Face-to-face selling has taken a knock in the recession, and Adobe wants the world to hear about the alternative: more web presentations, PDF-based portfolios, and lots of pitching using embedded video.
According to a new report (in PDF, naturally) published by the company, The Psychology of Presenting, the company has amassed evidence from 600 UK-based respondents to back up anecdotal stories that companies are finding it harder to get ‘face time' to sell their products in person.
Half of the IT and telecom sector reported have seen a reduction in the amount of time they spend with prospective customers, and 8.5 percent reckon that having to reply on alternatives to direct contact has cost them business, reports Adobe. Problematically, just over half rate personal contact with customers as ‘extremely important' with the rest saying it was ‘quite important'.
The report found, not surprisingly, that one third said their personality was the most important factor in any presentation, compared to the 44 percent that put content at the top of the list.
"The importance of personality in presenting is critical," says Adobe's EMEA senior director, David Gingell. "But it is getting harder to get those appointments. Perhaps people just haven't got the time."
The survey hints that the problem might not lie entirely on the customer side. Twenty-three percent of sales and marketing pros reported being discouraged to travel to meetings because of the cost, and a further 24 percent said they were encouraged to email presentations and then follow up with a phone call.
Being a technology outfit, Adobe sees the bridging of the presentation gap as being something that could be achieved by electronic means. The company sees hope in the finding that 14 percent thought videoconferencing a decent substitute for personal contact in sales situations, while a previous report commissioned by Adobe was said to have found that about the same percentage might already be using web or online conferencing in some form anyway.
Adobe has an explanation of its Acrobat portfolio technology - a kind of PDF container for multiple types of visual content - on its website for anyone who has never heard of it.
Adobe does seem to admit that technology alone won't solve the problem, however, noting that many respondents seem unsure as to how to use deploy it to achieve a sales objective.
"Most people are not comfortable enough to embrace new technology. It is a mindset problem more than a technological problem," says Gingell. His answer is a totally new culture of sales presentation that assumes that electronic presentations will be a mainstream rather than occasional tool of the selling pros.
What sales people think of selling using technology is one unknown, but nobody should doubt how seriously they take the underlying issue of engaging the customer, somehow, anyhow. As Alec Baldwin's Blake character said in the film version of David Mamet's hymn to sales misery, Glengarry Glen Ross, "second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."