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Sales and WFH:  Passive Communication is “A Bomb”

In the new work from home (WFH) culture, clients and sellers are growing more and more comfortable communicating in the most passive ways possible.  Passive communication is easier when both client and seller are at home greeting Amazon packages and catching up on laundry.  It is no one’s fault-–to quote the most overused phrase in the history of business, “it is what it is”.



Business communication is evolving just like other elements of our life evolved in 2020 and 202

During the pandemic, one on one meetings were replaced by Zooms, phone conversations, and email.  Now sales is leaning into even more passive forms of communication like text and Slack.

Social Media guru Gary Vanyerchuk recently addressed the danger of Slack/text communication in an episode of the Decoder Podcast.  I agree with Gary V, communicating with anyone via text or Slack is “a bomb”.  So many opportunities for misinterpretation.  Yet for many sellers and their managers, ultra passive communication is an acceptable form of client contact.  Gary V suggested that if you must text in business make sure you soften your tone with lots of emojis.

Business communication is being reduced to emoji exchanges.

As leaders, we should be concerned if our sellers' top customer interaction is virtual only.  Engaging in real life (IRL) with key decision-makers is critical to your business.  But if your sales management team is not managing IRL interaction–they are putting your business at risk.

In my last post, we promoted the idea of managing your teams to ensure IRL interactions.  Regularly creating organic social opportunities with clients has to become part of your sales manager’s mission. Some of the money you are saving in reduced office space needs to be reinvested in client engagement like concerts, spa days, sports events, and good old fashion lunches.

And yet, I was having a conversation with a sales leader at a large technology company the other day and he was lamenting expense cutbacks that prevented him from sending his team on the road for in person meetings.  This is a Senior Sales leader at a huge company that needs sign off for any seller to drive to an IRL meeting more than 25 miles away.  I couldn’t believe it.  This is a company who has seen its share price grow 35% in the first six months of 2023.

“They are not letting our horses run”, lamented the sales leader.

To make matters worse, his product is a commodity.  He is one of 3 or 4 leaders in a space that is in a growth vertical.  I wish I was competing against him because the charm offensive–Spa Days, Golf, Concert events, would be ON!  Relationships are often the difference maker with commodity products.  When price and product features are the same, buyers go with the sales team they know best.

Just last year I had to face my sales team as they saw several of our biggest customers posting 3 days worth of poolside and concert selfies with our competition.  I sent those social media photos from Las Vegas directly to Senior Management with an appeal to reconsider a client entertainment event they had just denied.

Getting face to face with clients is more difficult than it has ever been.  It takes more effort and more expense.  But the returns are worth it.

Now it is easy for me to tell you to spend more money on client entertainment and engagement.  I don’t have a CFO or a board.  I am not dealing with the expense pressures I am sure you all have.  We all know you cannot give a blank check to sales for entertainment.  You must prioritize and work with the confines of a budget.

Try to audit your top customers delivering 80% of your revenue.  What is the 12 month track record for IRL interaction?  What did that interaction look like?  Did the interaction include top management?   Manage the process and make informed expense decisions.  

Getting face to face with clients is more difficult than it has ever been.  It takes more effort and more expense.  But the returns are worth it.

Here is a summary of actions items to support these ideas:

  1. Prioritize Face-to-Face Interactions: CEOs should recognize the importance of in-person, face-to-face interactions with clients. Despite the prevalence of remote work and passive communication methods, making an effort to engage with key decision-makers in real life (IRL) can have a significant impact on business relationships and success.
  2. Invest in Client Engagement: CEOs should allocate resources and budget to create organic social opportunities with clients. Reinvesting saved office space expenses into activities like concerts, spa days, sports events, and lunches can help foster stronger relationships and differentiate a company in a competitive market, particularly when products and prices are similar.
  3. Assess and Manage IRL Interactions: CEOs should regularly assess the track record of IRL interactions with top revenue-generating customers. By evaluating the effectiveness of these interactions and considering the involvement of top management, CEOs can make informed decisions regarding expense allocation. It is important to manage the process and prioritize budget constraints while recognizing the value of face-to-face meetings in driving business outcomes.