this right now is what are three key pieces of information that you could find, which other people aren’t currently either aware of or have done the research to actually go find? So the first piece of information could be a personal piece of information. You could look at there about section on their LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Instagram, take a look at their social media presence, but don’t be a creep, OK? Don’t go to picture number 1,497 on their Facebook photo and then say, oh, by the way, in 2001,. I know that you went to Barbados. I going to be like, Whoa. What’s going on here? Less context, maybe? Yeah. Exactly. Give it some context. So you can look there, you can look at their social media presence, but figure out something that is personal, which is completely not related to work, that you could use to build a connection for. The second thing is something professional. Once again,. LinkedIn is fantastic to do this. Are they putting job postings about looking to expand their team does their LinkedIn activity show that they’re speaking about something inside of their domain of expertise that they’re super passionate about? So find something professional to pull from. And then the third thing is, what’s a key theme or market trend going on in the wider industry? And why this is important and this could be for another video is this leads beautifully into sharing the trusted advisor story where you can really cement your thought leadership and expertize by having a conversation around market trends and what’s going on at the moment. So those are three ways you can simply do fast research on the person that you’re speaking to. And the goal here is to ask them questions in a way. And also specifically focused questions that nobody else is asking them. Now, one way to do that is by asking an open ended question versus a closed ended question. And by the way, it’s not like I’m saying closed ended questions are bad, but there’s a time and place for both. So an example could be of a closed ended question. Chip, how long have you suffered with this problem? And somebody can say one year to year, three years. But if I ask you the question Chip, can you tell me a little bit about the time when you realized this was a huge issue for you? Ah, now you’re going to actually tell me hopefully a story about the time when you realized this was a problem. Now, the beauty here, Chip, is if I asked you to tell me a story you’re going to go,. I don’t have a story. I don’t have any stories to tell. So don’t say, Can you tell me a story? Because more often than not people don’t believe that they actually have a story to tell. That’s cool, Ravi. Is there anything else you would add in terms of asking high impact questions? Yeah, I think one thing, Chip, that a lot of people miss is checking the CRM. Think about it. Take a look at your recent call report from six months ago, three months ago. What did you talk about personally that’s going on in their lives at that moment in time? And if you’re able to ask a question about the progress of that specific issue, challenge or win in their life, it makes you memorable. I’ll tell you why, Chip, because most people don’t listen. And when you show that you listened to them, it makes them feel seen, heard and understood. And for me, that’s just the biggest trust accelerator in the world. So, Ravi, a lot of times when we’re on a Zoom call, we’re presenting to multiple people, could be five, could be 20, could be a hundred. And you presented to a large group at Insightly, I thought you did great, you brought great energy and you actually have a process around this or a concept around this. You call stack the energy. Do you want to talk more about that? Yeah, I’d love to. Now, the best way to explain it is, think of your favorite comedian think about the last time you watched their Netflix special. They don’t come out and simply say, so today. I’m going to speak to you about X, Y, Z. My name is Ravi. They don’t do that right. They don’t do that. They do something very specific called build participation momentum. They come out, they get the audience going to give them energy and to capture their attention. So I suppose the traditional way, which I like to start keynotes and presentations is with a story. But in the virtual world, depending on the context, what I’ll do just before that is something that I teach called, the Stack The Energy method. And instead of doing that live with the audience in front of you, you do it by using the chat function. And here’s exactly how, Chip.. You ask three high impact questions. Now, the first question is very low pain threshold. For example, Chip,. I could say type yes in the chat if some of you, actually type yes in the chat, if you are still carrying on with your New. Year’s resolution from January and type no if you’re not, that’s a fun question where people are not going to be afraid to put yes or no, they’re not talking about what it was. But it’s fun because most people are going to say no. So that’s low pain threshold. And what I’m doing there is having people raise their hands to stack the energy in the chat function. Then what I’ll do, is inside question two is I go to a medium pain threshold question where I’ll ask something which is quantitatively focused. For example, on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself as a storyteller? Type that number in the chat. Now what I want to do here is assess the level of self-awareness that audience have on themselves around their problem. But also I will ask the same question at the end of the presentation to assess the impact of my presentation. And if