By TOM WOODCOCK
So, we’ve moved into the virtual age of sales, eh? Personal relationship is non-existent now, right? Outside sales is a thing of the past, correct?
I beg to differ. The COVID era has moved the bar, but don’t think for a second you can abandon tried and true sales practices.
Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. Personal sales contact is alive and well. Due to the pandemic, my speaking schedule has all but disappeared. I’ve gone back into the world of selling. I am now literally practicing what I preach.
Guess what? It still works! Prospecting, entertaining, networking and aggressive customer contact is still effective. I’m averaging 40 to 50 face-to-face meetings a month. Some reps don’t even Zoom that much.
What I’m seeing is the easy excuse that people aren’t meeting. Hmmm, maybe they aren’t meeting because they don’t want to meet with you. Customers are hesitant to take meetings with individuals who have zero interest factors. If I’m going to make a commitment to see you face to face, you’d better give me a good reason to do so. Either you have a real, tangible value for me as the customer or you’re flat out fun to be with. The more people are cloistered, the more they’ll want to get out.
The question is this: Will you be the vehicle to bring customers back out into the light?
I recently met with a new account and delivered chocolate covered strawberries to their team. Old school, right? Guess what? When their next need arose, I got the business. Sure, I did the basics of presentation and follow-up, but I was the only person to think of them personally.
You see, virtual is completely impersonal. Everyone becomes an image. You’re no different than the meme they saw on social media. Plus, your competitor was on screen just before you, meaning there’s absolutely no competitive separation. This drives commerce to a price-based dynamic. Everyone is simply a video presentation, no strawberries.
The one thing I’ve learned in 30-plus years of selling is this: People like to be acknowledged. Being nice enhances loyalty. The nicer you are, the more critical information you get. The virtual generation may never learn this lesson. As I incorporate young sales reps into my network, I’m shocked how line by line they are, almost robotic in their approach. They can’t tell a joke, have no idea how to compliment someone and are cheaper than Ebenezer Scrooge! I can run sales circles around these rookies.
The point is this: Don’t believe the press that sales work is now a virtual discipline. That is a false premise. You know why? People are not virtual. They are real and need human interaction. The sales reps who reach out personally will now stand out. Let the rest be lost in the wasteland of virtual reality.
Personal interaction will always be the most effective way of selling. Regardless of what the tech giants tell you, the reality is obvious. The more that salespeople gravitate toward virtual selling, the more I will strive to get face to face with clients. Hey, I understand the pressure to conform to virtual and the shift toward marketing. It takes courage to go against the grain.
Bottom line: The reward is substantially greater for those who will not relinquish traditional sales methodology. I know many will disagree with this premise, but I’m witnessing it firsthand. There is merit in being cautious, and I respect that. I’m simply pointing out what is effective in this sales climate. That is, for all intents and purposes, my job. I know many reps are frustrated and struggling. My advice is to look under every bush, keep pursuing clients and don’t give up on the sales principles that work. Sooner or later, it will break for you. Honor customers who are foregoing personal contact and connect with those who are open to it.
The choice is yours. I cannot make that call for you. Ultimately, it will still come down to the trust in relationship that your customers have that will tilt the decision scales. Challenge yourself to go beyond the virtual into the actual!
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.