Balancing Technology and Humanity in the Modern World of Selling

Gerhard Gschwandtner – Founder, MindsetScience

I've always been fascinated with the impact of technology on the profession of selling.

That’s why I decided to support the Microsoft Modern Workplace series of webcasts. I am happy to share my thoughts on the Modernization of Selling, a topic they will be exploring in the webcast that is live on demand right now.

In the past 20 years the world of selling has moved from 1.0 to 2.0 and then to 3.0. Sales 1.0 began in 1896 when John Henry Patterson, the founder of NCR (National Cash Register) drafted the blueprint of the modern sales force. His team created the first sales manual outlining all features and benefits of the company’s product, the cash register. It had a chapter devoted to the best responses to the most frequent customer objections. Patterson had every salesperson learn the step-by-step process for demonstrating the product in the most effective way. He created protected territories and made sales training mandatory for all salespeople. Patterson’s sales manager was Thomas J. Watson. When Watson moved on to the company that ultimately became IBM, he replicated the Patterson formula for sales success. At the center of his approach was the word “Think” which Watson had written on an easel before every sales meeting. He always reminded salespeople that they didn’t get paid for working with their feet, but for working with their heads.

The Sales 1.0 era lasted about 100 years. Sales was a profession that flourished through the art of face-to-face selling. Salespeople learned from self- and sales-improvement gurus like Dale Carnegie, Earl Nightingale, Zig Ziglar and W. Clement Stone.

Around 1996 a new era began where salespeople were equipped with laptops, loaded with sales force automation software like Telemagic, GoldMine and ACT! Instead of manually entering customer data on a 3x5 card or on a ledger, salespeople would track their client information on their computers. The Sales 2.0 era lasted only 20 years, but those two decades spawned such major innovations as social, mobile, big data and cloud computing. While outside sales forces grew smaller, inside sales teams grew larger. Salespeople realized that the old ways of selling had faded. They were no longer the providers of information to the customer (the web replaced that), they had to become providers of insight. The biggest change of the Sales 2.0 era was that buying and selling moved online. Even before speaking to a salesperson, buyers completed 60% of their journey online.

Today we are standing at a new frontier: the world of Sales 3.0. With nearly 7 billion mobile devices on the market we have created an interconnected world that creates an unprecedented amount of data which contains far more information than humans are able to analyze. The pivotal solution that launched the 3.0 era was artificial intelligence, a powerful tool that mimics human cognitive capacity while it extracts insights from data without being specifically programmed. Machine learning and AI will lead the digital transformation of all sales organizations.

Like most pharmaceutical remedies, technology has side effects with unintended consequences. Research shows that people can get addicted to their mobile devices, spending more time on watching videos, playing games or mindless surfing the web instead of harnessing the productive capacities of technology. Instead of shaping reality, they avoid it, which can lead to diminishing their success potential.

Successful salespeople know how to balance technology with humanity. While peak performers will aggressively exploit new technologies, they will be mindful of their human values and respectful of the customer as a human being. The diagram below illustrates the four dimensions of the Technology/Humanity grid.

Salespeople with high technology savvy and low concern for humans (customers or coworkers) allow themselves to get carried away by technology at the expense of human relationships. They become so tech obsessed to the point that human relationships are no longer a priority in their mind. Their sales process is ineffective because of their transactional mindset.

Salespeople with high human values and a low regard for technology are driven by relationships and they’ll have great conversations with customers on a personal level. With little regard for a structured sales process, they are unable to capture their true market potential. These salespeople are stuck in the 1.0 world. They invest little time adopting technology tools that would make them more efficient and productive.

Salespeople with low human values and low interest in technology are under performers and shouldn’t be on the payroll.

Salespeople that are very savvy with technology and are committed to high human values will set new sales records. They are the peak performers on your team.

In the new Sales 3.0 world of selling, technology will make good salespeople great; it will make great salespeople unstoppable and it will make average salespeople irrelevant.