As a Sales Leader and an avid Social Seller, (a subject I speak on, am widely published on and sit as a Non-exec on a specialist firm for) I profess to keep up with the latest and greatest of best practices in the sales arena.
To that end I wonder, if many of you like myself will recognise the following statistics and scenarios, all supposedly supporting a reduced use of the phone in selling?
- ‘67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally’ Source : SiriusDecisions
- ‘In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts’ Source : Telenet & Ovation Sales Group
- ‘The average salesperson only makes 2 attempts to reach a prospect’ Source: SiriusDecisions
Add to this the growth of millennials in businesses and people new to sales who are from the Social and online born generation and we have the excuse bag growing. I have witnessed many new and younger to sales, defaulting to email as the communication medium with customers and prospects. When questioning if they have asked A. B and C, watching them say ‘I shall go ask’ and watching as they immediately start typing way to put it in an email. The default communication method has by habit and osmosis become electronic.
Now I get it, it’s hard to get hold of people, we want immediacy and the lowest effort to get something done and phoning someone means looking up their number, calling it, getting put through and often leaving a message or voicemail, waiting for them to call back, perhaps missing you and the saga continues. So it’s harder, right?
With email, you simply go to your email client, start typing their name and autofill kicks in most times, you quickly crack out an email, send it and its dealt with. The reply you get is hopefully the answers, so it’s a 1 to 1 send and receive ratio, instead of what may be a chain of effort to get a conversation.
The issue is that this isn’t a conversation, it’s multiple one way communications. A conversation is interactive, email is not. You may think it is; A send to B, B replies to A and so on, but its measured, pre-thought out responses, without emotion, without clarity and understanding! When you speak to someone you detect tonality, query, misunderstanding, inflection, reaction delay, silences – on email all of this is removed. Achieving and interpreting EI (Emotional Intelligence) in email is a no-no and yet this forms a good part of a salespersons interpretation of what to do next, how to react and interact with a client. So, we are choosing to remove this 2 way asset from our sales arsenal and by doing so putting ourselves at a disadvantage.
Send someone some statements and questions and their response may have followed assumed understanding of what you meant, asking someone else what to put for their answers, which are then measured and thought through responses, rephrased/retyped and edited. When you speak you get the immediacy, can interject and ask additional questions (‘it sounded like you were not sure of that’ , ‘I sensed a pause was there a doubt on that?’, etc.), all of this is lost in an email or electronic communication.
- ‘86% of telephone communication is made up of ‘tone of voice’ and just 14% the words we say’ Source: Contactpoint
It is easy to fall into that trap and I am sure we have all done it – emailed when a conversation would have been better, gained use greater insight and built the relationship. What we ned to start doing is catching ourselves doing it and self-correcting. As Sales leaders directing sales to pick up the phone and speak to them on this, don’t email.
Perhaps email if you can’t reach them to communicate “We need to speak on XYZ as I would like to discuss how we can ABC”, but drive to real conversations.
Where possible meeting someone is better than phone and phone is better than email. The more interpersonal and real the dialogue the more you can glean from it and build mutual rapport towards a better outcome. Let your competition be on email when you are on the phone, and when on the phone be meeting the prospect. This alone gives you an increased likelihood of winning the business and accelerates your debate with the customer. In one call or meeting you can achieve a lot more than a back and forth of emails that can span days.
The whole issue is exasperated when you add social and other electronic mediums into this such as live-chat. I have found myself over the past few years both embracing the change of Social into sales and also resisting it in parallel with each other. Let me expand on the dichotomy.
Social and the digital age adds value to a sales engagement. You can research your customer, business and people, get gauge about them from their social presence and engage with them on social as a way to gain that initial interaction. This has value and adds to the sales tool-bag to remain relevant to today’s buyer dynamic. Social Selling (widely discussed elsewhere) is here to stay and is a valuable skill to develop, but it is not an excuse or a good mantra to use it to replace traditional selling engagement skills! Starting and staying electronic and using these tools to avoid real world engagement, either consciously or subconsciously, is not okay and will do more harm than good.
So on the flipside of the isolated stats we started this discussion from let me add some extra context;
- ‘92% of all customer interactions happen on the phone’ Source : Salesforce
- ‘80% of sales require 5 follow-up phone calls after a meeting’ Source: The Marketing Donut
- ‘85% of prospects and customers are dissatisfied with their on-the-phone experience’ Source: Salesforce
So for your own good and that of your customer, balance the interactions. Use Social, email and phone in an appropriate manner. All of these have a time and a place for use. Take the time to catch yourself and do the right thing, coach your people, discuss it and don’t be afraid to say I should have just called instead of emailing. Or when you have emailed and have hindsight, go pick up the phone and say ‘Sorry, sent an email and thought better we discuss it so picked up the phone too, hope you don’t mind.’; No one will!’
If you have engagement and rapport someone will speak with you. Go back to earning that right and your sales performance, knowledge of the customer, relationships and Customer Sat. and NPS scores will only benefit.
So is the phone dead as a sales tool?
Far from it. PICK IT UP, its good to speak, still!