Guest post by Duthie Power Sales Engineer, Garrett Talbott.
Before COVID, I would start my day catching up on emails and phone calls, then head into the field for onsite visits. Meeting face-to-face gave me the opportunity to listen to customers and work through all the necessary details to ensure our services would meet their needs. It felt as “personalized” as it gets. Especially given that we are a generator service company, it seemed obvious that we would have to meet in person and look at equipment.
Since the pandemic hit, it’s become much more digital. FaceTime conversations, photos sent through text messages, and virtual meetings have all become commonplace. None of this is news to anyone in sales. We’ve all shifted our approach in ways that has felt limiting at times, but also has surprised us with opportunities. The biggest surprise for me has been how much I’ve shifted my expectations of what constitutes “personalized” over the last two years.
What feels personalized to someone late in their career can differ dramatically from someone just starting out. Not to say there’s a great age-related digital divide, but technology has evolved so quickly that our instincts can differ dramatically. For example, adjusting to a digital relationship has become an expectation of many younger customers, especially when it comes to tracking administrative tasks. We manage so much information in a workday that we rely on a digital archive of what was communicated, whether it’s in a CRM or archived emails.
Others still prefer to talk on the phone and grab lunch, taking the time to build rapport. All these options have expanded how I personalize my sales approach, but they’ve also presented challenges for me in keeping track of where I left off with a customer. In any given day, I’m managing phone calls, FaceTime meetings, text messages, and more. I’m also quoting a lot more, but I’m having to balance my time between all a variety of different digital interfaces.
It seems hard to believe that the days of faxing and scanning proposals aren’t that far behind us. With tools for sending and tracking digital proposals, I can turn around a quote same day and get it approved much faster than even five years ago. And when the pace of work lets up a bit, it’s nice to go into the CRM for a roadmap on who needs follow-up. It’s all very accessible. The more I play with it, the more I see what I can use to inform how I personalize my customer care.
Still, nothing beats going on jobwalks. I love going on jobwalks with engineers that know more than I do because I love learning from them. And there’s a “dance” to those interactions, as well. When I first started, I remember my colleague Kevin Gates telling me, “you want to know some, but not too much or you’ll talk yourself out of a sale.” Sometimes someone who knows too much can scare a customer. You’re here to support the customer, not overwhelm them with too much knowledge. Of course, it all depends on who you’re working with. The approach with someone very knowledgeable will be to meet their knowledge, but less knowledgeable you need to win their trust and not get too technical.
At the end of the day, the best approach to personalization is to simply ask a customer what they prefer. Nothing beats direct communication from the start so both parties can build up the habits that will lead to a successful relationship. Leave a comment below on how you define “personalization.” I’d love to know!
This article was originally published by Garrett Talbott on LinkedIn.