Has the digital world made traditional sales techniques passé? Last week’s post dealt with personal cold calls and whether they are the best use of a sales rep’s time. For the most part, I think not.
My post drew a lot of comments but not nearly as many as a recent blog post by a company called HubSpot. They specialize in inbound marketing; i.e. getting the customers to come to you rather than finding them by more conventional and tedious methods like cold calling. Now, I am a Hubspot fan. They have taught me some very useful techniques to get more visibility for Elite Envelope. In fact, they host this blog and provide some great tools for tracking its effectiveness.
But they lost some credibility with me and many others when they posted a blog entitled: "Dear US Postal Service: Please Stop Encouraging Direct Mail". (!) They’ve already gotten enough free publicity in the blogosphere among irate direct mailers and their supporters (I’m guessing that was part of if not the entire point) so I’m not going to delve too deeply into the post. The main point was that direct mail was dead and web-based marketing was vastly superior; period, end of story.
The tone of the blog had a certain fervor and arrogant certitude which unfortunately can characterize true-believers in any endeavor. HubSpot is a very successful company and what they do, they do very well. But direct mail remains an effective tool to win business. Inbound marketing and direct mail along with advertising, direct selling, telemarketing and many other techniques can all be used effectively and are not mutually exclusive.
The message of this blog reminded me of those who said 10 years ago that e mail had effectively rendered regular mail useless. There is a tendency in human nature to become infatuated with the latest thing. It’s more a foible of youth but plenty of us regardless of age tend fall into the trap as well.
When I think of how I sold in the pre-digital age; with hand-written or type-written notes, maps in my car for directions, a roll of dimes for the payphone, the “beeper” on my belt going off because someone called the office looking for me, I am nothing but grateful for my smart phone, GPS and contact management software that does in minutes what used to take hours.
As the saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun. Things change; sometimes for the better sometimes not. While we have to be open to change we also need to have the wisdom to incorporate it for our benefit not simply for its own sake. For those of us in envelope and print sales, I think the best approach is to use new technology to make us more productive while never forgetting that there is no substitute for developing a strong personal connection with prospects and customers based on friendly service, competence, product knowledge and value. Some things are timeless for good reason.