“Do we know what time the post arrives?” or “Why don’t you check the fax machine?” are not phrases you hear uttered in modern business. In contrast, when I started my recruitment career these were very common ways to communicate or even sell to clients. Over the last two decades both our work and social interactions have been impacted by one major factor. Technology. It’s astounding how much information we now consume, observe, understand, and engage with every day.

People and companies now sell to customers and clients in a vastly different way. Interestingly, electronic-based sales strategies from companies and salespeople have yielded mixed results ranging from increased transactions and excellent brand development and recognition, to disengaged customers who have been bombarded with excessive targeted information. Businesses now reach their customers through email, social media, instant messaging and chatbots. It is important to understand your customers’ preferences and use the channels they are most likely to use to avoid scaring them away.

Some ways to use technology to your benefit:

  • Personalise: With the help of data analytics and AI, businesses can personalise their communication with customers based on their needs, preferences, and past behavior. This can significantly improve customer engagement and loyalty.
  • Create engaging content: Content marketing has become an essential part of digital sales and communication. Creating high-quality content that educates and entertains customers can help establish your brand as an authority in your industry and increase customer trust and loyalty.
  • Design your materials with mobile devices in mind: With most online traffic coming from mobile devices, it is essential to optimise all your digital communication channels for mobile. This means that your website, emails, and other content should be easy to access and navigate on mobile devices.
  • Be responsible with the data you collect: With the increasing amount of personal data being collected, it is crucial to ensure that you are using this data ethically and protecting your customers’ privacy and security.

Be aware of the challenges associated with excessive technology:

  • Digital communication can lack the personal touch of face-to-face interaction, making it harder to build rapport and establish a relationship with the customer.
  • Without the context of body language and tone of voice, it can be easy for customers to misinterpret the tone of a digital message, leading to misunderstandings and potentially damaging the relationship.
  • With the ease and speed of digital communication, it can be tempting for salespeople to bombard customers with messages, which can be overwhelming and annoying, leading to customer disengagement.

The over-reliance on digital communication and the tendency to communicate via those mediums have created trends which are likely to have long term impacts on how we sell.

Don’t forget the positive impact of traditional communication methods.

A recent ABC study found more than 50% of people between the ages of 18-29 experienced anxiety about speaking to someone on the phone. The Phone Lady, Mary Jane Copps, runs a business teaching people how to speak on the phone. She said she believes it was in the late 90’s when “people began talking with their thumbs”, and “now we have several generations that watched their parents move from phone conversations to conversations with their thumbs”.

How do you develop sales strategies if one of your tried and trusted methodologies of building rapport and developing an understanding of your customers and clients is being lost? Don’t overlook the power of simply getting on the phone with someone and having a conversation.

Other business tools can also interfere with the sales process as highlighted by Ravi Gajendran, a professor of management at Florida International University’s College of Business. He recently published research on workplace emails being counterproductive in some instances. “Email is great for conveying information, but when you start working on complex activities using email, the mental cost associated with that is pretty steep”. Professor Gajendran’s research found using email for complex tasks led to reduced motivation for subsequent tasks. Likewise, when you are depending on email for all communication with potential clients, you risk overcomplicating your message or your company’s offer being lost.

Strike a balance for success – don’t neglect your personal client relationships.

It’s my belief there are some lessons we can take from history. We should not become completely reliant. Technological advancements can have far-reaching consequences, and it is important to consider the potential impact on the workforce as well as the broader society. People buy from people, and until the buying process is fully automated, sales professionals will need to challenge their thinking and continually refine what their customers’ needs are to understand how they want to be sold to. The companies or individuals who adapt technology to their advantage, while still focusing their sales approach on customer engagement and adding value to their business offering, will ultimately be the most successful.

If you are looking for new salespeople for your business and would like help defining the skills – and technology experience – you are after, please get in touch.

Louis Newton

Photo by PhotoMIX Company