Sales coaching – addressing the smartphone reflex

sales coaching

Sales coaching

Selling – technology definitely provides new opportunities for sales managers and sales reps. However, as relayed in the WSJ there are some pitfalls.

The article made us recall a scenario raised by a sales manager when customizing a sales coaching program for first-line sales managers.  The sales manager suggested this scenario:

I just walked out of a sales call with one of my sales reps. During the call, the sales rep’s smartphone buzzed and he checked his phone. The customer looked at him and then at me. What probably lasted a second or two felt like an hour. 

The sales manager went on to say, “I hadn’t thought much about it before, but I’m sure this happens more often than I might suspect. So, let’s include it in the program as one of the sales coaching scenarios our sales managers should address.”

Although glancing at a smartphone might seem to be a harmless act, it might not be that harmless.

Sales calls and the importance of eye contact

Research studies report that adults make eye contact 30% to 60% of the time in an average conversation. But if you make contact more often – 60% to 70% of the time – you create stronger connections during the conversation.

In sales calls, making a stronger connection matters.  Looking at someone when speaking also conveys confidence and respect. Withholding eye contact can be interpreted as a sign of carelessness or disrespect.

So why are salespeople looking at their smartphones during sales calls? According to Quantified Impressions a communications-analytics company, it’s become more culturally acceptable among twentysomethings to answer the phone no matter where they are or what they are doing.  But it’s not only the twentysomethings, many of us, regardless of age, have just become used to responding to our smartphones reflexively.

Eye contact and business meetings

Interestingly, eye contact issues move beyond reflexively looking at smartphones to other behaviors in business meetings that can be interpreted adversely by others at the table. For example:

  • Table talkers who constantly look at their notes or down at the table when talking.
  • Gaze grabbers who intensely look into others’ eyes when talking can make the listener feel like the salesperson is trying to dominate the conversation [ideally, holding eye contact for 7 to 10 seconds in a one-on-one conversation and 3-5 seconds in a group setting is ideal]
  • Eye darters are salespeople who look in all directions except the listener.

Remember, it’s not just what’s said during a sales call – or in any business meeting - that matters – it’s how you say it and how you say it can include more than just verbal behavior.

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©2013 Sales Momentum® LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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