Why direct sales is still king

As we continue in the bull rush of the social media age and the increasing interconnectivity it has spawned, it's worth reconsidering how much of priority direct sales is in your marketing strategy portfolio. While it is understandable and even recommended to diversify your efforts, let's reacquaint with the value of effective communication, relationships and the extras of direct sales, especially in light of social media.

Communications - Sociologists have studied interpersonal communications, and have broken down the effectiveness of various means to communicate intended messages between two parties. Consider that person to person communication is roughly 90 percent effective, because beyond the words spoken, you can also interpret tone of voice and visual cues from body language like rolling of eyes or the folding of arms. Keep in mind - communication is a two-way street. You can craft a great message, but if it is falling on deaf ears, and you can't determine why, that message isn't really effective, because it hasn't translated into business. Compare that with a phone call, where the visual cues have been removed, and the communication rate drops to 50 percent effective. Now consider email and text, where tone of voice is also removed, and your effective rate is now 10 percent. So that tells us that direct sales, done correctly, is twice as effective as phone calls, and a staggering 9x more effective than email/text. When you are comparing the return on investment of various marketing methods, keep these de-ratings in mind.

Relationships - While much light is made of the glad handing sales guy that is all about the grip and grin, studies also show that personal relationships translate more often into sales, both immediate and long term. We see it in our own business - we're often looking for ways to work with a salesman that calls directly on us and that we have a relationship with. We want him or her to succeed because they are, "a good guy", or she's, "going to bat for us." Yes, it often comes down to the big three of price, service and quality, but if all of those are roughly equal, who do you think gets the business more often - the guy with the direct relationship or the one that only calls and emails? Our experience has also been that the people who like us will give us a heads up if there has been an issue with our product, or if someone else in their organization is potentially looking to move the business away from us. This can keep your company from being blindsided, and give you a chance to proactively address the situation, instead of reacting once someone's reached their boiling point. And in the age of having hundreds of social media friends and followers that can often feel shallow and superficial, direct person-to-person relationships are even more valuable than ever, helping set you and your company apart from your competition.

Extras - The last area we will highlight is what we call extras. It happens over and over again - you get in a conference room with a potential customer, and you being to develop a rapport and relationship. Before long, you are gaining information that you just wouldn't get over phone or email, no matter how many times you ask. Part of that is the fact that you are most often walled off in a conference room or off site at lunch, where other ears in cubicleland can't hear. Part of it is they can see you are earnest in wanting to know them, their company and their issues just by the investment you have made in the visit. And part of it is proximity - by being on site, they can take you out to their lab, or manufacturing floor, or range and show you the issues they are experiencing. You may even see your competitor's product. Some of our best new product innovations have come not from our brainstorming sessions in our conference room, but from asking our customers what other problems they are having. Don't underestimate what an effective salesperson can cull from a direct sales call - it might not just be your next sale, but your next product!

We like to look at our marketing efforts as we do a portfolio of stocks - we want a diversified but multifaceted and cohesive strategy that effectively communicates our message and translates into growth of our business. Direct sales efforts are a big investment decision for any organization, and social media provides many other outlets to reach and stay in front of your prospects and customers. While there is rightfully a lot of buzz around what social media can do, keep in mind that making the big investment in direct sales can continue to provide big return in more effective communication, improved relationships and the extras that can be the difference in gaining or retaining a customer.

"I can't tell you how unusual it is to find such a responsive and helpful company to work with. We are especially impressed by their heater technology. These little units put out more heat than any we looked at, yet are so compact, we can fit them almost anywhere. We look forward to a lasting relationship with Calienté."

Stuart Solomon, Lifeforce Energy Corp.