Sales: The High-Tech, High-Trust Balance
Technology does a lot, but it can’t do everything. Sometimes we forget that. We can get so dependent on email and social media that we lose sight of what people really need from us—especially in business. Yes, clients expect to connect with us in various high-tech ways, but they also crave the deep and meaningful connections that can only come from face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) connections. It can be tricky to walk the line.
Human needs don’t change. Relationships mattered in the days of pencil, paper and snail mail, and they still matter in the days of email, Facebook and Skype.
Ideally, you would meet with all of your clients in person, but of course that’s not always practical. Still, you should invest in at least one face-to-face meeting with each of your top clients. Then, use a carefully balanced mix of technology to maintain the relationship.
Here are a few of tips for using tech the right way.
Don’t let “faceless” and “voiceless” technology become your primary communication tool. Nothing can replace the effectiveness of a face-to-face encounter (even if it’s by Skype), especially in the early phases of your client relationship. And meaningful phone conversations can be great, too. It’s fine to use less powerful tech solutions like email, texting and e-blasts to stay in close contact with your clients. These can enhance and strengthen a well-established relationship. But they should only be supplemental.
Skype important meetings if you can’t be there in person. Ideally, “in-person” interactions are best for relationship building—especially with your top clients—but of course they can’t always happen. Video conferencing is second best. Make sure you’re using this tech tool often. It’s a great way to read body language and facial expressions—crucial for building trust and establishing positive and productive relationship
Pick up the phone regularly. Many people dislike the phone. Conversations can be long and meandering, and we’re all busy. But you must overcome your phone phobia. In terms of relationship building (not to mention problem solving), there is no substitute for the give and take that happens voice-to-voice. Schedule actual phone conversations with clients to catch up and find out how they are doing. Keep that human connection alive.
Pay attention to how the client communicates. If a client seems to prefer phone, text or in-person communication, make a note of it and honor their preferred style while maintaining your own dedication to person-to-person contact. This shows them you care about and respect their preferences. Find a happy balance between the client’s style, yours and the demands of the day.
Match the medium to the message. If you want to distinguish yourself and have something very important to say, write a letter. If you are trying to book an appointment with a busy person, figure out something complex or discuss a potentially sensitive issue, pick up the phone. If you only want confirmation of a small piece of information and you’ve recently spoken with a client, feel free to use email. Let your instincts be your guide.
Be thoughtful and deliberate with social media. Your competition is taking advantage of these platforms and so should you. But make sure your online presence is well planned and executed. Your Facebook or LinkedIn posts should meaningfully connect back to your brand and mission and provide value to clients and others who may read the posts. Don’t bombard your followers with inane content. This negates your credibility. Post less frequently and make sure your content is interesting and valuable.
Keep your website young and agile. Is your website in alignment with your business image and your mission? Make sure it’s as professional and sleek as your own personal appearance when meeting a client for the first time. Successful companies have streamlined, up-to-date websites with modern fonts, colors and layouts. If it’s been a while since you’ve changed your design, your website is long overdue for a tune-up and a facelift.
Use email to send links to articles you think your client might enjoy. Trusting relationships thrive on frequent contact. To solidify your connection to clients (especially when you haven’t talked in a while), send them links to articles you know they will enjoy. This gesture shows you are thinking about them and know where their interests lie. Just keep these communications in balance. Bombarding clients with superficial links and articles may weaken the value of your contact with them and undermine your relationship.
Send e-newsletters to all your clients. This is a good way to engage regularly with clients and stay on their minds. Create compelling content that connects with the various lines of services you are currently offering and craft interesting articles for your clients around related topics.
Personalize your high-tech communication. Sometimes e-blasts make sense, but whenever possible, include a small personal note at the top that lets the client see they matter to you.
Allow clients to login and access their information on your site. Whenever possible, empower clients by putting information at their fingertips. This not only saves time for your clients when they need to get a small piece of information, but also goes a long way toward building mutual trust.
If you harness the power of technology correctly, it can do powerful things for your business. But remember that it is only one tool in your toolbox. Use technology to enhance business, but don’t let it overshadow your mission to keep trust-based client relationships at the center of everything you do.
Paul G. Krasnow is the author of The Success Code: A Guide for Achieving Your Personal Best in Business and Life. He is a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he has been a top producer for 40 years. He regularly speaks for multiple life associations in the U.S. and has given seminars for law firms and CPA firms in the Southern California area.