As I write this, I sit at Panera Bread drinking coffee with my iPhone, my iPad, and my laptop all running at once. I am wired and apparently, I am a technology addict.
According to a recent article in The Week magazine Technology: Is it making addicts of us all? next year will mark the first time, "Internet Use Disorder" will appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Started as an online tongue-in-cheek ailment in the 1997, Internet Use Disorder is defined broadly as excessive computer use that interferes with daily life (those who use the Internet more than 38 hours per week) and can cause diminished concentration, empathy, and impulse control. Symptoms range from depression to acute psychosis.
I don't feel depressed or psychotic, but there are times when I do feel relationally detached.
I've been in sales and marketing for over 20 years and I am convinced, today more than ever, that successful selling is still about building trusted interpersonal relationships, over time, through a series of positive interactions.
I've always wanted better tools that would help me build customer relationships. As a sales person in my 20s, when I carried a 10-pound Franklin Planner in my arms and had a bag-phone the size of a fax machine strapped to my neck, I dreamed of a future when inexpensive mobile phones would enable me to return customer calls more promptly, of a time when I could have a low-cost portable computer so I could retrieve information about our products quickly, and a system that would help remind me of my appointments and commitments automatically.
The technology available for sales and marketing people to manage and maintain customer relationships has vastly exceeded anything I hoped for or even imagined back then: CRM systems, Social Media, Video Conferencing, Wiki's, Smart Phones, IM, to name a few.
A dream come true, right?
This is where the problem often lies: so much technology to manage, so little time to actually get to know someone. In a world where we are more connected to each other than ever we are more isolated than ever. That is, we lack substantial relationships. In the context of selling, a sale lacking relationship is known as a "transaction." As sales people, we've all learned this equation:
Transactional Selling = Eminent Extinction.
My point here is that we should remember that no matter what business we are in, we are all still in the business of people. So, lets do what we can to give technology its proper place as a tool to craft relationships. (And, by the way, there are some great CRM tools out there.)
Customer relationship-building is a craft.
And as craftsmen, we must realize that we cannot spend too much of our focus on our tools. I am an avid acoustic guitar player (notice I didn't use the word "good") and I love hand-crafted guitars. And while I am certain the luthiers at Gibson Guitar rightfully give their lathes and chisels a lot of attention, it is clearly apparent that they remain laser-focused on what they are ultimately building: beautiful guitars that last beyond a lifetime.