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  • Jesse

How to build strong sales relationships in a remote world

When I was growing up, my dad traveled a decent amount for work. Sometimes it would be for a couple of weeks at time, and others months at a time. As a kid, I didn’t know anything different. It was totally normal to me. However, as I got older and would tell people my experience, I was regularly met with sympathetic eyes and a, “that must’ve been really tough.”  

Though I hate to disappoint, my general answer is “not really” and that’s for two keys reasons. First, I have an amazing mom who held down the fort when my dad was gone for work. Second, I have an awesome dad who still always managed to be present and involved even when physically separated. 

Truth be told, I don’t think I ever felt like he wasn’t there. Thinking back on that experience, there’s actually a lot I learned about building, maintaining, and growing, relationships remotely. 

These remote relationships are something many in sales jobs are learning to build right now. With no in-person pitches or prospect lunches to lean on, the way we connect and communicate has to change.

Though it may seem totally foreign, it’s not as complicated as you may think

From what I learned from my dad’s demonstration, and what I’ve learned even more about over these past few months, it really comes down to four key things:

  1. Over communicate
  2. Stay involved in the day-to-day
  3. Give the benefit of the doubt
  4. Be mindful of the time and their time
  5. Use digital tools to bridge the gap

Below, I talk about how you can put these things into practice to help build, grow, and maintain, sales relationships in a remote world.

Over Communicate

If you work in advertising, you’re most-likely aware of the “rule of seven.” For the uninitiated, the rule of seven refers to the idea that it takes seven interactions with a brand before someone makes a purchase. 

There’s no one specific thing that constitutes an interaction. It could be seeing an ad, visiting a company’s site, or talking with a representative from the company. The core idea of the rule of seven is quite simple: make the prospect aware of your presence.

Though you could argue that no matter the circumstance, communicating regularly is needed, in a remote-first world it’s even more important. The main reason is that in a remote-first world you’re not able to easily pop by someone’s office, or take them out for lunch. 

Those interactions are novel, and thus are easier to remember. In the remote world almost all interactions happen as an email, Slack message, or video call. With that being the case, it’s easy to have all your interactions kind of blend together. So, the only way to stay top-of-mind is to communicate more often. 

If possible, consider setting up a regular meeting cadence. You should also consider inviting the prospect to join in on any digital events your company may be putting on like webinars, or virtual happy hours.

Stay involved in the day-to-day

When I was in college one of my favorite shows was How I Met Your Mother. It’s an ensemble show, and two of the main characters are a couple, Marshall and Lily. They’re the couple everyone aspires to be and have a number of cloying sweet couple rituals. 

One such ritual is that they call each other every day and tell the other what they had for lunch. On the surface, it’s cute, but a little silly. But, when you think about it, it’s strangely intimate. You have to have quite a strong bond with someone to know that level of detail about their life. 

Now, I’m not suggesting you set up a daily “what’s for lunch” cadence with potential prospects. There’s simply not enough hours in the day and it would be weird. What I am suggesting is that you learn more about them than just what their key business issues are. 

Having those interactions let you develop a deeper bond. Consider asking how their weekend was, or hobbies they have. If you’re wondering if it’s really worth the extra effort, research shows 80% of people are more likely to make a purchase when their experience is personalized. So, take note of what they say, and then follow-up about a specific detail in a later interaction.

Give the benefit of the doubt

When someone sends a thumbs up emoji, what does that indicate to you? Do you take it as an efficient conversation device, or does it feel curt? Now, ask five other people how they interpret it. I bet the answer will vary. 

It’s easy to misinterpret a message when it’s just text. In remote relationships, a lot of your interactions do happen in text-only environments, so it’s something that will most likely come up. 

Though you can’t dictate how someone else writes an email, you can give them the benefit of the doubt when reading their message. Do your best to have a default view where you read things as positively as possible. 

When something feels worrisome, just ask for clarity, and be sure that you don’t come off as accusatory. Maybe say something like, “Hey, John. Reading through your message and was wondering if I could get some clarity around ‘X’ part. Thanks so much.”

Asking for clarity can help limit miscommunication between you and your prospect. It can also give some more insight into their communication style so you’re better able to approximate their tone in future conversations.  

Be mindful of the time and their time

The day I was offered my first position as a remote worker I almost missed the call. Let me explain. The company was based overseas. We’d had a number of interviews and I thought I knew what the time difference was, but I didn’t know daylight savings happened at a different time for them than it did for me. 

So, when I logged in to have our final chat I had tons of messages asking where I was. I missed the meeting by an hour. Luckily, they were very gracious with me and called later. With our networks getting more and more global, knowing what timezone someone is in is very useful information. 

Even within the U.S., there’s a three hour time difference between the east and west coasts. So, if you’re in New York, you probably won’t be doing any calls with prospects in California until 11 AM your time, at the earliest. 

A good way to combat the issue is to add what timezone they’re in in your CRM. From there it just comes down to checking beforehand. When you do so, you’ll limit needing to reschedule meetings, or asking for someone to join a call really early, or late, in their day.

Use digital tools to bridge the gap

There isn’t any true replacement for in-person interaction, but you are able to help bridge the gap using different digital tools. As most of us are familiar with by now, Zoom is a great option for video calls. You can also use Google Hangouts and a litany of other services if you prefer something else. 

You could also consider setting up a Slack channel where you can connect with clients asynchronously. I know you can use email for that, but using a chat application seems to allow for more informal communication, which can be useful. 

Another thing to consider is a digital proposal tool. In the remote-first world, where you don’t have the benefit of face-to-face meetings that we’ve historically used to really showcase who we are and make a strong connection, our sales materials are all the more important. 

By giving prospects an impressive, interactive digital sales experience that translates across all devices, we create a remote-first experience that matches the current environment and strongly connects us to them without the need for an in-person…. And it just so happens Qwilr helps you do that.

Making the most it

There’s no doubt that being in a remote-first world has changed the way we communicate. For those in remote sales jobs, there’s going to be a learning curve, but it may not be as steep as you think. No one’s going to be perfect right away, and that’s all right.

Really, what it comes down to is making sure you’re doing your best to be mindful of those you’re communicating with and putting in an honest effort to connect with them. Just like anything in life, what you put in is what you’ll get out.

So, make the effort. I promise you’ll be glad you did. 

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