Have We Lost The Ability To Sell?
If you give a millennial a smartphone, making a call does not figure high on their priorities. The latest apps will be downloaded, they will get straight onto social media, and if they are particularly considerate, they will pop onto Whatsapp to send their latest selfie to Grandma. Communication is instantaneous and brief. Why waste time when you have hundreds of potential activities contained within that little screen?
For any salesperson, the phone should (still) have a mythical significance, whether it is of the “smart” variety or whether it still has a cord attached…. The phone is the starting point for building a relationship with someone. It enables you to listen to them; you think about what they have said, and then you reply with your own thoughts. It is called a conversation, and the best ones are far from instantaneous. They build gradually in a crescendo of understanding, until both parties feel that they are brothers (sisters) in some secret pact.
The art of conversation over the phone is being lost, and it logically follows that we will soon become less effective in our face-to-face dealings. Too many people talk in text speak already – there is something utterly dismissive about someone talking in broken sentences with you. They don’t have the time to spend talking, they don’t value you enough, and they have better things to do.
If you want to influence and get things done, you have to rediscover (or retain) the art of conversation. While a hastily compiled email may contain all the elements of a potential deal, there is nothing like hearing the assured tone of a spoken promise, full in the knowledge that the person has taken the time to understand where you are coming from. It is old-school, but for me, it is the only way to make sure that things get done properly.
However, there is a big “but” here. Things are changing. “What about the social selling revolution?” I hear you cry. It is very true that technology is giving sales people more options of staying in touch with our customers. We can listen to their concerns on Twitter, we can showcase our products like never before (soon coming in virtual reality), and we can market to our network in ever more sophisticated (and relevant) ways. You might be a great face-to-face sales professional, but if you are not using all the available technology, you may not get to the stage of potentially closing the sale in the first place.
Technology is supplementing conversational sales, but it is not replacing it.
For me, great sales is all about engagement. The more chances that we have to touch people, the better. When we respond to them, they feel that we care. When we change for them, their loyalty will be assured. Engagement is something that can be built over time, and certain longer sales cycles do need this gradual nourishment. However, at the end of every cycle, when it comes down to getting that signature on the contract, there is no technology that will ever be able to beat a good, old-fashioned meeting.
If we lose the art of the sales conversation, doing business will become infinitely harder.