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 were his strategies 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. Still, people make strategic purchases, such as significant capital investments, from people they know. Not people they are aware of, but people they know.
So that got me to thinking, “What’s the difference?” We all represent something. In business, we 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. The difference is the connection between what the person is providing and the person making the offer. The individual making the offer in person is making more than the proposal written on paper. He or she is making an offer of their integrity.
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, the buyer offers more than the PO for the work. A purchase validates the seller’s trustworthiness, and in return, the buyer may provide his or her network of contacts and opportunities to the seller.
Some people think that social networking minimizes the need for one-on-one communication because a buyer may offer his network of contacts to a seller he hardly knows through LinkedIn. However, these are glorified lists. What percentage of LinkedIn contacts do you have who you have met face to face?
I believe social networking and the internet have added complexity to the marketing and selling process. Today, companies have to be more proactive about their online presence than ever before. Buyers do online due diligence and begin to form opinions before initiating a procurement cycle. But, when it comes time to close the deal, it is still about people making personal choices and deciding who they will entrust with their purchase.
Legendary football coach Don Coryell, elected to the NFL Hall of Fame for his innovative impact on the game, changed the way football 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.
It is the same thing in business. People still need to buy from people, and the success of the purchase still needs to be delivered by people. Companies that stay ahead of the game—online, in person, and through execution—are the companies that will succeed. Technology hasn’t replaced the fundamentals; it has only added more fundamentals to practice and refine.
“First master the fundamentals.”
“Trust is a great force multiplier.”