Recently, an experienced sales professional told me he was focusing on making connections and he wasn’t going to go out on any “milk runs” until he had a live prospect. Email and networking on the phone was his strategy for connecting and prequalifying leads.
Now, I know that the profession has changed a lot from my early days of pay phones, industry directories and Rand McNally Atlases on the front seat, but people make strategic purchases, such as major capital investments, from people they know. Not people they are simply aware of, but people they know.
So that got me to thinking, “What’s the difference?” We all represent something. In business, we all represent our Company, our brand, our offerings. Whether I am offering them over the internet or phone, or in person, I am still offering the same thing, right? The difference is the connection between what the person is offering and the person making the offer. In fact, the individual making the offer in person is making more than the offer that is written on paper. He or she is making an offer of their own personal integrity to back up the written offer.
It is about trust. The best professionals know that without trust, the offers are void of value. Would you buy something from someone you don’t trust? Trust is a personal value that is highly subjective and therefore best gained through personal interaction. It is earned by first caring about the buyer's spoken and unspoken needs through the process of careful probing and listening. And then the trust is validated by responding to those needs in a timely and empathetic manner.
Just as the seller offers more than what is written in the proposal, the buyer is offering more than the PO for the work the seller is selling. A good purchase, a good project, validates the buyer’s successful efforts. The buyer may offer his or her own network of contacts and opportunities to a trusted seller.
Some people think that social networking minimizes the need for one-on-one communication. For example, a buyer may offer his network of contacts to a seller he hardly knows through LinkedIn. These are glorified lists. What percentage of LinkedIn contacts do you have who you have met face to face?
Social networking and the internet have added complexity to the marketing and selling process. In addition to the selling process we have always followed, we now have to be much more proactive about our online presence than ever before. Buyers do more online due diligence for their options and begin to form opinions, before initiating a procurement cycle. But it is still about people making personal choices and deciding who they will entrust with their next major purchase.
Legendary football coach Don Coryell was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame for his innovative impact on the game. He changed the way the game is played through his offensive genius in creating a wide open passing attack. Yet, the left offensive tackle remains one of the most sought after positions in football because no matter what you do, it is still about the fundamentals of the game. Players still have to line up and play.
Same thing in business. People still need to buy from people and the success of the purchase still needs to be delivered by people. The companies that stay ahead of the game online, in person and in execution are the companies that will succeed. Technology hasn’t replaced the fundamentals; it has only added more fundamentals to practice and succeed at.
"First master the fundamentals."
“Trust is a great force multiplier.”