It began, more or less, with the messenger pigeon. Cyrus the Great, king of Persia and ruler of the largest empire the world had ever seen, used pigeon-delivered messages to stay abreast of what was happening in all corners of his kingdom. Back in the Age of Iron, that was pretty cool. 5000 years later, in the Information Age, we find ourselves sending text messages saying “check your email,” and emails reminding us to pick up the phone.
In the realm of sales, communication is key. Are you clear about the details? Do you understand the prospect’s situation? Are you conveying the right message to establish trust, differentiate your agency, and show the value you can deliver?
Today’s sage advice: start with a broad view, consider your goals, and understand the dynamics of synchronous and asynchronous communication channels.
Connections are synchronous when all parties are involved simultaneously (think Skype meetings and conference calls). They’re asynchronous when sender and receiver are not in the same time space (think emails, websites and messenger pigeons). There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and understanding them gives you the power to communicate most effectively – and close more sales.
With asynchronous email you have time for more thought and reflection (neuroscientists call this cognitive participation). As a sender, composing an email message in the solitude of your mind, you’re able to keep an emotional distance and choose what you reveal more carefully than you might in an interactive, real time conversation.
Synchronous phone conversations and face-to-face meetings, on the other hand, allow for more emotional participation. Reactions are immediate, and you get a fuller sense of the other person’s point of view. You can easily add new ideas to the conversation, or shift topic or mood rapidly. Mirror neurons allow us to develop deeper attunement and rapport.
On the phone and in person you’re better able to recognize the emotions behind people’s words. You sense the prevailing attitude — sarcasm, humor, hesitancy, enthusiasm and so on. You don’t need emoticons to understand where people are coming from. Your interaction is more spontaneous, your insight clearer.
The synchronous and asynchronous aspects of sales prospecting
The precision and clarity of email conveys facts and details, but, unlike the phone, doesn’t give you the bandwidth to tease out prospects’ feelings about their current agent, satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the service, coverage, pricing, etc. You don’t really get to know much about their buying attitude.
Without an emotional “read,” you’re working from a map that’s missing essential information. You may know the route and distance, but if you’re not aware of the increase in elevation or the shifting weather conditions you won’t know the best route to travel.
The trick is to integrate both so they complement each other strategically. Consider these possibilities:
- You’ve gotten X-date information on a prospecting call and immediately email a few paragraphs about your agency along with your contact info. The prospect is impressed by your efficiency and engaged by the details about your risk management expertise.
- You’ve just scheduled an appointment and shoot the prospect a quick note confirming the time, date, and purpose of the upcoming meeting. Along with all your contact information, the message also includes some industry-specific details about your expertise and capabilities.
- After several unfruitful phone attempts to reach decision-makers at fifteen wholesale distributors, you send them each a formatted email offering a competitive cost and coverage review and asking them to reply with their renewal date. One company responds, requesting you to call them in October.
- You’re nurturing hundreds of telemarketing leads by sending monthly newsletters with lead articles keyed to three different business classes – manufacturing, technology and construction. All targeted businesses are being called again 90-120 days before renewals. After eight months appointment-setting and close rates have increased by 15%.
Building successful business relationships is an ongoing process that needs to include a balance of tech and touch. Smart marketers and producers know how to make that balance work.