Many salespeople want to act strategically but choose transactional communication mediums. You may believe no one wants to talk to you and that they prefer emails or text messages, although this is clearly not true. In sales today, the main variable is what and how salespeople communicate with their contacts and prospects.
There is no reason to choose weak communication mediums when you could communicate using stronger ones that create more value and improve your relationships. You don’t email your mom to tell her about your week; you visit her or you call her on the phone (at least I hope this is true).
Without Meaning to Be Transactional
Let us assume you live in your territory and you are no further than an hour’s drive to any prospective client’s location. When you prefer to Zoom them instead of meeting face-to-face, you may communicate that your contact is not important enough to demand your time. When you email instead of making a phone call, you may also project you are not interested in speaking with them and prefer to remain transactional. It’s important to keep in mind that the client you don’t want to visit has a line of your competitors who want nothing more than to meet with them.
You create a firewall around your prospective clients by building relationships and showing that you care. Weak communication will not provide the protection you need to retain and grow your clients. Despite this, some of your contacts will prefer to avoid giving up time to have a real-life meeting. In these cases, a technologically enabled conversation is better than no meeting. Depending on your territory, you may have no choice when your prospective client lives halfway around the world.
You should already know this, but allow me to remind you how much more you get done when sitting face-to-face across from your clients or prospects.
A few years ago, four senior sales leaders told me they are taking back their travel budgets because they would not need it post-pandemic. They planned to fully shift to virtual meetings and get rid of in-person sales calls. I asked each of them how they believed they would fare when their competitors did discovery at the client’s location while their teams used a video conference. This wasn’t something they had really considered. During the pandemic, while few people were traveling, I flew to see a client. There were only two of us on the plane. Anything you refuse to do will open an opportunity for your competitor to do what you won’t do.
There are some outcomes that can’t be achieved over Zoom. You can’t see the client’s operations. You can’t be introduced to people when walking through the building. You can’t see or feel the company’s culture. You learn less on virtual than in real life.
My theory is that avoiding face-to-face meetings causes deals to lose momentum and eventually stall out. The salesperson’s lack of effort is matched by their prospective client.
Our Communication Breakdown
Maybe the ease of a communication medium is inversely correlated with your chance of winning a deal. Even if there is no scientific evidence to prove it, pretending it is true will improve your chances of winning a client’s business.
It’s easier to email than to make a phone call. It’s easier to make a phone call than to meet face-to-face meeting. Any tendency to use a weaker, transactional medium may be perceived as you not caring enough to give more of your time.
You should believe that your contact is interested in giving you their time. By spending time with your clients and prospects, you learn more, and if you practice a modern sales approach, you will also create more value in the sales conversation.
What Is in Your Control
Many things are out of your control, like when a prospective client is unhappy with their existing provider, or who will champion a change, or what their expectations might be.
One thing you can control is the choice of the medium you use to communicate with your contacts. If you pick up the phone and call your client and they pick up the phone, you have an opportunity to improve the communication and improve the outcomes, especially when compared to an email.
If you ask for a face-to-face meeting, you will find many leaders ultimately prefer a face-to-face. In-person allows a leader to assess you and your ability to be a strategic partner in creating the outcomes they need. You are certain to create value in a face-to-face meeting than any other medium.
The Nature of Human Relationships
The sociologist Robin Dunbar has studied primates. Relationships are expensive in time and energy. Dunbar’s research suggests a person can have around 150 relationships due to the limit of time and energy.
You invest in relationships. Those investments are what build effective relationships, something you already believe (or should believe). Sales is a contest between salespeople. This contest has one person creating a preference to buy from them. Unfortunately salespeople have been told their company and their solution creates a preference. By not recognizing that the investment of time, energy, and value creation is what matters most.
Our Communication Breakdown in B2B Sales
Asynchronous communications have a place in internal conversations, but it is not adequate for client conversations. The concept of mimetic desire causes people to want what other people want. We follow our models without recognizing we are copying what other people value. You need not follow the tech giants and use the inferior asynchronous mediums.
You are better off with synchronous communication mediums than something that doesn’t provide the better experience of sitting across, or even better, next to your contact, facing their problem with them.
If you haven’t already gone back to driving across town or flying to your client’s business to engage with your contacts in a conversation, know that many of us visited our clients during the pandemic and many more have already resumed visiting their contacts.