By TOM WOODCOCK
There apparently is a new normal in business. Now everyone will live by Zoom and companies will save tons of overhead.
COVID has changed business forever. At least, that’s what we’re being told.
I see a couple significant issues with this perspective as it relates to outside sales efforts. The people perpetuating this belief tend to be administrative, cost-oriented personnel. The majority of their responsibilities take place in an office environment, so transitioning to solely electronic communication seems “completely logical,” as Mr. Spock would’ve said.
The first problem: What do the Captain Kirks of the world do? As many of us have noticed, people are already experiencing Zoom fatigue. The lack of personal contact and socialization is beginning to wear on people. We are social creatures. As such, we look forward to personal contact. This need will resonate in a louder cry as more companies try to drive their staffs to work from home.
The second problem: When you relegate all business activity to digital communication, you lose a major aspect of competitive differentiation, and that’s the sales individual. The unique abilities good salespeople have to read, connect and influence customers are more critical to profitability and the closing of transactions than many administrative personnel care to admit. Removing this element from the sales process can virtually guarantee a reduction in profitability – possibly a noticeable drop in revenue.
Before you brand me as a rebel against safety practices, understand that I realize there are restrictions in place with regard to face-to-face contact. The fact is this: The business environment is reopening enough for you to begin reengaging your outside selling process. The quicker you’re able to restart those efforts, the faster you’ll establish a sales presence. Remember my lifelong credo; Sales is the most important aspect of any business. Everything else hinges on a successful sales effort. Without it, all the cost savings in the world will amount to nada.
The challenge many companies will face is the level of uncertainty that exists currently.
When is it okay to make calls?
Where can I take customers to lunch?
What level of face-to-face contact is allowable?
How do you accomplish this when there are other internal company restrictions?
Great questions. Not to mention attempting to do a sales meeting with a face mask on. I’m not a medical expert, nor will I judge anyone’s convictions, but if you want to maintain a successful business going forward, you’ll need to solve these problems. Is there risk? Yes. Outside salespeople understand risk. They drive way more miles than most of us, risking a higher potential for vehicular accidents. They see more people from different walks of life, risking other health issues, project safety concerns and just plain rejection.
We get it.
My goal here is to bring understanding to how critical your outside sales effort is. Some say you can make more contacts if you work digitally. True, but so can your competitors! Oops. Didn’t think of that. What appears to be a great cost-saving idea may not be the case relative to external sales.
As companies decide to move their sales efforts internally and digitally, many of the sales personnel with whom I work will be ecstatic. This gives them a new edge. They can increase their contact list to maintain contact levels before the world of COVID. That’s the challenge before them.
If half of the previous contacts who would normally meet will not do so in the current environment, simply increase your contact list to offset the loss of those contacts. For those who will not meet face-to-face, simply manage them digitally. But you may lose some of these contacts and see a drop in profitability with that group.
The bottom line: Keep your outside sales effort moving in some capacity. To ignore or stop that effort could be disastrous. We are social creatures and we need interaction. This is true in relation to the business world, too, as well as in our private lives. Keep fighting for each transaction. Just don’t disarm your sales agents.
Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website, www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.