A Sales Prospecting Parable: Phone Beats Keyboard

If you’ve been selling for any length of time, you’ve been tempted to contact your prospects by digital means — email or text — instead of the phone. Phil Bernstein is here to tell you that the phone still beats the keyboard.

One evening not long ago I boarded a flight from El Paso to Denver. I was supposed to change planes in Denver and continue on my way back home to Portland, Oregon. Instead, bad weather in the Denver area forced us to circle aimlessly for more than an hour before landing in Cheyenne, Wyoming to refuel. Eventually we took off again, but by the time we landed in Denver I’d missed my connecting flight, which was the last one of the day.

Photo by Thomas Leuthard

Photo by Thomas Leuthard

Phil Bernstein needed a hotel for the night.

An airline customer service agent booked me on a flight out the next morning, and handed me a list of airport-area hotels. The first thing I did was fire up my iPad, figuring I’d book a room online. Every website showed a sellout for the night. Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Fairmont Inn, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, La Quinta… on and on it went, with each site showing nothing available.

Eventually I ran out of websites to look at, so I decided to go old-school… the telephone. I started calling the local front desks of the same hotels that had rejected me digitally. I was suddenly back to my radio AE days… prospecting, dialing for dollars. Only this time, I was dialing for shelter.

The first two clerks I talked to were sympathetic, but couldn’t help me – they were truly sold out. But the third call connected me to a very nice woman at the Fairmont who had one room open. I gave her my credit card over the phone; 20 minutes later I was in the room, and ten minutes after that I was asleep.

At some point during the process I realized that this was a pretty good prospecting lesson. In three words, the lesson is this:

Phone beats keyboard.

I had started my room search with a computer for the same reason that salespeople try to sell with email… it’s easier, it’s faster, and you don’t have to deal with messy conversation and personal interaction. What I learned (or, more accurately, re-learned) is that it’s messy conversation and personal interaction that gets things done.

The next time you’ve got something to discuss with a client or prospect, put the keyboard away. No matter what day of the week it is, pretend it’s “Throwback Thursday”. Even in 2014, the most effective prospecting tool on the planet is still the good old telephone.




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