Larry Bellehumeur | March 19th, 2018

Yes, I need help.  I am quoting Top Gun for about the 500th time in one of my blogs.  However, in my defence, this reference is actually justified, at least in my narrowly-focused mind.


In the movie, they mentioned how the idea of Top Gun was created to bring back the notion of having pilots rely less on their technology and more on their own skillset.  By focusing more on their skills, they were able to use the technology advances on their planes as an advantage to their opponents whose planes were technologically inferior.


The same holds true for salespeople in their use of technology.  What brought this blog on was the sheer amount of automated calls/emails that I have been getting lately trying to get me to either buy more of what I have already purchased or to buy new stuff.  It seems that we have gotten way too lazy in the field of Sales, relying way too much on technology rather than old fashioned sales skills.


Sales sure have changed from the days of "Mad Men".  In those days, salespeople did not have access to tools that we take for granted today, such as email, cellular phones and even fax machines.  All sales were done on the phone or in most cases, in person.  While this definitely helped to improve the close rate (as well as the personal nature of relationships), it definitely limited the amount of customer contact that the average salesperson could have in one day.  It also made it impossible to reach people when they were travelling, at least compared to today.


Advances like cell phones, availability of email while mobile and online presentation skills such as Webex were intended to make our salespeople more productive. However, have we gone too far past them being used as a tool and instead caused salespeople to forget why most customers choose to deal with them in the first place?


The need to balance old-school methods vs. the use of technology

Like everything else in life, moderation is usually the best method.  The reality of sales is that all the emails in the world cannot nearly add up to how effective it is to sit down face to face with your customers.  Customers simply feel more comfortable dealing with a live face than words on a 4" screen.


However, it does not mean that we have to go back to the old days of handwritten memos and rotary style phones (anyone under 25, please ask your grandparents about them).  We need to use technology to enhance our ability to get back to customers.


Some examples:

* Email is a great way to get messages out to a large number of people. However, I am not sure if I ever replied to something that started out "Dear Sir/Madam" unless it was from the government.  If you take the time to personalize an email, it will be much more effective.


* Online tools like Webex and GoToMeeting can be very effective, but only for certain applications.  Ideas like training can be good, but they often come across as boring monologues if there is no interaction.


* M2M can help here as well. A lot of great information can be derived from customers’ equipment.  In fact, systems can be used to automatically detect that a customer's equipment is having issues and make the repair without any user interaction.  However, this is where the personal side comes in....a A quick phone call to the customer to let them know what happened, how you detected it and what fixed it goes a long way to customer retention.


Bottom Line

I don't think anyone really wants to go back to the days of Mad Men....well unless you are at a Halloween party.  Technology has enabled companies to do so much more with less, but we can't do that at the cost of sacrificing the ability to better serve our customers.  Technology needs to be used as an aid, not as a method to replace dogfighting skills.