Growing up in the musical instrument and pro audio business, the primary modes of interaction were telephone and in-person communication. In the early 1980’s, working at a busy retail store in suburban Philadelphia meant using the phone to “reel someone in” so I might have the opportunity to demonstrate keyboards or sell live sound equipment. I can recall assurances made to prospects that it would be well worth the trip out to Medley Music to see me. Once there, the art of person-to-person presentation took over, and to this day remains the ultimate method of getting your point across, learning what your client is really looking for, and of course building personal relationships. The advent of email for general use by the public and businesses made for another huge leap in disseminating information, especially the details that may fade from conversational memory. Video conferencing until recently was reserved for corporate conveyance of directives, but since COVID-19 has taken a prominent role, for over two years now all but replacing personal contact among business associates.
The Benefits of Meeting in Person
While Zoom, Teams, or a quick FaceTime call are here to stay, nothing beats seeing a customer in person. This was underscored during a recent full week of barnstorming with my friends from Audix Corporation. Over five days we visited buyers at music retail stores, corporate purchasing offices, large distributors, and contractor / installed sound companies. In between, we broke bread, talked, and debated the issues of the day during the drives between appointments. This was a very productive trip and reinforced the importance of meeting in person. It also reminded me how much we rely on the other methods of communication, as piles of email were waiting when I finally checked into my hotel room, and the phone didn’t stop ringing while we were making our rounds in the territory. I learned more about my customers and suppliers than ever could have been possible by a video conference, and this underscores the importance of continuing to travel and meet “in the flesh.”
Picking the Best Mode of Communication
The crucial follow-up from last week’s meetings will be conducted by email, video, and phone. The conveyance of a sales proposal is best suited to written form and nailing down details where multiple team members are involved with video conferencing. A quick text can be effective, and for many has become a preferred method during busy times. Phone calls sometimes trump emails, especially when a specific detail or stumbling block needs to be worked out. I’m finding there’s a certain limit to email’s effectiveness, and that the job of selling is not done by simply sending out messages in this medium. There is a time and place for each method of communication, and we in sales must be cognizant of applying the best procedure to address the specifics of any given situation.
In the End It’s the Blend
A blended communication methodology has developed within our organization at Reflex Marketing, and spills over at times into personal life. I send and receive messages at all hours of the day and evening via phone, text, email, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other apps. The challenge of course is keeping after your many correspondences and following up on commitments made. The meaning and context of the message drives the choice of medium, but in the end, we are all humans and thrive on personal interaction. Key to all of this is developing a combination of communication protocol that gets the job done, and ultimately serves the needs of our customers, coworkers, and industry constituents. That part never really changes, and handshakes are back in vogue…