Both in terms of actual sales and in order to develop your career, it's important to realize that technology cannot replace the sheer impact of personal contact. Although improved communication technology can facilitate interpersonal links, it's still the quality of the contact that counts, and face-to-face meetings are often the best way to facilitate this, at least at first.
Although many businesses these days are run on the premise that almost everything can be done via the Internet and email, this could be leading to superficial conversations and missed opportunities. Many customers are once again emphasizing the importance of personal contact to them in terms of their purchase decisions, and while this is not always created by a face-to-face meeting, it is easier to encourage when people can see one another and talk about their needs or concerns directly.
Of course, technology can be used effectively to arrange such meetings and to follow up on live contacts; this synergy is one of the advantages of technological progress, enabling salespeople to keep contacts live without being intrusive or taking up too much of a prospect's time. There are also ways of using technology to facilitate the next best things to live meetings if such things are impossible, including videoconferencing and Skype discussions, which allow contacts across long distances and save a great deal of money in travel expenses.
However, it's important to remember that it is the contact, not the technology, that needs to be the focus. Videoconferencing should not be used unless the setup is good enough that those conversing can forget they are in different places and can therefore have an open and useful discussion. Technological glitches and other issues are likely to cause conversation to dry up, preventing learning and inhibiting relationship-building.
Similarly, in terms of developing your career, it's important to realize that there is no replacement for direct business networking, no matter how good your online presence. The random conversations and throw-away remarks generated at breakfast meetings or supper gatherings are a rich source of information for an alert salesperson, and these types of gatherings also give you the chance to offer help to other professionals that will generate social capital for your future business. Again, however, technology's place in arranging, booking and facilitating these types of groups and meetings is assured, leaving only the actual socializing to do for yourself.
Humans are a social species, and both customers and colleagues are likely to react better to communication styles that involve at least some personal contact, and the best contact for developing relationships is still face-to-face. Try creating communication plans that include both face time and electronic follow-ups to maximize your opportunities and deepen your relationships with customers and peers.
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