Barbara Stöttinger from the WU Executive Academy speaks in an interview about building trust and the importance of telephone calls.
Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy
KURIER: As the dean, you don't have sales pitches, but you also have to build relationships and stay in contact with alumni. How do you do that in times of distance?
Barbara Stöttinger: If you have already established contacts, it is not so difficult to maintain them via Zoom or Teams. But what is missing, of course, is the personal relationship. It is different to meet in the office and start a conversation or to meet at events. We humans perceive a lot through five senses. In the online world these are severely limited.
It is said that difficult conversations should better be conducted in private, in direct exchange. Today you have to use digital communication tools. A disadvantage?
It's certainly not an advantage, but you can think of creative ways to get as close as possible to the person. Sometimes it helps to diversify the use of your tools. Instead of holding a video call, you can just pick up the phone. This creates more familiarity, especially with difficult conversations, it gives the other side an opportunity to retreat, a protected space. You don't see each other in front of the camera.
But how do you create trust when you don't see each other?
By communicating more than usual. And I do believe that the conscious switch, for example, from the camera to the telephone is good here, it gives the conversation a different weight. It creates a new setting, even though it's a very old device. With video calls, you often don't feel how uncomfortable the person's visibility can be, especially when it comes to uncomfortable conversations such as payment deferrals. Restricting just listening can be a good thing.
The attention span is also lower in video calls. Does that mean less time in sales to reach customers?
Nothing changes in the basic things. What makes good salespeople, good preparation, regular contact, remains important. Only the ways to get there have changed. In the past, you could drink a coffee to warm up and small talk at personal meetings. In many video conferences there is no such mood, one call chases the next and you are usually in the middle of the conversation from the first minute. This relationship work is also important online, just ask how everyone involved is doing.
How do you adapt your way of conducting sales calls to digital reality?
In general, it is always important to be professional and authentic. It's a bit more difficult in front of the camera. So, just like in sales training, it is worth filming yourself to see how you look in front of the camera. Influencers, for example, have perfected their presence in front of the camera. You can definitely learn something from this.
Will the pandemic change sales pitches in the long term?
We will not go back to the same point. Video calls will remain, but there were also before Corona and business flights were still made. When it comes to things like customer acquisition, large projects or long-term contracts, personal contact will remain important.