When companies ask me how to accelerate sales or improve retention, I tell them a story. I needed to purchase a sign for my wife’s French pastry shop last week. I spoke with the front desk clerk who said that it would be around $90. A few days later, I got the final quote from the sales person - $265. And with that, I was out. The sales person lost the deal. But to their credit, they called me (instead of emailing me again). Within 5 minutes, the misunderstanding was resolved and the deal was closed.
Pre-Corona, reps gravitated towards email and/or Slack and/or text. Post-Corona, video conferencing is all the rage. But the reality is that savvy sales people will use a combination of all 3 mediums to move a prospect through the funnel to close.
So when do you use the phone vs email? There’s a couple of questions you should ask yourself:
1. What’s the point of the communication?
If it’s a quick clarification, email is probably best because its asynchronous nature allows your prospect to answer on their (busy) schedule. And if the response is truly quick, it will be easy for your prospect to quickly type a reply during or between meetings, while commuting or while standing in line for their favorite burrito.
If the point of the communication is to discuss a more complicated issue, or to understand more about the prospects BANT or (like in my example above) resolve a miscommunication, the phone is probably your best bet because it allows for the back-and-forth dialogue which is so critical to get you and your prospect aligned.
2. Who is your audience?
Really try and think about your prospect. Are they in meetings back-to-back, or do they travel a lot? If so, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get them at their desk and a call to their cell might be a little intrusive. In this situation, an email might be best. Or perhaps they have told you that they receive 100’s of emails a day. If that’s the case, they might welcome a phone call as a reprieve from their inbox assault.
Also remember that while video meetings are the hot trend right now, your prospect might not appreciate being forced to be on camera. I would recommend sticking with the phone instead of a video call, especially if you are in the early stages of building a relationship with the prospect.
3. Do you need a record of the conversation?
When you are in the deal, there are certain aspects that you want to record – for example the specific requirements that the prospect is providing. I have seen too many deals fall apart pre-sale or post-sale when there is disagreement about what was included in the package. Even if they were discussed on the phone, confirming those details via email is absolutely critical.
But if the conversation is more general – going over the capabilities of the product, the initial gathering of the requirements, doing more discovery around budget – those can be done effectively via phone. Of course, it would be best practice to have those phone calls recorded.
The summary of all this is to remember to use all the channels that are available to you. A deal will not progress or close through phone or email alone. We live in an age where there are multiple communication channels available to us, and we would be foolish to not use all of them.
Azim Nagree is an ex-Bain consultant with 20+ years in leading strategy, growth and operations transformations.