it really solved the problem for them. Then Chip, I’ll move to question number three, and it could be something along the lines of or rather something along the lines of if there was one thing you could learn by the end of this presentation, for this really to be a homerun for you, what would that be? Now, what’s interesting here is it’s the high pain threshold question. Now, if I just came out the gate and asked that, people are going to be like,. I don’t know, Rav, why is he asking me my deepest, darkest fears? I don’t know him just yet. I’m not going to put anything in the chat. But if the chat is really going off before and people are really using it and are engaging, they’re more likely to comply and tell you this. And what this allows you to do as a communicator is maybe even pivot your message to make it more contextual for the room that you’re speaking to. And then you can start with a story or you can start with a story in the first place. But remember, it all depends about the context and the group of people that you’re speaking to. So I would assume to do this right, Ravi, you’re being planful before your calls. You’re doing some research and obviously you’re learning on the fly a little bit and you’re using your intuition to figure out what might best work. But I mean, any other tips for how people can best do that? So I actually would say write an audience engagement plan before you actually engage in your presentation. So have these three questions already teed up. They’re already written down. You shouldn’t be thinking of the questions on the fly. If you’ve got a good understanding of who you’re speaking to, maybe you’ve even done a survey before to understand the pains of the audience and what they want to achieve from this demo or whatever it could be. Then what you’re doing here is really not coming up with it on the fly, but you could pivot your message on the fly depending on what’s being received. So be very intentional about crafting these questions beforehand. Don’t leave it to chance. Trust me. Ravi. Phenomenal stuff. And any final tips for the audience and myself actually on how to make my next Zoom call my best yet? Totally I mean, we could talk about this for hours, Chip, so I’m going to try and give you a few tips here in terms of the audience for things to think about. But the first thing is, people it’s not illegal to smile, right? So people will say A-B-C, always be closing. Forget that. Think about A-B-S, always be smiling.. Now once again. OK, think about it in terms of context. If you’re sharing a vulnerable story about something that happened to you and you’re smiling like this, right? That’s creepy. Don’t do that, OK? If you’re sharing something vulnerable, which is about a downturn in your business or life. So what I’m saying here is think about what you’re saying and match your facial expressions to the script of what you’re communicating. So that’s tip one. Tip number two, look down the lens of the camera. But not only that, think of the lens as the eyes of your best friend. Now, Chip, you might be thinking,. Why am I best friend? Because when you’re talking to your best friend, you talk without any inhibitions. You can talk in a more conversational tone. You talk as if you’re just having dinner with your buddy. And that’s the key, communicating with the audience like they’re with you in the room. But like they’re hanging out with Chip, like they’re hanging out with Ravi just over dinner. So that’s the second thing to think about. We could go on with general camera etiquette, but the final thing which I don’t think a lot of people talk about, is what you’re wearing and how it represents you. And here’s what I mean. A dude called Adam Galinsky from Northwestern, probably over a decade ago now. He introduced a term called Enclothed Cognition, which ultimately describes how the clothes we wear truly influence a wearer’s psychological process. And what he did was Chip, he did a few studies, he did a few experiments, and he said, OK, let me take a group full of people and let me give one group of people a white coat to wear and let me give another group of people nothing to wear. Did it increase their level of carefulness and attention during an attention related task? Then they did another experiment. They said, OK, now let’s tell two groups of people that this lab coat belonged to a doctor, and they gave the lab coat to one group to wear. Then they gave the same lab coat to another group, and they said this belonged to a painter. And the result was a fascinating, Chip. Ultimately, it’s not just about what you’re wearing, but it’s also about the meaning that you give to it. So those who actually wore a white lab coat and believed that it belonged to a doctor showed an increase in sustained attention. So think about what you’re wearing and how it can create more confidence for you when communicating. For example, Chip, I have this camel coat, and every time I wear this camel coat, my wife says,. Why are you acting like Bruce Wayne? I’m like, Because it makes me feel, you know, a certain way. I feel good when I wear it, she says, Your posture changes, how you communicate changes. I’m like, it’s crazy, right? What we wear can really impact us. So don’t forget about the tiny things which can make a world of difference. Well, Ravi, thanks so much for joining us today. Appreciate it, my friend. Yeah, absolutely. We’d love to have you back in the future. And to all of you, thanks for joining us today on Closing Time. Don’t forget to click subscribe, hit the bell so you don’t miss any episodes.. We’ll see you next time.

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