Episode OneHundredSixtySeven

Distinguish Yourself with Virtual Backgrounds

Guest: Red Russak, Zoom King and founding team member at Apptentive

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About This Episode

You have to have a special relationship with Zoom to call yourself the Zoom King.

As in, you have to be the world’s leading expert in virtual backgrounds.

Just like Red Russak, founding team member at Apptentive, who was recently highlighted in The Hustle newsletter’s tweet of the day.

It was Red… as the Tiger King… with the tiger next to him.

“I knew I was going to get featured there,” Red laughed. “I’m the freaking Zoom King.”

Dos and don’ts of virtual backgrounds

If you’re new to this idea, companies like Zoom or Microsoft Teams have the ability for you to replace your background with whatever you want.

“When I started using virtual backgrounds almost two years ago, people were joining the call and started laughing, started opening up,” Red said.

That’s the heart of what virtual backgrounds will do.

They’ll bring some laughter to your call and build relationships faster.

The first “do” for virtual backgrounds is to have fun with your ideas.

  • Sports teams — the instant conversation starter
  • Relevant popular culture references— to show your sense of humor
  • Brand backgrounds — take 5 seconds to download a background from the company you’re on a call with
  • Getaway vacations — let’s transport people away from their homes and somewhere more relaxing
  • Subtle promo — have a digital event coming up? Throw an image in your background (and never mention it)

“Don’t be afraid,” Red said. “These guys have sales calls all day long. These people need a little bit of a wake up call to see how committed you are.”

Oh, and here’s your first “don’t.”

Do not put COVID-19 as your background. “Your job is not to remind people that they’re stuck at home. It’s to put them on the beach or somewhere far away from their couch,” Red said.

Another don’t is…

Don’t assume a fun background makes you look like a jokester.

“I have a personal connection now with these people on the other end,” Red said. “It wasn’t about selling. It was me, a human that they were going to partner with.”

Insider Zoom King tips

Tip #1 — Grab a greenscreen

If you have ever gotten on camera and noticed nobody wanted to get on theirs, well, try a green screen.

Makes people more likely to turn on the camera.

#2 — You can erase wrinkles

Zoom will literally touch up your appearance with the Zoom “Touch Up My Appearance” filter.

Google it, it’s a real thing.

#3 — Reveal your personality

Choose something relevant from popular culture (like Red’s Tiger King theme).

Or use your background to show something about yourself. Red loves the Titanic movie and has posed at the bow with Leonardo.

“It ain’t a bad way to tell someone a little bit more about you and get some giggling,” he said.

#4 — Down to earth conversation

A benefit of virtual backgrounds is that it can make difficult questions easier.

For example, Red might have a background of toilet paper, which would make these questions about money and decision-makers both natural and hilarious:

“How many toilet paper rolls do you have to spend on this project?” or “Who has control over the TP budget?”

How to be a virtual background pro

Here’s the thing.

It actually takes some practice to be able to focus on the conversation and on changing your background at the same time.

Practice with family and coworkers.

Do not roll this out to potential customers or current clients until you have the process professionally streamlined.

“You absolutely need to own your background, and that means coming prepared,” Red said.

Are you going to be in the bat cave? Be sure you have your Batman sunglasses handy.

Hanging out on the beach? Wear your Hawai’ian shirt or your snorkel mask.

Pro tip: Always wear pants. You just never know.

And finally, places to find awesome backgrounds:

  • Google images (always choose high res images)
  • PowerPoint (no joke)
  • Red’s Twitter

Don’t be gimmicky or crude. Nobody likes that.

Be authentic, and have fun.

Oh, and if you truly want to step up your game, do something no one else is doing. 

“More and more people are figuring it out, but as a salesperson, your job is to be at the head of the pack,” Red said. “So hurry up, get that Snap Camera going.”

Connect with the Zoom King on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Apptentive.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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