What Technology Can Never Replace

in Random Rants

Have you seen the TV commercial with the shy boy who has a fear of public speaking?

He uses technology, the Google Nexus 7, to plan and deliver a successful speech. And then there’s a cute and heartwarming surprise at the end.

The commercial’s message is actually a metaphor for sales today:  technology is an amazingly powerful tool to enable us to more efficiently, effectively and persuasively speak with people.

Some individuals and organizations miss that last part.

Excuse my yelling, but I repeat, it enables us to more efficiently and effectively …

SPEAK WITH PEOPLE.

My head spins when I look at ever-growing assortment of all the wonderful technological tools available to sales and marketing departments.

Those of you who are lone wolfs, or are thrown to the wolves and must fend for yourself in finding and selling to your own prospects might find the following enviable and maybe even a bit hard to fathom:

The more fortunate sales reps who are employed by companies that invest heavily in the latest and greatest tools have warm leads delivered to them within seconds of a prospect expressing that interest online, and their CRM screen is populated with tons of intelligence about that individual. Yep, all teed up.

Some of you are salivating.

And unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for that sales rep to then get the hot prospect on the phone and in an unenthusiastic voice greet them with,

“Yeah, you were on our page and downloaded a whitepaper, so I was wondering what you are interested in.”

No. Seriously. I have received that call.

I could go to Home Depot and load a shopping cart with lots of top-of-the-line saws, air guns, and hand tools. And a really cool tool belt. I’ve always wanted a cool tool belt.

But I still wouldn’t be able to drive a nail straight or cut a board, let alone build something. I don’t know how. I don’t have the motivation to do so. And I would probably injure myself if I tried.

Those previous statements should not describe sales reps as it relates to having a meaningful, value-oriented DISCUSSION with prospects and customers.

Unfortunately, I don’t see as much urgency with sales people and managers to emphasize the human interpersonal communication skills required for live sales conversations.  Since you’re reading this, hopefully that doesn’t apply to you.

But you’ve seen it, too… sales reps who place call after call, leaving the same uninspired devoid-of-value message, then complaining that “people are too tough to reach.”

And then there are reps who spend hours on email for the same reason. When they do, by chance, get someone on the phone, they wing something that is about their products and not the buyer.

They quickly default into price quote conversations, placing them in the commodity category, the same as every other vendor.

Management is part of the blame in many cases.

Although I am a total believer in personal responsibility and controlling your own destiny, organizations that hire sales reps also have an obligation to provide an environment and resources to help reps be successful on calls.

What is a bit mind-boggling to me are the ones that invest heavily in technology, yet don’t pay equal attention to the most important interaction their business will ever have: what happens when their people actually talk to prospects and customers.

Ultimately, attaching the word “professional” after the title of “Sales” needs to be earned. It’s earned through hours of study, practice, review, and ongoing commitment to improvement.

Too many people are in sales positions, but are not sales professionals.

What’s troubling to me is that so many are looking for the “easy button.”

What’s the easy way to get calls returned?

What’s one thing I can I say to get interest right way?

What line can I use to overcome the price objection?

I’d like to go to Home Depot (I deep down wish I was handy) and ask, “Do you have an easy way for me to add a room on to my house?” (I already know, actually. In my case, make a phone call.)

The true sales professionals, the ones who look at their vocation like a doctor or a lawyer, understand that you never graduate. If you are done learning, you are done growing.

Let’s bring this in for a landing…

There has been no greater time to be in sales, particularly inside sales.

The technology and information tools available to us can help make our jobs easier, help make us more efficient, and help make our calls Smarter with intelligence.  Notice the word “help” before each of those?

Ultimately, it is up to the skilled craftsman to utilize the tools, in the right way, to end up with the best finished product.

Perhaps you’ve seen the predictions that salespeople will no longer be needed, or be around in the future. To a degree that might be true.

But there will always be a place for a sales professional who can eloquently communicate, influence, and ultimately help prospects and customers.

And that person will continue to be in greater demand as technology improves and communication skills of the general population decreases.

Be that in-demand person.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Senator Club December 8, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Well said Art. I get a little tired of hearing “all sales jobs will be replaced with tech automation.”

Ian

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Peter Rohr April 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

With all the texting going on (first dates sitting next to each other both texting to someone else, nobody talking to other people the way it was done when we took the bus to go to work, no more conversations when buying bread from the baker, meat from the butcher, etc., etc.) the need for real human interaction not through technology will be greater and more and more needed if the human race does not want not lose its sanity. Of course that is always a possibility. Peter Rohr

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Trish Bertuzzi July 10, 2015 at 4:42 am

I have said it before and I will say it again… the tech vendors give us faster and cheaper when in reality what we need is better. I have been receiving absolutely cringe worthy calls lately. Yes they “get” me on the phone but they don’t “keep” me on the phone because they know nothing about me or my business. Sales leaders today (some not all) are lazy and think the way to invest in their people is to give them automation instead of coaching. It is a bummer for those of us on the other end of the line.

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