In a time of ever-improving technology, the use of e-mail, cellphones and computers are all designed to make us more efficient and productive. However, there is one factor that still remains the most valuable tool in our arsenal of sales tools – our voice.

Like any good craftsman, we all have different tools for different applications. A carpenter isn’t going to use a tape measure to pound nails. In my years spent as a mechanical engineer, I had many people ask me why I kept the simple, basic CAD system on my computer when I had the latest and greatest 3-D modeling software at my fingertips. I never wavered in my answer: I don’t need advanced 3-D software for putting straight lines on paper. In sales, using the wrong or right tool can make, or break, a sale.

So many seem to default to e-mailing customers rather than picking up a telephone and giving them a call to discuss possible new jobs. Most would claim it is due to busy schedules. With electronic communications, so much is lost. You do not have an opportunity for Q&A. Days can go by before getting all of the information needed to fully help a customer. Your customers can not pick up on your compassion or desire to help them find a solution to their problem.

I personally have had customers that I have spent time with on the phone who continue to come back to me for further assistance, new orders or just to say hello. This is simply because I took the time to pick up a telephone and call them to let them know that I am a real person looking to help them.

E-mails are great for the transfer of documents, photos and files and to ask or answer simple questions. However, at the start of a project when the majority of details are required, picking up the phone and making a call is imperative. The term “sales call” is still valid and has not yet been replaced with “sales e-mail” for good reason.

That is not to say that e-mails or other forms of electronic communication do not have their place, because they do. There are obviously times where recordable “paper trails” are required, such as submitting proposals, purchase orders, instructions and more.

An example is after you have already made the deal. The customer has submitted a purchase order, and you want to update them on the status of their order. Then a simple e-mail to say all is well and on track is fine.

Let’s say something is not fine. Let’s say a vendor has informed you of an item being on back order that is going to negatively impact your lead time for your customer. This is a time you pick up the phone and call the customer for a couple of reasons. First, you need to apologize for the upcoming delay, and you need to let them know that you are taking this issue to heart and will continue to follow their project very closely to help ensure, to the best of your ability, no further delays will be an issue. This gives you an opportunity to discuss alternative solutions to keep the project on schedule or if the delay, while not ideal, is acceptable.

Calling the customer in this situation does a couple of things. It tells your customer: We really appreciate you choosing us to meet your needs, and we want to make sure you are being given the attention you deserve. Had this interaction taken place over e-mail, the questions could not be asked without a delay for answers when time is an important factor.

In short, every tool has its purpose no matter how simple or how technologically advanced. The difference is that a successful sales professional knows when to use the right tool for the task at hand.

After graduating in 2000 from Lincoln Technical Institute in Indianapolis with a degree in Mechanical Drafting and CAD Technology, Kelley worked as a mechanical engineer in the refrigeration-equipment industry before moving into the custom-fabrication market. He designed rugged computer-server enclosures followed by continuous casters for larger steel mills. He joined Lindberg/MPH in 2016 as an application engineer and was recently promoted to manager.