By ZoomInsights staff
Even the best B2B salespeople will tell you that most of their efforts to reach prospects and customers end in failure. Business today moves at warp speed, and busy decision makers often ignore all but the most urgent calls and emails. “I can’t believe how much time I waste every day talking to voice mail” is a nearly universal complaint. What’s a frustrated salesperson to do?
Try instant messaging, video chat
Some savvy salespeople are using Skype, AIM and other Web-enabled technologies to break through the communication barriers and connect with prospects and customers. For the moment, they’re still in the minority. However, their successes make it clear that when used wisely, these technologies can provide a salesperson with significant competitive advantage.
Rob Matthews is a business development executive at Making Sense, a custom software developer with team members working all over the world. Matthews routinely communicates with them via Skype, but lately he’s also begun managing existing customer relationships and even reaching out to prospects with Skype.
Matthews likes knowing when the target of his call is available. “If you call someone they may not pick up, and if you email they might not reply. But with Skype, you can see that the person is there, and they may feel obliged to accept your call.”
Debbie Kenny, a business consultant specializing in sales and marketing, points out that the new technologies help her work more efficiently when communicating across time zones. “You see when a prospect is online and you can ping each other with short messages. This makes it much easier to connect without having to deal with the cost and complexity of international phone calls, language barriers and delays in responding to emails.”
“Tools like Skype and Google Hangouts are more popular in Europe than here in the U.S.,” said a senior account executive who sells enterprise software. “They can help build a relationship and support the sales process, since you can understand your customer’s body language clues. I think we’re going to see the most competitive salespeople using these technologies pretty aggressively.”
Of course there are some potential pitfalls. Adam Kornfeld, regional sales director at InsideOut Development, cautions against going outside of the customer’s comfort zone. “When I use Skype, it’s usually with customers who are pretty tech savvy and use it regularly themselves. I let the customer drive the technology that we use to connect. If they like Skype, then I’m fine with it. If they prefer email or the phone, that’s what we end up using.”
Other salespeople who’ve adopted the “new” technologies shared some additional reasons for caution. A sales team manager noted that it takes time and practice for new users to become comfortable in front of the camera. And call planning now includes worries about limiting background noise and visual distractions, such as inappropriate attire or behaviors that could impact a customer’s experience. “Not everyone will think it’s cool that your co-workers like bowling in the aisles,” said Lisa Kaplan, an account executive at the U.S. offices of global training, consulting and technology firm Information Mapping International.
Adding to the list of potential downsides is the fact that transferring data from media like Skype and AIM to a CRM isn’t always easy. It’s also true that some organizations, especially larger enterprises, restrict use of these technologies for security reasons.
Even so, the potential gains from using the Web-enabled technologies far outweigh the negatives. Salespeople are always finding new ways to reach and stay in touch with their customers. If you’re fed up with talking to voice mail systems and you suspect that most of your emails are ending up in spam folders, these Web-enabled communication alternatives may be a way for you to increase your chances of speaking with an actual living, breathing customer. And that could give you the competitive advantage you’re seeking.