Deep Acting, Surface Acting, and Video in Your Sales Process

Last Updated July 28th, 2016

For many reasons, your sales process will benefit from video – even if it’s not scripted, produced, and polished.

At a high level, video for sales is about human connection and emotional transfer, which is best done face to face. It’s about appealing to emotion, as well as to logic. It’s about trust and rapport.

Authenticity, sincerity, and depth.


But here’s a caution. And it applies to your text emails and video emails. It applies to all your interactions and communications.

This caution is part of the preliminary findings of a BombBomb study conducted by a research team from Harvard Business School.

Get the caution – and more – below!


Deep Acting, Surface Acting, and Video in Your Sales Process


In part, sales is the transfer of emotion. And this is best done face to face, in part because our faces all speak the same emotional language.

We need to meet people where they are, show empathy, build trust, and draw out a positive transformation.

Logic helps, but engaging what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 in Thinking Fast and Slow. This is the automatic, unconscious, and immediate processing that tells us immediately whether or not we like someone. It feels intuitive, rather than rational. And it happens without us “thinking” about it.

To connect with people and engage with people in this way, we need emotional energy. But, as cautioned below, we’re best served and serve best when we’re sincere and authentic. And not just in person or in video!


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Emotional Labor: Deep and Surface Acting

One topic that’s been of central interest to business researchers is the strategies that people use when displaying emotions as part of their work.

This topic began with a research study of flight attendants (in the book The Managed Heart) who were required to always display positive emotions at work, even when they might not actually be feeling those emotions. It was found that when people tend to “fake” their emotions, the experience is exhausting and the “true” emotions often seep out anyway.

People tend to use two strategies when they need to display an emotion that they aren’t actually feeling: surface acting and deep acting.

During the BombBomb study, the research team from Harvard Business School collected data during the baseline survey to measure the strategies that each participant is most likely to employ. It’s possible to score high on both strategies (i.e., you use them both) or low on both strategies (i.e., you use neither).


Surface Acting
This strategy involves suppressing or masking one’s true emotions in order to display the emotions required by the job.

Deep Acting
This strategy involves actually trying to change your underlying emotions to fit what is required in the work context (e.g., if you need to act happy toward a client, then you try to think of something that might make you happy).


Research Findings: Emotional Labor

In line with prior research on emotional labor, the team from HBS found that surface acting tended to result in more negative outcomes when creating messages. People who engaged in surface acting (masking their emotions) indicated that they felt they were being much less authentic while creating their messages. This act of being inauthentic resulted in participants feeling more frustrated and depleted when communicating. Alternatively, deep actors felt more authentic because this strategy resulted in truly experiencing the emotion that they were trying to communicate.

Although these effects existed for both video and text-based emails, the effects were stronger for text-based emails. The HBS team believes being inauthentic in text-based messages amplifies its negative consequences because the degree to which one is being inauthentic is more easily viewed in a text-email and seems more permanent (whereas in video it is more difficult to re-review one’s own behavior).

Further, the differences between these communication strategies were not limited to participants’ own feelings; they also seeped into the messages themselves. They found that deep actors tended to use fewer anxiety-related words (e.g., anxious, nervous, and worried) than those who did not engage in deep acting.

These results suggest that if you need to express an emotion as part of work that you might not be experiencing, then it may be advantageous to try to alter your emotions to match the needed emotion rather than simply fake your emotions.


You, Them, Acting, and Video

Your video camera can smell fear. It shows everything. Just as your real emotion comes through in person, it comes through in video.

Because that mask worn in surface acting is thin, insincerity and inauthenticity bleed through.

At the same time, if you truly care about your prospects and clients, if you’re sincerely interested in their success, and you can honestly help them, video is a winning play in your sales process. They’ll see it and feel it in a way that just doesn’t come through in any other way except in person.


And the effects are not theirs alone. As the researchers from Harvard Business School found in the BombBomb study, deep and surface acting affect you, too.

This finding reminded me of how a smile provides scientifically proven benefits to you and to your prospects and clients.

So go deep or take off the mask. And smile!


Get Face to Face with More People More Often

Click here to try BombBomb free for 2 weeks with no credit card information required.

You can record, send, and track the results of simple videos in emails from Gmail, Salesforce,, or our mobile apps.

It’s the next best thing to being there in person. And it’s a value to your sales process.

Try it!

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Ethan Beute | About The Author

Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, host of The Customer Experience Podcast, and Wall Street Journal bestselling co-author of Human-Centered Communication and Rehumanize Your Business, Ethan Beute collects and tells stories of clearer communication, human connection, and higher conversion through simple, personal video messages. BA: University of Michigan. MBA: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

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