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Understanding the Differences Between Online and Real-Life Conversations in Sales

By Sander Biehn | Feb 7, 2018

Understanding the Differences Between Online and Real-Life Conversations in Sales

By Sander Biehn

As the world becomes more virtual in nature, it’s time for social sellers to get a refresher on ‘reality.’  I’m talking about understanding the difference between online conversations with prospects and clients and the conversations we have in real life. I was reminded to honor our time spent face-to-face with others after reading this article by Ian Altman.  It didn’t hurt that I had just spent a few days out of town visiting an important customer.

I started thinking about how my meetings differed from the online dialogue I had had with my customer the previous month. The more I thought about it, I was able to compile the below list of dos and do nots. In person conversations fundamentally differ from the online world in how they further an existing relationship. They tell us what level of trust we have with one another and how that trust can translate to new projects.

In a sense, online conversations set the stage for real-life meetings by:

1) Educating our client on industry topics

2) Demonstrating our expertise and approach to business problems

3) Demonstrating our positive attitude and outlook on life

By doing these things virtually, not only does it rule out the need to bring a stack of industry articles to in-person meetings, it removes the need for us to even discuss these items. We can assume the client knows all these things by the friendly warm greeting we receive and we dive right into problems and how to solve them. We gauge the trust we receive and make our time together more effective and valuable for both of us.

One thing critics of social selling like to point out is how much more valuable time spent face-to-face is. This is obvious! But in today’s work world that time is truncated by the very technology and efficiencies that have built our modern world. We should always opt for face-to-face meetings unless they are not needed. Selling the next big project requires both time building trust (which can effectively be done in the ‘background’ using social media), and time in person gauging trust and digging in on the details. Social media accelerates the project for both buyer and seller.

I have seen this again and again, but nowhere is it more prominent than in my days at AT&T, where access to executives was sometimes ‘blocked’ by my long-standing contacts. By feeding a healthy diet of engaging content to business unit executives I developed relationships with online, I was able to convince my other contacts that it was ok to let me sell to the C-Suite. I proved my worth and had tangible examples of the trust I had built before I ever stepped into a room with some of these leaders.

What’s the moral of the story? First, yes, there is a difference between online and real-life conversations. Second, understanding that difference will accelerate both the relationship and the business share-of-wallet for the savvy social seller.


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