On your next customer call, try joining over a video conference instead of just a phone call—and most importantly, make sure your camera is on. While we often think of video calls and phone calls as similar and far inferior to in-person meetings, I’ve found video conferences to be much more effective for building and maintaining strong relationships as compared to phone calls.

What’s the benefit of video? Video helps you to better empathize with the other person. There’s a real person there who has real needs to which you need to be responsive. It also gives you cues about your customer’s, such as how they dress for work and their office environment.

And of course there’s the benefit of nonverbal communication: you can better understand what people are trying to say to you if you can see their facial expressions and body language in addition to hearing their voices.

These benefits extend both ways. Video conferences allow your customer to see you as a real person, they receive cues about your life (which can help them to find more ways to relate to you), and they are more likely to understand what you’re trying to say thanks to nonverbal communication.

Full disclosure: I’m not an auditory learner, so I receive particular value from the visual and spatial cues video offers. If you’re the type of learner who finds video images distracting then you can leave your camera on for the other person and minimize the feed on your screen.

At the same time, some of your customers may be uncomfortable with video or aren’t in a position to have their camera on at the time of the call. Here’s an accommodating message you can include with any invitation you send: “I'll be on video but there's a call-in number if video isn’t an option for you.”

This also avoids that uncertainty of receiving a video conference link and not knowing whether or not the other person will have their camera turned on. Awkward.

Do I personally send this message every time I send a calendar invitation for a meeting that isn’t in-person? No. Am I going to start? Yes. Join me!

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