Don’t Be a Sales “Zoombie”: How to Relate Personally in a Virtual World

Don’t Be a Sales Zoombie: How to Relate Personally in a Virtual World

Humans are an interesting lot – in order to feel more, well, “human,” we need a certain level of personal connectedness. We’re talking handshakes-and-hug, three-dimensional fellowship – not this digital, pixelated surrogate that has stood in for connectedness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, as sales professionals, it’s becoming painfully apparent that the limitations of virtual selling stem largely from the inability of our virtual landscape to effectively replicate the real world. We thrive off reading body language; can use certain subtle cues like a flinch or a fidget to our advantage; and use the dynamics of the room as data points that make us more effective at closing deals. In fact, the most effective sales professionals are so effective at reading people that they sometimes aren’t even aware of how much of this data that they are picking up – it’s almost an unconscious reaction.

Like it or not, we are becoming “Zoombies” – an affliction caused by an endless stream of emotionless faces on a screen, with little else to distinguish us from other “Zoombies” we encounter on a typical day.

So, in a world that will likely remain virtual for the foreseeable future, are there things we can do right now to restore humanity to our interactions, and ensure we are picking up on that psychological data that is so critical to the sale?  

Let’s take a look at some of the most pervasive challenges of the virtual selling environment, and how a little preparedness and focus can go a long way:

  • Commanding Attention: We’ve all learned how easy it is to hide behind technology. For our prospects on the other end of the line, what may appear to be focus may simply be an act – rampant multitasking (usually accompanied by far too many keyboard clicks, darting eyes, or the elimination of the buyer’s video feed altogether) can leave our message less than delivered.
  • The solution to this is to ask more questions – probe deeply to get to the heart of the matter. It’s perfectly appropriate to query on things like: Are you understanding my offer? What do you think of what I said? Do you have any specific concerns about the details of our product or service? Do you mind if I share my screen to show you some visuals around our offer?
  • Interpretation is Everything: We need to be fully mindful of the inability of digital communications to appropriately convey tonality. Anyone who has misjudged the tone of a text message (or assumed nastiness when directness was intended) knows what we’re talking about. This is where a little psychology can come into play. Whether your buyer is using the camera or not, now is the time to listen closely to the nuances in their voice – not just what they’re saying, but HOW they’re saying it.
  • Caring is Sharing: Though we may not be able to meet on a golf course, or in a restaurant, or over a cup of coffee, we still crave attention. We all have been thrust into an impossible situation with unique challenges that are affecting us in unique ways. It’s ok to start the call with a little bit of a sympathetic ear – a little kindness can go a long way, especially given that we’re all experiencing this together. Remember, we are all having an endless parade of teleconference calls. It’s those of us who can be unique, real, and human that will have an edge over those who are just faces on a screen.

What are you doing to avoid becoming a “Zoombie”? If you are looking to get connected with sales leaders like yourself, consider checking out one of our Sales Leadership Forums. New groups are forming every week, reach out to for more information.


Gary Fly

Gary Fly is the Chief Revenue Officer at The Brooks Group, where he brings 25+ years of senior management experience. In his role, Gary is responsible for overseeing various departments and functions including marketing, curriculum design, project management, and knowledge management, in addition to overseeing the Sales Performance Research Center, The Brooks Group’s research division.

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