While we all needed to pivot in 2020 and get comfortable selling remotely, face-to-face selling is still the most effective way to build relationships and close business. We spoke with several business owners who still believe field sales is the best choice for gaining customer trust and growing revenue. Here are five reasons why it’s still more effective to sell face-to-face.
5. It’s easier to read people in person.
Sales is all about interpersonal relationships and understanding your customer. Communication is key, and there are some things that just don’t translate when you’re talking over video chat, or worse, on the phone or via email.
Body language is a huge part of communication that you may not be able to read if you’re speaking remotely, especially if cameras are off. Robert Johnson, Founder of Sawinery, understands the importance of facial expressions in understanding your customer. On remote sales, he says, “This is not as efficient since they cannot see the facial expressions of their customers. This is their cue if they need to give a more salesy pitch or a cue when to stop the pitches.”
If a customer is unwilling to meet in person, make sure that you’re using video chat at the very least. However, even if you’re meeting via video and can see the person’s facial expressions, there’s often a disconnect in communication. Caroline Lee, Co-Founder of CocoSign, agrees, saying, “…in remote sales, you engage with them virtually, where there is a communication gap and lack of understanding.”
To make sure communication is clear, make meeting face-to-face a priority. Whenever possible, find a reason to meet in person like a physical product demonstration or a tour of your facility. That way, you can clearly communicate with your customer without missing any important nonverbal cues.
4. It’s the best way to build meaningful relationships.
In-person meetings build stronger connections and make it harder for either party to bail. But if you’re only speaking with someone online, there’s often a disconnect there and a lack of commitment. It’s a lot easier for customers to ghost salespeople when they’ve never met in person. As much as technology helps make remote interactions more personal, in-person wins when it comes to establishing a connection between two people.
Marques Thomas, Founder of QuerySprout says, “In-person sales is more intentional. Body language, eye contact, and the simplest personal presence will cause the sales to tip more in favor of the seller.”
This is mainly because trust is so important when it comes to who wins a customer’s business. And the best way to build trust is to meet face-to-face. We live in a world of endless options and many times, a person is choosing who to do business with, not solely what to buy. As a field sales rep, you’re your company’s best differentiator.
“When products have significant competition with competitors offering similar benefits and prices, customers often make their purchasing decisions based on their relationship with a particular sales rep,” says Harriet Chan, Co-Founder of CocoFinder. “In some cases, buyers think, ‘I’m not buying a widget, I’m buying Joe.’ This stems from the fact that they have a face-to-face relationship with the rep that can lead to a sense of trust. Talking to a disembodied voice over the phone, no matter how often, does not allow you to make as powerful a connection as in-person meetings do.”
The connection you build when you meet in-person exceeds any connection you can create over the phone or even via video conferencing. If you want your customers to remain loyal to you, meeting face-to-face is the best way to achieve that.
3. It’s better for complex or high-value sales.
If what you’re selling has a high price tag or is too complex to properly showcase via video chat, it’s best to meet in person. This will help you gain true buy-in from the buyer and close business faster.
Rahul Gulati, Founder of GyanDevign Tech Services, suggests that for high-value items, it helps customers commit to see them in person and to meet you face-to-face. “I personally feel large ticket sales do require in person meetings,” he says, “Most business heads would still want to speak to you and understand the vibes you bring to the table. It’s not old school, it’s just how business is done.”
Many products also benefit from a physical demonstration. Experiencing them in a tactile way is the best way to get people to buy. Even the best video walk-through won’t replicate the experience.
Harriet Chan, Co-Founder of CocoFinder, agrees. “With remote sales, you can’t demonstrate product functions and features,” she says, “Some products and services are an easier sell if a potential client can see, touch, taste or try what he is considering buying.”
2. Outside sales is now a differentiator.
At this point, many vendors are scheduling remote meetings. And the same will be true even once everyone is vaccinated and the spread of coronavirus has slowed. A study from Forbes and the Wharton Business School found that of 352 CMOs that they surveyed, about half said they were cutting field sales forces. That means you just gained the advantage over half your competition. If your team is willing to go the extra mile (literally) by meeting with customers face-to-face, you’ll have a much better chance of winning business.
Robert Barrows, Founder of R.M. Barrows Advertising & Public Relations told us about his experience losing business to a company that was willing to meet face to face. “I once had a client who was about an hour away by car and we started sending her copy and layouts by fax,” he said, “After a while, someone who lived a lot closer to her picked up some of her business because they could see her in person more often.” He warns that you should meet in person when possible because “if you don’t… someone else will.”
It’s easy to think that if all your competition is meeting remotely, you shouldn’t invest in field sales anymore. Why waste the money when other vendors are saving on travel costs? But it’s likely that you’ll be the only person willing to meet in person, which is a huge differentiator that may be the reason they choose you over the rest.
1. Close rates are higher for outside sales.
It’s true that remote selling is more efficient. There’s a low barrier to entry and you’re saving time and money on travel. But field sales wins more business, making it more effective than remote. If you’re interested in increasing your close rate (and who isn’t?), meeting face-to-face is the way to do it.
In fact, according to HubSpot, companies with more outside sales reps have a 30.2% higher close rate than companies with more inside sales reps. Plus, the average deal size won by outside sales reps is worth 130.2% more. Compare that to your cost difference between inside and outside sales and you’ll likely find that meeting in-person is worth the extra cost.
All of the reasons mentioned previously in this article can likely explain why field sales is more effective. But there’s also another reason: field sales reps are more committed. Meeting face-to-face takes more time, money, and energy than booking a 15-minute Zoom call. So once a field rep makes the effort to meet a customer in person, they’ll have more of an incentive to stick with that relationship.
Daniel Velez Vasquez, CEO at Home Security, understands the commitment cost in using remote salespeople. “Since remote salespeople have a low cost of customer acquisition, they concentrate on contacting a high volume of leads. When a lead from a remote salesperson does not buy, it is not a big loss since the salesperson did not waste much time or money obtaining the lead. Field’s salespeople, on the other hand, have a far higher consumer conversion rate because it makes little sense for them to give up on a client they’ve been courting: if they don’t make a deal, they’ll lose a lot of time and money.”
In-person meetings are a bigger commitment for both field sales reps and customers, so it’s more likely that those conversations will lead to a close. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure they’re not wasting each other’s time.
Make field sales more effective at scale
If you’re looking to improve your field sales process, especially now that the world is more digital than ever, StorySlab can help. Our platform provides sales leaders with real-time insights on how reps are selling in the field to show what the best reps are doing right. It also gives every field sales rep access to all your company knowledge digitally—with or without Wi-Fi—while they’re in the field. To learn more, book a demo with our team.
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