Business to Business Online Expos

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Does Anyone Pick Up the Phone Anymore?

iphoneI remember when we used to let the phone ring because we thought that it “might” be someone we didn’t want to talk to. Okay, I know I’m dating myself but I’ve been there for a few blank stares at my grandmother’s old rotary phone as it rang up a party seeking to communicate.

I also remember a short few years later waiting until a device called “an answer machine” kicked on so we could listen to hear who’s voice it was. Then we would decide to pick it up or not.

As time went by, we got to see a person’s phone number on a little LED screen to help us in our ‘should we pick up’ decision making process. That led into seeing their names with something called “caller ID”, then the digital phone age really started kicking into full speed and a variety of ‘avoid your call’ options came to light.

Fast forward to today, it seems like all of the older behaviors of people like me and my generation helped groom this current generation to completely despise talking to someone on the phone.

Seriously! Nobody picks up a call anymore.

And I’m not just talking about personal calls. Even at businesses. Everything goes to people’s voicemails and call backs are rare, yet e-mails are almost immediately returned. I call businesses all the time from business phones and personal phones. Aside from a mainline phone number, most staff peeps let the calls go to voicemail as a practice.

Hey–I’m a text-a-holic so I’m no one to judge anyone’s preference for data, but I do believe there’s a huge downslide in basic communication skills today. It has become widely excepted and accepted to handle customers by using just data in business and in the personal side of our lives as well.

I’m confident that someday we will be able to just ‘think a thought’ and that brain dialogue will be sent to the receiver of our imagination. When technology brings us there, I think that I’ll be okay with that because my thoughts to a specific individual is pretty personal. I’m sharing real time emotion and feelings.  Until then however, I guess we will all have to continue to ignore each other and stay close friends with our keyboards.

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Sales-Peeps Need to Be ‘Textually Active’

grandmaMy mother is 75 years old.  She lives across the country so aside from a couple visits per year, we have to communicate by other means.  On birthdays and holidays, I can always count on a nice Hallmark card or sentimental note by snail mail.  Once a week or so, I enjoy an actual verbal conversation by telephone.  On almost a daily basis, I can count on a cute comment or a “like” on Facebook.

The most common way my mother and I communicate, however, is by text messaging.


Pew Research 2013 – Click photo to enlarge

So, the conclusion you should probably make is, if senior citizens are texting, your prospective clients are texting as well.  In fact, a 2014 Pew Research study cites that 81 percent of cell phone owners use their phones to text. And as you can probably imagine, those statistics are rising very quickly.

One of the biggest mistakes today’s sales force makes is ignoring the most popular form of communication with their clients.  Sure, just a few years ago, sending a text to a customer would risk an unfavorable response.  In the early stages of texting, the act was considered more of a personal communication.  But with text and data plans becoming more affordable, that opinion has drastically changed.  In fact, studies show that many retail consumers prefer a non-personal approach until they are ready to finalize their purchase.  Once in a while someone will take offense to receiving a text. Just apologize and go back to calling them.  Most of your customers, even high-end clients, will appreciate the text and chat with you in the same way they do with their friends and family.

As the Internet Sales Director [my former job] at the car dealership, in just one year’s time, I saw the phones in my department becoming more and more like paper weights. Customers literally said, “let’s talk by email and text and if I like what you’re offering, I’ll let you call me.”  At first I jumped on the ‘society is deteriorating’ band-wagon, but as time went on, I realized that my consumer habits are very similar. In this information age, I want to gather information first with no pressure or influence. Once I have a good idea of what it is I’m looking for, then I’ll speak to a salesman.

Look at it this way.  Texting is asynchronous [un-synced activity], low bandwidth [full attention not needed; answer when ready] and convenient in almost any situation [quiet and confidential].  Much like email, with less work.  Actual calling is synchronous [both people need to be there],  high bandwidth [full attention needed] and almost always inconvenient for one party [phone calls are loud and not private and consume relatively long periods of time]. In addition, you can have multiple conversations while texting, get more done with more parties and still hardly interrupt what you’re currently doing.

Yes, people lose the personal interaction, which I definitely agree is important, heck, the majority of a purchase is decided on a connection with the salesperson. But instead of running from this growing trend, find creative ways to set yourself apart within it.

Here’s a few tips to help you out:

  • Don’t use trendy tech-abbreviations and shortened grammar like “LMK” or “SMH” —  Aside from “LOL”, the majority of texters [currently] are not up to speed on the latest tech-abbreviations.  Text full words and sentences. In the old days, cheaper flip phones only gave texters 140 characters, but in today’s age, most people have SmartPhones.  If they don’t, most modern less expensive phones will break your long text up into pieces so they can read the whole thing.
  • Along the same lines, don’t send a sermon to your potential customers — They already get a bunch of hot air from their spouse, cousin Eddie and their boss.  The last thing they need is some failed author turned salesman sending them a book report.
  • Find your personality within the text — It’s difficult to be personable without speaking with your voice.  In fact, some times text comes across abrasive or rude if you’re not careful in the way you present your comments. Always make sure to set up a statement properly or follow something you said with a clarifying explanation.  Remember, not being in the same location, you don’t know what the other person is dealing with when they receive your message.  They may be in a peaceful place and able to receive your comments with full attention. They may be in a hectic, stressful environment that causes them to overact or misread what you wrote.

In a recent study, said, “In a [in person] conversation, there is a physical climate as well as a psychological climate. When you are co-located with the person with whom you are speaking, you are sharing the same physical climate. You are in the same physical space pretty much experiencing the same environment.  However, you can share the same physical climate with a person and be in very different psychological climates.  Your life may be fairly stress-free at the moment, while the person with whom you are communicating may be operating with tight deadlines and a host of personal problems.  When you are co-located, you are more likely to recognize and respond to the psychological climate of the person as compared to when you can’t see or hear them.”

  • Stand out from all the other sales people that are texting — Give them you–you personally.  If the majority of a sales decision is made because they like you, then get them to like you.  Do something the other sales peeps aren’t doing. Send them a short media clip of you expressing yourself to them [see video below].  Show them your upbeat personality with a personalized clip just for them. Everyone else is just text, now you’re a real person. And tell them you really want them as a customer.
  •  Send photos or videos of the product —
    Plain and simple. Let them see that you have it and it’s ready for them to come pick up.
  • Don’t get too comfortable — Some sales folks forget sometimes that the person they are texting is a customer of the business they work for.  Just because you’re in a text conversation, you still need to remain professional.  Not to mention, if a conversation becomes too loose, that text record can be shown to employers who may not appreciate your methods and send you packing.

Here’s the bottom line.  If you’re not texting your customers, your competition is.

It’s 2014. Embrace it.