Sales execs, perhaps more so than other business professionals, have a talent for picking up on non-verbal communication when meeting face-to-face with clients or potential clients. The furrowed brow. The fidget. Darting eyes. Nervous laughter. They are various signals to sales executives that they may need to modulate and/or adjust their strategy to make the person sitting (or standing) across from them more comfortable with the situation. After all, non-verbal communication is at least 50% -70% of all communication, depending on whom you ask.
Still, even with non-verbal communication sales executives have the benefit of being in the physical presence of clients and, depending on the signal(s), have the opportunity to make alterations right then and there. Not so online, where sales executives are increasingly selling their products and services.
As Patricia Wallace, Ph. D. and author of “The Psychology of the Internet,” told The Wall Street Journal recently, on the Web “nobody sees you yawn.” (It reminds us of a famous New Yorker cartoon that conveys a similar thought.) We were quite taken with the quote and decided to contact Wallace to get her take on the psychological challenges of online sales.
The use of language – crafting e-mail messages or leaving verbal messages on the telephone – cannot be underestimated. Sales execs “need to understand that the Web environment is fraught with one potential or another to say something that is going to be grossly misinterpreted,” said Wallace, who is also senior director, CTYOnline and Information Technology at Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth.
Part of the challenge is how to harness the type of skills (verbal and otherwise) that click in face-to-face settings to the online environment, Wallace said. She stressed that because online sales are (generally; read: Skype) not face-to-face, sales executives must be more personal (and respectful) in both tone and delivery.
It starts with the opt-in approach and being sensitive to privacy issues “They need to lean on the side of opt-in, and ask people, ‘If I give you this information will it be a benefit to you?’” Wallace said.
She added that joining appropriate social networks is another way that sales executives can get to know prospects in their space via a more personal vein. Sales execs also might consider establishing their own social networks in which the point is not products and services, per se. Wallace pointed to Johnson & Johnson as an example of how companies can use social media to their advantage. Johnson & Johnson’s health channel, on YouTube, features a wide array of videos designed to promote a better understanding of health and healthcare delivery throughout the world.
“The idea is to say ‘Let’s provide a service,’ a place where people can obtain value,” Wallace said. “[Sales execs] need to touch buyers in ways that go beyond a click-through or a cold-blooded checkout. It’s a face-to-face meeting, followed up by an e-mail, with an invitation to a Webinar or a special event.”