A lot of my sales courses teach how to sell through meetings with your prospects. Namely, multiple meetings (or interactions) over a period of time.
I often get this follow-on question or some rendition thereof:
“I don’t live in the same city as many of my prospects, can I use your methods to sell over the phone?”
Yes. Absolutely. Most definitely.
Selling in person or over the phone is purely a function of economics.
Interactions Are Interactions
In the Web Design Sales Kit, I set up a formula to create key interactions in a sales process to fully discover and develop value. While I do prefer to sit down and meet with people face to face, I have executed this process over the phone countless times.
About 50% or more of my agency’s business was outside the State of Colorado. And a good chunk was even outside the USA. I sold over the phone constantly.
Not only that, but many of the deals I sold in Colorado, including Denver, were sold completely over the phone. If I’m really jiving with someone over a screencast, and they get it, why waste the fuel and extra travel time to set up an in-person meeting?
But my process never changed.
Where you have the meeting is less important than having the interaction itself. In-person interactions are always best, but proper screencast technology, a good headset, and enough room to get up and move around while you pitch will keep you engaged in the conversation enough to make it feel like it’s in person.
Where Are the Economics?
No matter where you and your client are in the world, if the economics support an in-person meeting, I would take it. If I had a client in Sydney, Australia for a $100,000 project that needed me out for an in-person meeting, I would be there. But if they wanted me out ten times during the next year—I would probably reconsider the budget.
So when thinking about whether or not to meet in person, first start with the economics. That is going to dictate if an in-person meeting makes sense or not.
If you are bidding on a $3,000 website build, and the client is in the same city with you, it might be a gamble. But still, for the possible lifetime value of the relationship, I might do a single in-person meeting if the deal is in my own backyard.
But if the deal was on the other side of the State, then count me out. We can get everything we need done over GotoMeeting without leaving the comfort of our own desks.
When thinking about whether to meet or not, calculate the time it will take to travel, the cost of travel, and how many times you think they’ll want to see you in person. Overall, sales time costs should be no more than 10% of a deal, and travel should only comprise a small portion of that cost, maybe 1-3%. So if you have a $10,000 project, you’ve got $300 tops to spend on travel expenses.
And using that same calculation, you have about $1000 to spend on sales in general—at $100/hour that would allow you 10 hours to invest in sales, but only 7 if you max out your travel budget.
If you have a $30,000 project, you might allocate up to $900 to travel expenses to visit the client (if necessary). I’ve won plenty of $30k projects without jumping on a plane, but if you needed to do so in order to win the business, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of budget possibilities, assuming it isn’t international.
Most Meetings Are Virtual
Now that you understand that meeting in person is just a factor of opportunity economics, it’s important to note that nearly any project that you will win of any value (even with in-person meetings) will be done mostly through virtual meetings.
If you follow my rhetoric that multiple interactions will lead to a higher price tag, and you target six to nine total sales interactions, even with a travel budget, you might only get one or two in-person interactions. Which leaves most of your interactions happening over the phone. More specifically, over screencast.
Except for my very first interaction (which is the cold call), and perhaps a single in-person meeting, all of my scheduled meetings are a GotoMeeting with a screencast. This allows me to present and be visual with my prospect while we are working through discovery. Understanding and comprehension are critically important in the sales process. Before I used screencast tools in my sales process, I would email over documents, or screens, or URLs, and invite the user to click and look. Many times the experience looked or felt different on their side, and I didn’t even know it.
Even when presenting a PDF document, before I email them a hard copy, I pull the doc up on my screen and walk through it section by section. This helps me to be able to call attention to specific areas of the page with my cursor. It gives my prospect the ability to “feel” like I’m right there in front of them with the material.
There Is Little Science to Which Is Better
There are plenty of proven sales models that work for both in-person or over-the-phone deals. Which is better is really up to your preference and the economics of the deal. Many of us work remotely from where our customers are, and that is totally cool.
I remember the first deal I signed with a company overseas via a Skype call at 2am…it was pretty awesome. I was really proud of myself. I felt very international.
But, if given the option, I prefer meeting in person. Everyone has their preference, but which is better is probably going to be based on your specific situation and the opportunity at hand.
Good luck and keep hunting.