When it comes to the conversations that matter, nothing beats being in person.
At least once a day a sales leader will complain to me that their people are not getting out to see customers and prospects in person. That there is a lack of urgency in getting face to face which is affecting forward pipelines, sales results and budgets.
So, what’s going on?
To start, our isolated way of life over the past two years has meant simple meandering conversations with our colleagues disappeared as we rush from one Zoom meeting to the next.
Instantly we were busier than ever. An effective meeting was one that simply got to the point quickly rather than one that was about emotional connection or belonging.
Our pre-COVID water-cooler conversations were so much more than just chat. Questions were answered in the moment (not scheduled), we validated and adjusted our viewpoints through social discourse and sharing perspectives.
Connection. Belonging. Support. All oxygen for salespeople.
Every question that now requires a calendar invitation just to be answered means delayed decision making and lost momentum. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare noted that isolation and the pressure cooker of home confinement has produced emotional anxiety that goes beyond cabin fever.
Sales leaders watch as team members who were once “on fire” now have social anxiety, opting to stay behind a screen rather than jump in their cars to travel to an appointment, let alone travel interstate.
And it doesn’t seem to just be a temporary situation or part of the inevitable adjustment to a post Covid economy.
We need connection now more than ever before and that is the privilege that being in sales presents: the conveyors of genuine connection and connectedness with the right people, right solutions and solution implementation that requires robust ongoing relationships.
Sales leaders must remind our reluctant team members of the proven need for and benefit of face-to-face human connection superseding virtual, email or phone. A sales-fit team requires training to rebuild those atrophied connection-skill muscles to rebuild our opportunity bases.
When an emotional connection is important, when we need to establish or deepen trust, and when the stakes are high being in person is essential.
Conversations in person support an emotional connection
I would argue that most conversations that matter require an emotional connection, however there is also research to support my premise which reminds us that it’s only when we meet face to face that we can touch one another – be it a handshake or an arm touch and touch is powerful. The researchers at the University of Chicago and Harvard which found that negotiators who shook hands were more open and honest, and reached better outcomes….that shaking hands activates the centres of the brain associated with rewards and convey warmth.” Perhaps it’s why elbow touching fell away rapidly.
Getting an “emotional read” of one another is far more accurate when in each other’s company because we experience the whole person than just their voice or their head and shoulders on a flat screen where energy, mood, body language, context are missing.
Great salespeople understand that the secret sauce lies in delivering value the way that matters to that customer.
Conversations in person establish and deepen trust
Getting a purchase today at the expense of a client relationship for a lifetime is a topic my clients are familiar with. The difference is depth of skillset and the ability to build trust. A big component of trust is being genuine. A Harvard Business Review article in January 2022, cites research that suggests in person communication facilitates authenticity whereas phone suppresses emotions – and emails should always be used as a last resort.
Customer loyalty is built on a series of catch ups that foster trust-building, free exchange of ideas, instant clarification and validation of emotions. There are no short cuts to trust.
Conversations in person are critical when the stakes are high
Organisations that survive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world require salespeople with next level capabilities in order to navigate multiple issues simultaneously and frequently and manage expectations over challenges like supply chain and product delays and price increases.
Forbes recommends that: “The higher the stakes, the more critical the conversation, the more you need close proximity to communicate effectively… Technology-based communication methods often fail to convey warmth or tone, while face-to-face conversations can help ease the process of discussing volatile topics.”
For sales leaders, the same applies to critical conversations with team members: letting someone go, performance issues, constructive feedback are all best done in person.
In essence if we don’t use our in-person conversational skills we’ll lose them and so much momentum has already been lost.
Unless we want our organisations to be filled with inept, customer service order takers rather than proactive revenue drivers it’s imperative we remind our salespeople of the benefits to them of having in-person conversations.
Growth, employment and business survival depend on it.
Written by Ingrid Maynard.
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