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Use This Simple Technology Tool You Already Have to Strengthen Relationships With Your Partners When was the last time you turned on your webcam?

By Stacey Hanke

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Business is accelerating for companies across the globe. Opportunities are abundant, and so is the competition. More than ever, companies search for strategies to better connect with clients and prospects in hopes of building long-lasting relationships, ones that will endure economic change and competitive pressures. Executives know that consistent conversations with clients are vital to strengthening relationships and closing deals. They also know face-to-face meetings do it best. Unfortunately, many companies are underutilizing available technology they have to connect with clients face-to-face -- the webcam.

Related: My Experience and a New Study Agree: Bungled Conference Calls Cost Businesses Big Money

Here are four reasons why companies should utilize their webcams and leverage their technology:

1. Travel is expensive and inconvenient.

Few things are as difficult and costly as modern-day travel. With geographical expansion in our business footprint, along with fluctuating airfare, the price of a single business trip can vary wildly, making the time and money required for employee travel add up quickly. In 2016, Certify reported the average domestic business trip costs companies $949 per person, while the average international trip averages about $2,600 per person. These costs don't take into consideration lost productivity and time spent out of the office.

Solution: Encourage employees to use their webcams for more cost-efficient, face-to-face client meetings. In the first year that Cisco created its corporate telepresence rooms, it reported a travel savings of over $100 million. Consider how much your organization could save if only 50 percent of travel was replaced with virtual meetings.

Related: Master Your Customer Relationships With This 'HACK' Borrowed From Doctors and Dentists

2. Broaden the talent pool.

Travel can be daunting for many employees as they attempt to strike a balance at home and work. Many highly skilled employees are unable to accept jobs requiring frequent travel as it often conflicts with personal responsibilities. As a result, the available talent pool for strategic positions is limited to only those with the freedom and flexibility to travel. Sadly, many great employees become burned out from frequent travel. A recent study showed the dark side of hypermobility and the effects it has on employees. Increased travel expectations coupled with longer workdays and time away from family is costing employers significantly in employee turnover and productivity losses.

Solution: Consider opportunities to work with clients virtually. By utilizing webcams, employees can work face-to-face with clients and prospects, build solid relationships and still meet their after-hours responsibilities. This will broaden companies' talent pool prospects and lift current employees' morale. Giving people the gift of time -- allowing them to strike a better work-life balance -- will help prevent burnout.

Related: How Companies Are Using Web Services to Make Meetings Efficient

3. There's a real-time advantage.

Technology has made decisions more time-sensitive than ever, increasing the rate at which we work. What may have previously taken business professionals days to decide can now occur in one text, email or instant message. Businesses lose out on influencing opportunities while employees travel to and from locations, disconnected from lightning-fast decisions occurring without them.

Solution: Webcams allow employees to be immediately present while pressing decisions and discussions are underway. Everyone can remain connected and in the know when leveraging technology correctly. If a key decision-maker has a last-minute question or concern before closing a deal, webcams provide the ability for instant answers.

Related: Want to Close 10x More Deals? Have More In-Person Meetings

4. Visual connection builds trust and influence.

Once companies create a client relationship, it's likely most future conversations will occur on the phone. Unfortunately, phone conversations limit the relationship's ability to grow and deepen the same a way that face-to-face discussions do. Users are more likely to multitask during a conference call. Participants also miss out on nonverbal aspects of the conversation and can often misinterpret tone and context. Conference calls lack a sense of personality and connection that only face-to-face meetings can provide.

Solution: Use the webcam instead of the phone whenever possible. Increase the level of trust in your client and prospective relationships by being face-to-face online. Allow others to put a face to a name, observe body language and feel physically present. The combination of audio and visual connection will strengthen your relationships and grow your level of influence. Best of all, users are less likely to multitask when engaging in a virtual call. They know they are being watched and will refrain from checking text messages, social media and emails.

Related: The Biggest Do's and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

Professionals hoping to evade the use of a webcam have an abundance of excuses, but few are reasonable. Most people complain they don't like the way they look on camera or are intimidated in its set-up. Like any other tool, frequency of use creates proficiencies and habit.

How to get started using your webcam:

Turn it on! Virtually every computer comes with a webcam. Find a meeting platform you prefer and get started.

Test your equipment before the call. Ensure your camera and sound are working correctly well before the call begins. This will ensure the meeting starts on time and without complications.

Toss the excuses. Everyone sees you in the office every day. When you are at your best in the office, you should have no qualms about being at your best on camera.

Same rules apply. Apply the same rules to your virtual meetings as you would those in person. Ensure there is a written agenda, stick to the topic, and start and end on time.
Stacey Hanke

CEO of Stacey Hanke Inc.

Stacey Hanke is author of "Influence Redefined…Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday." She is the founder of Stacey Hanke Inc. and has presented to Coca-Cola, FedEx, Nationwide, Fannie Mae and McDonald’s. She has been featured on The New York Times, Forbes and SmartMoney.

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