A day on the road without technology gave me the answer.
For the past 24 hours, I did not have text, email or internet access on my phone. My BlackBerry (yes, I know, it’s ancient!) did a recent software update which eliminated all of the “smart” out of my smartphone and left me with the sole capability of making and receiving phone calls. I couldn’t even see my call log, so if I missed a call and they didn’t leave a voicemail, I would have no clue anyone called me.
Normally while I’m on the road, I text and email clients and use the mobile hotspot on my account to access and input data from my CRM. Today however was a very different story. Even 13 years ago when I first started out in sales, I recall driving around “trolling for wifi” as I called it in order to check my emails and had offline access to my CRM which apparently doesn’t exist these days. I would text my clients and coworkers throughout the day. Typically, I never could gain enough email access to accomplish my work tasks during the day and would have to attend to all of my emails before and after I hit the road and would average 15 hour days.
Today, I went back 20 years in time. Initially, I thought that I would go and get a new phone ASAP before embarking on my calls, but instead I decided to take on the day as a sort of “experiment” and see how I could manage.
I committed to doing all of my calls and had an amazing experience!
This is what happened:
- I realized that I reach to check my phone almost every 2-5 minutes.
2. I conducted a personal record number of cold calls (in person).
Without any means to access background info (aside from what I printed out the night before in advance to prep for the day), or input data into my CRM, or dick around on the internet, I was completely unhinged. My only task at hand was to call on as many clinics as possible in my target area to invite them to a corporate event and/or book an official meeting with them and I achieved it. I called on 31 clinics in 8 hours. Mind you I really didn’t take any breaks at all and I meticulously planned out my route in advance with the help of old fashioned maps.
3. I was living in real life and interacting 100% with real human beings
I spent more time interacting with human beings face-to-face than I have in a really long time (aside from tradeshows that is).
4. My clients were concerned about me.
I received calls from my clients who were concerned that I didn’t answer their emails and text messages and decided to call me to see if I was OK. I thought that was really sweet but I also look at that and note that I must be so neurotic and obsessive about responding to emails and texts that if I don’t within a matter of minutes or hours, that is a concern. I have always been focused on providing the best possible customer service that I can, but this set me back a little and made me think that perhaps I am being a little too overzealous in my approach. Do I need to chill out a little or do I need to keep up my game in order to remain competitive?
So what were my stats?
At the end of the day, I got valuable face-to-face time with 31 clients with a maximum of 1 hour “homework” to log those calls. Surely I didn’t get to spend all the time in the world with each of those clients, but look at these stats:
3/31- Turned into a timely lead. The clients were looking for a solution that I provided right at the time I walked in.
5/31- Reserved a space to a dinner meeting I invited them to (one of the purposes of my visit).
20/31- Booked a follow-up face-to-face meeting to discuss my products in more depth.
4/31-Got to see the decision maker and do a regular sales call.
If I would have spread out all of these meetings to log my calls in a “timely” manner (immediately after) versus logging them later, I’m certain I would have run out of time given that regular business hours are between 8-6pm. On the other hand, if I would have done these calls by phone, I most certainly wouldn’t have had the same level of penetration that I did in person. Meeting and talking to people face-to-face is far more impressionable than a strange voice over the phone.
So, back to my initial question: Technology has always been key to being functional as a sales rep on the road, much like it is to pretty much any other profession, but is it making us more or less effective?
Not necessarily. In the old days when we would have to do our homework pre and post calls, it lengthened our days. Now we can do emails, texts and calls while en route. It all depends on the individual and how prone one is to distraction. If you commit do only doing work during business hours and restricting social contact to outside of business hours, then yes, you will be more effective. If not, then you will be working (and socializing and killing time on the internet) from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep and in that case, you are not more effective.
If you are in outside sales, would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.