Your Sales Team Isn’t Digital: Report from the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco

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By Joanne Black

Predictive analytics, social media, technology tools. All of these can be good productivity resources. But people do business with people – not with technology.

This was an overarching message from many of the speakers at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this year. And I was glad to hear it. Even in the digital age, relationships still rule in sales.

As Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of Selling Power, put it, “Technology is getting better. How will people get better?” He reminded sales reps that peak performance comes from creating value for others, and he encouraged business leaders to start by engaging their workforces and taking care of them.

The message was loud and clear: Sales is still all about people.

Gerhard and I aren’t the only ones who think so. Below are some key takeaways from other thought leaders who spoke at Sales 2.0 this year.

“The Building Doesn’t Write Checks, People Do”

That was my favorite quote from Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing. He advised, “We are always selling to the people. Appeal to the people and sell to the account.”

It’s our job as salespeople to help buyers envision the outcome before they take action. That requires having conversations, which is one thing technology can’t do for us.

Matt reminded us to always start with the problem, not what your cool technology can do. No one cares about your technology. They only care how it can help their businesses.

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Are Your Sales Reps Pitching?

Barbara Weaver Smith, founder and CEO of The Whale Hunters, shared alarming research. Enterprise-level buyers report that salespeople who come to see them are shallow. They only talk about what their products or services can do.

That’s not what these buyers want. They want to work with salespeople who can help them devise and achieve strategic outcomes – those who can talk to “Moby Dick” and have high-level conversations. Salespeople don’t have to have all the answers, Barbara said. But they need to ask very pertinent questions that show they know what is going on in the business world around them.

People Buy with Emotion and Justify with Fact

I thought that phrase was outdated now that so many people depend on technology. Not so, according to John Turner, SVP of sales for TriNet.

Making an emotional connection isn’t just a key way to reach prospects. It’s also important for sales leadership.

John pointed out that salespeople are free agents, and all of us have options. That’s why sales organizations need a strong mission and values. Everyone wants to be part of something meaningful. It’s hard to keep that focus and mindset in a growing organization. But, if sales teams know their leaders want to build a championship company, they will stay.

True Connections Matter, People Matter

Amanda Kahlow, founder and CEO of 6sense, brought along her dog, Calvin – not only because he’s the chief happiness officer, but also to illustrate a point. Anyone who’s owned a dog knows, if you give animals trust, they will respond and stay. If you set clear boundaries, they will live up to expectations. It’s exactly the same with people, said Amanda.

While it’s important to understand our markets, we must also understand our customers. Amanda underscored that empathy is essential to understanding where people are coming from, and that salespeople must truly care to make the important human connections that drive sales.

If You Want to Be a Trusted Advisor, You Need Two Things

“Trust and advice,” says Anthony Iannarino. Selling means caring enough to create value for other people, and helping them with business problems they couldn’t solve without you.

Level-4 salespeople are focused on value creation first, Anthony explained. They’re “other oriented” and never talk about themselves. They also have a future orientation. They collaborate with clients to build a vision of what the future looks like. He reminded us, “It’s not about the technology; it’s about the technology ‘up here.’”

Simply put: It’s all about the relationships.

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My Two Cents

Computers do many things more effectively and efficiently than humans, but – outside of a few terrifying science-fiction movies – there’s still one thing they can’t do: think for themselves. Technology expedites many tasks, but, at the end of the day, people do business with people. In fact, the more technology-driven this world gets, the more we appreciate actually talking to and working with people.

The challenge, then, is to balance the high-tech innovation that drives today’s business world with personal, high-touch relationships. It’s not technology versus humanity, and it’s not either/or. We want both. We’re not changing the need for humanity – just some of the requirements.

Joanne Black cold calling Sales 2.0Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling – the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System that Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit You can also follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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