Proactive v Reactive – The Balance

proactive v reactiveWith this article, I am provoking opinions and comments concerning the approach to being successful in an online environment compared with an offline environment.

In offline sales and marketing, in a B2B environment, I learned that to be successful you need to be predominantly proactive as an individual, but as a company you needed to provide a reactive interface with your customers in the form of customer service, technical support etc.

Of course, this should also include a proactive role to ensure that your customer is satisfied with the product/service they bought into.  Unfortunately, the later is often sadly lacking.

Rather than simply reacting to what is happening around you, it is generally accepted that to be successful, you need to be in control of what is happening in order to satisfy your own (and/or your employer’s) needs and aspirations.

You need to be in an active role by setting your own goals and anticipating and therefore being prepared for the inevitable obstacles you will encounter on the way.

Offline ‘direct’ sales people are trained to anticipate and give an appropriate response to all possible objections that may be raised by their prospects. To be successful you need to be prepared. However, once a sale has been achieved, they will move on to another prospect, rinse and repeat. Any reactive activity either does not exist or usually left to backroom staff. Again this is often sadly lacking.

In online business, this is exactly what a successful sales letter is designed to achieve. However, in most cases you, as the business owner cum salesman, want to maintain an ongoing  relationship with your customer, which involves  a  higher degree of reactive activity with regard to customer support etc.

However,  it’s also a question of striking the right balance between proactivity and reactivity and I believe that to be successful online you need to focus on achieving a 50/50 balance, whereas in offline business  I believe it’s nearer 75/25 in favour of proactivity, not because that is what’s required, but more to do with common practice.

The P2S program places a lot of emphasis on online presence, which means we need to be proactive via social media and other means to project ourselves as knowledgeable in our chosen field, responsive to the needs of our prospects and trustworthy and reliable in our interactions.  This involves a reactive level of activity such as commenting on blog posts, forum post etc. Particularly during the business development stage we need to do a lot of this.

Unfortunately, this can be very time consuming and distract you from your proactive role. It’s a question of getting the right balance. It’s so easy to spend a disproportionate amount of time browsing blogs and forums and commenting here and there, which apart from creating links back to our site, it is more a reactive than proactive activity.

We need to be proactive in following up with our customers to develop a relationship, which will encourage them to come back for more as a repeat customer.

I’m sure many of my readers will have a variety of views on this and welcome your comments below.


  • Jon Crimes

    Reply Reply April 6, 2014

    Very thought provoking article Richard.

    What has made all this worse for me, at least at the moment, is that I’m in a position like a lot of others where we have two jobs!

    The one I enjoy (writing this comment etc.)and the other ‘day job’.

    My day job seems to be almost completely reactive and that makes it doubly difficult to get the balance right when I get home and put on the IM trousers.

    What I’m trying to do is see all my IM activities as proactive but I know exactly what you mean, we just want to get on with the exciting stuff…

    Slightly off topic but blogging on my own site and others has re-ignited my love for writing, in the back of my mind and looking towards the future I think that is being proactive?

    Great blog Richard, love articles like this.



  • Richard G M Taylor

    Reply Reply April 17, 2014

    Thanks Jon, I think that even when we are ‘reacting’ to someones post as you have done here, it can also be perceived as proactive because by doing so you are developing your online presence and those all important backlinks…



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