The Face Race. Where next for hybrid sales?

Have you played the new etiquette game yet? You’re meeting someone for the first time in a while and handshaking seems a bit uncertain whilst bumping elbows all feels a bit artificial. Then you meet a friend in a pub and before you know it you’re in a good old-fashioned hug. Weird eh?

It’s easy to forget this time last year we were heading towards what became a six-month lockdown. The vaccine hadn’t been tested and with cases rising social distancing was still a thing.

We were having lots of conversations with clients then about the new concept of hybrid selling. With both customers and sales people unsure about the decency of face-to-face contact there was much speculation about whether you could create a hybrid sales role. One where someone built their diary with the occasional in-person meeting surrounded by zoom appointments. 

Whilst health pressures made this a sensible short term solution, we were never convinced this would really work. If you’ve seen sales people in action you’ll know that interaction with others is an energy source for them. It’s not just a question of what tool to use, it’s about where their motivation comes from; and what sustains it.

Now of course people are shuffling back to an office-based life and getting used to in-person contact again. What’s been really noticeable in the last few weeks is the number of comments we’re hearing about how much easier it is to do business face-to-face. Have you come across this:

  • We had a chat and solved the problem in five minutes!
  • We came up with some great ideas. You never do that on Zoom
  • It’s so much easier together in a room

And of course…

  • You’re taller than I realised!

Some of the technologies available are amazing and we’re lucky to live in an era where you can Zoom someone in Zagreb (that’s if “to zoom” is a verb??). But being forced to live our lives that way seems to have triggered an “old tech” bounce-back. Very simply (and not that surprisingly) people love meeting others face-to-face. Not necessarily everyone, maybe not all the time, but it’s showing up as a theme.

So when someone asked us in a sales training programme last week “should we try to see the buyer in person” we knew the answer. “Yes”. This was drummed into us as junior sales people many years ago, but it holds true today. If you’re selling and have the chance of sitting in front of a buyer you’ll probably find you have more time, more focus and more emotional connection.

If you have an established relationship and need to resolve a couple of operational issues maybe a quick 15-minute Zoom is better than waiting a fortnight for an appointment, but if you’re looking to create an impact, face-to-face is going to be more effective. 

So is the position of hybrid sales person extinct? There will always be reasons why a role needs a mix of skills or experiences, but our call is that specialism will win out here. If you’re selling products or services that justify a customer meeting then your chances of success will be greater in a face-to-face appointment. Of course, ensuring everyone is comfortable and safe whilst you meet.

Don’t just settle for a virtual second best. 

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