The last few posts I published on LinkedIn have revealed generational differences. The content suggested salespeople should meet with clients face-to-face, leading several readers to argue against this because their clients prefer virtual meetings. One reader suggested that their client might not want to go to the meeting and would rather stay home with their family.
A second group of salespeople who look to be a generation in front of the group that prefers not to sit down across from their clients in their office or facility. This second group are all in on face-to-face meetings.
The first group may be called “technology pod dwellers.” We can call the second group “free-range salespeople.” A lot of this is generational, as the first group spent more time in their homes with their Xbox and the internet. The second group were sent outside and allowed back into the house when the streetlights turned on. Or, if you are like this writer, you may not always have made it home.
The Level of Autonomy
I would argue that a free-range salesperson has greater autonomy, because once you leave your office to see a client face to face, you are free to visit another client, walk into the building next door, or meet a prospective client for lunch. The free-range salesperson is typically either alone in their car or with clients or prospective clients.
The technological pod dweller has a different experience. One person commented that they must keep their camera on and that they are being monitored like Winston Smith in 1984. SDRs and BDRs that go to an office are also pod dwellers, never leaving their electronic cocoons. Like work-at-home pod dwellers, these SDRs and BDRs are locked in place.
The Ability to Build Relationships
The technological pod dweller is happy not having to leave the comfort of their many screens, gadgets, and software. Using transactional mediums can cause the experience to feel like a transaction. Perhaps, the pod dwellers can build relationships with others of their kind without building as strong with non-pod-dweller types.
Here too, the free-range salesperson has an easier time building relationships because they meet with their clients in real life. When a person drives across town to meet a client where they work, it communicates something that can’t be replicated in a virtual setting. Showing up means you believe that your client is important, as is the conversation about helping the client improve their results. The free-range salesperson may meet with the client many times, depending on the nature of the sales conversation, giving them time to build relationships.
The Amount of Client Time
If you don’t already track the time you spend with your clients and prospective clients in your CRM, track that metric, as it tells you something about your chances of winning. A prospective client generous with their time is evidence the salesperson is doing well in their pursuit. Little time proves otherwise. A free-range salesperson sits across from, or better, next to their client, so they are almost certain to command more time, time that allows them to create value in the sales conversation.
Virtual meetings are different. They tend to be shorter while also lengthening the time to win deals, especially large, complex deals. Transactions are everywhere in our world, which rely on fast and friction-free purchases like DoorDash or Amazon. If you rubbed your hands together quickly, you would notice that your hands get warm. Friction isn’t always negative. Time is every person’s finite, non-renewable resource. It is a gift you give others and one that is made more difficult from a pod.
The Development of a Salesperson
Virtual selling isn’t the same as selling in real life. When you are never face-to-face with a client, you may not know how different it is to sell face-to-face. No matter the agenda, clients tend to ask more questions and challenge you more often than they seem to on a Zoom meeting. Those who have what we might call a safer environment will not develop the same way they would if they were face-to-face with a client.
A free-range salesperson who spends time with clients develops differently. Walking through the client’s facility helps them learn how they do things and gain a better understanding of the client’s challenges and needs, and how to help them. After spending years walking into different companies, you stack up experiences that help you develop into an effective salesperson.
Comfort in Conflict
We need not spill a lot of ink to compare the two types of salespeople regarding comfort with conflict. I don’t know if I have ever seen conflict on a virtual sales call, but I have had several conflicts face-to-face. A free-range salesperson is more likely to be better prepared to deal with the conflict that shows up in business.
The safety of the pod may prevent the conflict a technological pod dweller might experience in another medium. Again, these are generational differences.
Free Range Salespeople vs. Technology Pod Dwellers
A free-range salesperson is out in the field with the autonomy to manage themselves and their time. They may carry a laptop, but most won’t rely on a giant tech stack to sell.
The technological pod dwellers may have a tech stack that exceeds the technology presently used by NASA, including surveillance, something a free-range rep would find to be too much.
Normally, I would end an article like this with a call to action, but I could not change the mind of either of these two types of salespeople.