In Person vs. Over the Phone: 2 Sales Plans for Making the Most Out of Any Conversation

When prospecting to a local market, is there a difference between trying to build a sales-ready relationship over the phone or in person? 

Aside from the obvious physical differences, do you have specific plans that you deploy in each circumstance?

If not, don't fret! Here are two basic plans to help you make the most out of each sales situation.

In Person vs. Over the Phone: A Scorecard

You already know that each situation has advantages and disadvantages. (I bet you can name a bunch off the top of your head right now.)

But in case you need a refresher, here are just a few:

When You Prospect in Person...

  • You can gather more information. If you don’t get to meet with your prospect, you may have a better opportunity to speak with other employees. If nothing else, you gain a sense of the environment by watching and listening.
  • You can use your charm. Your prospect can see you face-to-face, and can’t “hang up” on you. So you have a better opportunity to put your interpersonal skills (the pride and joy of every sales rep) to use.
  • You have more time. Face-to-face interactions generally last longer than phone calls. You still need to engage your prospect, but you can be more conversational and build rapport. That takes some of the pressure off both you and your prospect.
  • You can read your prospect. Visual cues are powerful. They help you understand your prospect’s emotional drivers, gauge their pain points, as well as determine their sales-readiness. In a meeting, you may get a window into how your prospect thinks and reacts to you, and you can adjust accordingly.
  • It’s harder for your prospect to say no. It’s a fact that it’s harder to say no to someone in person. (Think about someone who comes to your door asking you to sign a petition versus a telemarketer.) Of course, you shouldn’t pressure your prospects into something that’s not good for them. But the in-person social dynamic gives you more freedom to make a strong case for how your solution benefits your prospects.

So what's your plan?

When prospecting in person, target prospects who may be more sales-ready.

Learn more about prospects’ specific problems, challenges, and priorities. Build rapport and determine if and when another meeting makes sense.

Ask your prospect questions. Listen carefully to the answers. Read your prospect’s emotional cues, and adjust your line of questioning accordingly. Determine where they are on the buying cycle. Provide them benefits (insights, ideas, information) in exchange for meeting with you.

On the other hand...

When You Prospect Over the Phone...

  • You can wear your bunny slippers. You can be productive even on a bad hair day. Save your power suit for the days you really need it.
  • You can introduce yourself to someone new. Prospects may not love receiving unsolicited phone calls from people they don’t know, but they expect them. Unsolicited drop-bys may be less well-received in certain markets.
  • You can leave a voicemail. If you don’t reach your prospect the first time, a well-crafted voicemail can increase the likelihood she’ll call you back when she has a minute. If you’re not sure whether your prospect is in their office, a spontaneous drop-by may be a waste of time.
  • You can reach more prospects in a shorter amount of time. The biggest advantage of phone prospecting is its efficiency. Sales reps can expect to make about 15 calls an hour, and complete about two or three of them. If you call similarly situated companies, you can use the same basic outline to discuss shared problems, priorities, and solutions.

So what's your plan?

When prospecting over the phone, seek out prospects whom you don’t know or haven’t met.

Set as many appointments as possible with any good prospect who will meet with you.

Target vertical markets or firms with similar challenges. If your prospect won’t agree to meet with you, move onto the next call. If you can’t get through, leave a good voicemail.

Of course, you should always feel free to modify and fine-tune these plans to accommodate the characteristics of your target market and overall sales process.

The important thing is to have a plan (or two) that recognizes the different ways you communicate with your prospects, and makes the most out of their strengths and weaknesses.

And if you ever want to talk more about how you can improve your business development strategy, feel free to give us a call. Or drop by. Whatever works best...