How do you know?
When I started in sales, we all sat within earshot of one-another. It was a small booking agency and we were on the phone all day talking with talent buyers and selling the rock bands we represented to colleges, schools, nightclubs and organizations.
The close proximity to one-another meant it was a noisy and at times chaotic environment; but it was highly productive – and effective.
Most important – there was a lot of learning by osmosis. We overheard how others described the talent, dealt with questions, handled problems, etc. As owner of the company, overhearing what was going on gave me a chance to coach, praise and correct performance. My chief goal was to make certain everyone on staff presented themselves as knowledgeable and trustworthy – and that we all lived the same set of values. The payoff was that business was fabulous and I eventually sold the music that part of the business in 1979 and kept only the speaking side of things.
Fast forward to today where the phone barely rings and most conversations take place on email alone. Even more challenging, like many 21st century organizations, for the past seven years I’ve been working a team of people who aren’t even in the same office with me. The question I have for anyone who runs any kind of sales organization is this: if you can’t hear how your team is talking to customers, explaining your company’s offerings and handling problems – how do you know what’s really going on (beyond the obvious sales numbers because they don’t tell the whole story at all)? How can you coach if you can’t hear? How can others learn from your best performers if they don’t hear them on a daily basis? Are you certain customers are being treated with respect? Are you sure your sales people exhibit the kind of product mastery and consultative professionalism that inspires customer confidence and loyalty – the kind that will grow your business?
There’s no putting this genie back in the bottle. Doing business mostly by email is here to stay. So for business leaders who care about the quality of the interactions customers have with your organization, spot-monitoring email and getting really serious about improving writing skills organizationally is vital. It’s not an issue is micro-managing – this is a great opportunity for everyone to learn from one-another in a business environment where the lack of proximity has all but eliminated the traditional ways sales professionals would learn their skills.
I’ve read any number of books on writing and words in an effort to grow my own abilities. One of my favorites is Words That Work by Frank Luntz. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their ability to be persuasive in written form.
Of course, sales is all about relationships and we all need to be better about reaching out to talk by phone to our most important relationships – but that’s a subject for another commentary.