Social Media vs. Face-to-Face

A business reporter asked me about Social Media and how the using it, texting and email negatively impact sales professionals’ ability to communicate face-to-face. My response … for your reading pleasure:

The more I see people use Social Media (SM) at work, the more I’m convinced how anti-social it can be. Sales Professionals use it because it’s fast, free, easy and convenient. Surfing LinkedIn searching for new prospects or connections makes sense. So does enhancing client relationships through focused and customized SM messages. But, SM, texting and emails shouldn’t replace face-to-face interactions, only enhance and reinforce them.

In my sales-oriented communication skill workshops, we stress the old school strategies of meeting new potential prospects in person first, having focused and brief listener-centered conversations, following up promptly by phone, email or LinkedIn and keeping in regular touch.

They embrace the essence of networking, which John Naisbitt defined in MegaTrends over 30 years ago as the ‘exchange of ideas, information and resources.’ But extroverted sales professionals often struggle with the simple ‘networking with uncommon courtesy’ best practices of ‘talking less and listening more’, ‘telling less and asking more’ and ‘never mixing selling with networking’.

Texting is a great tool for sending very brief urgent messages quickly, like ‘stuck in traffic, 30 min. late’ or ‘meeting not going well’ … if the intended receivers are also texters. If not, the practice can annoy and misfire.

Sending a choppy error-filled and long text that could have waited to be a more polished email instead doesn’t project much professionalism or class. Sales professionals text because they should, not because they can. And the decision is very case and receiver-specific.

Email is similarly fast, inexpensive and easy. But the quality and style of the writing and how it looks to the reader can easily detract from the impact of the message. And what’s really worse than a bad sales email is a great sales email that should have been a phone call or face-to-face conversation instead.
People who fall victim to the ineffective ‘Golden Rule’ communicate with others the way they want others to communicate with them. This naive approach ignores individual styles and personal preferences. Savvy sale pros embrace Dr. Tony Alessandra’s ‘Platinum Rule’ concept and communicate with others the way others want to be communicated with. Simple to understand, difficult to do but well worth the effort.

If this sounds like really old school ‘everything old is new again’ … it is. And the larger the age difference between seller and buyer, between sender and receiver, the more important this concept can be.

So, sales professional will succeed faster and easier when they put the social back in social media and master receiver-centric communication.