Why “Efficient” Isn’t Always Effective

Sometimes the least efficient forms of communication have the most powerful effect.

a pen is a powerful sales tool

Photo by BillionPhotos.com/dpc


Personal Interaction Sales Skills Lesson 1

My Toastmasters club meets every Saturday morning. Every Saturday morning there are three speeches, and a club member evaluates each one. The roles are assigned in advance. Every now and then the meeting organizer has to fill a role at the last minute.

Generally, the organizer sends out a mass email to the whole club — “Hey, everyone, we need an evaluator for Jim’s speech. if you can fill in, please let me know!” Generally I glance at those emails and move on.

But I didn’t delete last week’s email from David Johnson.

Dear Phil,

We have two slots open for the meeting on Saturday.

Dominic volunteered for the grammarian spot

Would you like to be the General Evaluator or Ruth’s speech evaluator?

The email went on to describe Ruth’s  upcoming speech, and ended with a nice assumptive close: “Please let me know which role you would prefer.”

I wrote back and signed up to evaluate Ruth’s speech.

Why did I respond to this email when I’ve ignored most of the others?

Because I know David, and he had written directly to me. It is certainly possible that he copied and pasted the body of the email, but it felt like a personal message.


Personal Interaction Sales Skills Lesson 2

I fly on business at least twice a month, usually on United Airlines. Most of the time the flights go smoothly, but every now and then the plan breaks down: weather or mechanical difficulties can result in missed connections and hassle.

When that happens, I often get an automated email from United the next day apologizing for the inconvenience. I delete those as fast as they hit my inbox.

Last week at Portland International Airport, I was attempting to fly to Columbia, SC. My plane to Dulles sat on the ground as a mechanical issue turned our 8:00am departure into an 8:30 departure… then a 9:00 departure… then a 9:30 departure. When it became clear that I was going to miss my connection, I talked the flight crew into letting me off the plane so that I could book a new itinerary.

As I stood at the gate working out the paperwork with the agent, the pilot walked off the jetway, introduced himself, and apologized to me for the inconvenience.

“If I could just divert the flight to Columbia and drop you off, I’d do it,” he said. We chatted for a few minutes, he thanked me for my flexibility and patience, and he got back on the plane.

I’m a grown man and have been for a while, but there’s a little kid in me who was thrilled to be personally acknowledged by the pilot. I was so startled that I neglected to write down his name.

I told that story on Facebook the same day, and told it to several of the salespeople in Columbia. It will likely make its way into my sales seminars.

Sales Coach S. Anthony Iannarino puts it this way:

…when you are playing at a higher level, creating and capturing more value, efficiency isn’t the goal.

  • A human being helping connect you to the person you need to speak to creates greater value than a call tree that first requests your customers language, asks them to pay attention because their choices have changed, and then offers them 8 different choices in a voice that makes it difficult to pay attention.

  • A human being showing a real interest in developing a relationship with you creates a very different experience than a slightly customized email with a clumsy ask at the end. A human being that has personally sent you ideas, in their own handwriting, with highlighted passages and personal notes, is different than an automation funnel.

  • The salesperson who sold you something calling you to follow up to ensure you are 100% satisfied and that you are getting the outcome you bought and paid for is different than a survey link being sent my email. One says “I care about you” as a person, and as a client. The other says that your company is checking the box.

Are you really connecting with your customers, or just checking the box?

Iannarino acknowledges that there needs to be a balance — for getting your work done, automation can be a godsend. But efficient isn’t always effective.

Sometimes you need to go old-school, one-to-one.

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