Every company is acutely aware of how much it costs to keep a sales force up and running these days. With the cost of a sales call now estimated to be north of $500, there’s a lot of pressure on salespeople to work more efficiently: Instead of a face-to-face meeting, can you make a phone call? Instead of a phone call, can you send an e-mail? Instead of an e-mail, can you send a text message? Or instead of sending it yourself, how about an automatically generated message delivered by our marketing automation software?
What risks getting lost in this drive for efficiency, of course, is actual human-to-human contact — and along with it, a clear line of sight between salespeople and customers. And those losses may more than offset any gains in efficiency.
The power of line of sight
Recent research suggests that when the line of sight is strong — not just for salespeople, but for all kinds of employees — results can skyrocket. In a recent study at a large hospital, for example, the accuracy of diagnoses improved by nearly 50% when patients’ headshots were included in their medical files. In another study, chefs prepared better meals (as judged by customers) when they could actually see their patrons. What seems to happen, according to researchers, is that these doctors and chefs developed greater empathy for patients and customers when they could see an actual face, which prompted them to be more diligent.
Think of how that principle translates to sales: If salespeople can actually see their customers (not to mention meet with them in person), they’ll have greater empathy for those customers. They’ll understand their needs better, develop deeper insights into what’s motivating the buyer and will work harder to deliver an exceptional solution. If they do all that, sales are probably going to go up.
Of course, sales organizations still have to balance the need for efficiency with the need for empathy. So if reps can’t spend the time and money to meet customers in person, the least you can do is literally put a name to a face. For example, encourage salespeople to call up a customer’s LinkedIn profile and keep it on their screen as they make a phone call, send an e-mail or write a proposal. Collect customer testimonials, and post them — with the customer’s photo — in the office. And if you can’t afford to send salespeople out into the field, consider hosting an open house or other events where you can efficiently bring a lot of customers to meet not only your reps, but all the other people in your organization whose work touches the customer in some way (in other words, everyone). At the end of the day, personal connections with customers will outweigh countless automated messages.
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