Brian Carroll

Email vs. Phone vs. In-Person Meeting? Four Viewpoints

To what extent can emails be used in place of phone calls and face-to-face meetings when maintaining and developing relationships with clients and other important network contacts?

Four bloggers have all agreed to post their answers to the email question simultaneously, each offering a different perspective, with all responses linked.  They are:

  1. Ford Harding, student of selling professional services.
  2. Tom Kane, specialist on marketing and selling legal services.
  3. Mark Buckshon, prodigious blogger and specialist on marketing and selling design and construction services.
  4. Yours Truly

I could make affirmative and negative arguments for email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings depending on the situation. But I think the answer to this question really revolves around the “maintaining and developing relationships.” In the end it all comes down to relationships.

I’ve found that emails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings all can help you start or continue conversations but they won’t do the hard work of building relationships for you. 

My research shows that executive buyers choose the sales person who has been a resource and developed a relationship with them regardless of their timing to buy. 

Average sales people think they are most effective when they talk with someone WHEN they are ready to buy, but top performers seek to build relationships with the right people in the right companies BEFORE they’re ready to buy.

Today’s prospects have a general lack of trust and they simply don’t want to be sold. They are weary of pitches, hype, pushy sales people and manipulative marketing tactics. They are time constrained and too busy to think. So what do they do with most of our sales and marketing messages)? They simply ignore them.

Time and time again it is proven that customers want the salespeople they deal with to understand their business, their needs, and the pressures under which they operate. These people are called trusted advisors

For this reason, I think it’s critical to contact and have initial conversations with our future customers that are devoid of sales pitches. Quite literally when we begin a conversation with them, their attitudes and beliefs are being shaped, primed by the information they have already soaked up through various sources. 

Be a resource to them regardless of their timing to buy. Otherwise, they are likely to get information from the internet or uninformed colleagues, trade publications or heaven forbid your competitors.

And I think a perfect way to do this is through lead nurturing. A key aspect of lead nurturing is the ability to provide relevant, valuable education and information to prospects up front. In this way you will be able to position yourself as a trusted advisor and perhaps even a thought leader.

Again, it’s about relationships. The key I think is putting the interests of our current or future customers first. That’s not always easy especially when we’re trying to meet objectives, growth goals etc. But when you do that, you don’t have to sell to people. You’ll start to find they even will come to you first when they are ready.

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Lead Nurturing, Leadership, Sales, Thought Leadership



  1. Darin
    | #1

    Great article. I agree that the “trusted advisor” approach will get you further in the long run than most other sales tactics. We’ve found that if you are not only one of the first to contact them but also get them to open up and then answer all their questions to their satisfaction, they are way more likely to become your customer. I’ve found that to be true time and time again even in my own experiences as a consumer, whether it’s a mortgage or running shoes.

  2. | #2

    Awesome article, Brian.

    I couldn’t agree more. I sell a product that is only a few k/year and I’m overwhelmed with lead volume. However, I find that if I take my time and just try to help people whether they’re ready to buy or not, they always come back. About 1/4 of my sales come from someone I haven’t talked to in a few months who have decided to get started because the time-ing became right for them.

    Admittedly I could do a better job at nurturing and “touching” prospects more frequently. But, I find that the quality of those interactions (from their perspective) is the differentiating point that keeps them coming back to me.

  3. | #3

    Hi Brian,

    Can you shed some light on the research you referenced in the sentence “My research shows that executive buyers choose the sales person who…” Are you refering to information from your book?

    Thanks,
    Justin Baker

  4. | #4

    Yes my statement is based on research I did while writing my book. Here’s some 3rd party research you might find interesting that I cite in my book as well.

    “90% of buyers want sales people to be more of a resource and Sales people who become trusted advisors and understand the needs of prospects are 69% more likely to come away with a sale.” – “Evaluating the Cost of Sales” study of 23,000 B2B buyers by Cahners Research (January 2002).

  5. | #5

    I think its best if the sales rep has the ability to “automate” all of these methods based on the individual.

    We’ve all met the type that isn’t going to buy until he looks you in the eye.

    For some, face to face visits kill profitability. Rote calling, blindly going down a list can come off as impersonal as an email.

    I want my emails to sound like I wrote them for each specific person. When I call, I want to be able to instantly say something that indicates I know something about the person I’m calling.

  6. | #6

    Thanks Brian,

    It’s great to see bloggers cite research, and its even better to see research based sales strategies.

  7. | #7

    A friend just forwarded this article to me. Great stuff, especially like the “simultaneous responses” from 4 experts. As a B2B marketing blog author, it’s a great technique.

    Kudos aside, the one point I think we leave as an assumption but I wanted to point out is that most great sales people are at their best in a face-to-face appointment. The problem many sales executives have though is they tend to use their first cold call as an introductory meeting. They start selling instead of just setting appointments.

    I just met with a sales guy for a payroll company. As a business owner, I want to trust him and respect him before I do business with him. He was straight and to the point when he was setting the appointment with me. We met, he was honest, brought value to the discussion, didn’t pitch me too hard, and acted as an adviser. Text book from your post. I’ll probably do business with him.

  8. | #8

    I call. I follow up with a email. And just work on the relationship and not push it and my big close when I feel we are ready is “are you ready to proceed or…..” and that’s about it . I’ve been doing that for 40 years and the technology just helps and helps and helps as time moves on – but the bottom line – it’s all about people and relationships!

  9. | #9

    Good Article Brian!
    “Trsuted Advisors” definitely is the need of an hour when it comes to evaluate the partner for a long term relationship. However, I must say that background research and quick press releases info are must for adding any value to our discussion with the prospects since they’re mostly not interested for any Sales Pitch.

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