The use of technology is one of the most common ways we define generational gaps. I can say that with some authority: Even though my office uses advanced technology on a daily basis, I still find it mystifying what younger generations are doing with it. (Can someone please explain to me the legitimate appeal of Snapchat?).
I've learned that it's okay not to chase every trend that pops up in the digital zeitgeist. But you owe it to yourself and to the organization to keep an open mind about how new technologies can improve your work as a sales leader.
To illustrate, have a look at this recent survey of Fortune 500 CEOs. While it suggests 80 per cent of them find communication across generations to be a most challenging issue in the workplace, it goes on to explain that the real issue isn't a matter of who is or isn't using new technology.
The challenge is in how it is perceived and in the assumptions we make about how it's applied to the workplace – especially in the workplaces of our buyers.
Technology is not a replacement for communicating with people. It does not render obsolete the time-honored business skill of building a great rapport with others. It enhances that skill.
It doesn't mean that you no longer have to conduct regular follow-ups with prospects directly. It means you have a greater selection of tools at your disposal to do so, and you must choose those tools that are most important to your buyers.
It doesn't mean you should just start messaging all your clients via LinkedIn rather than picking up the phone or arranging face-to-face meetings, but maybe there's a way it can improve your workflow and give you better results in less time with those buyers that are on LinkedIn.
Do your reseach. Since you and your sales team do your jobs well, you'll have already developed a deep, detailed profile on each person you do business with (you've done that, right?). You'll know which ones are open to using which new technology platforms and new approaches to achieve goals that matter on both sides of the negotiating table.
Timely versus timeless goals
Accelerating sales is a timeless goal. What's changed are the range of choices you have in how you achieve it, and the degree of openness to which people are willing to try new things.
I have a client with whom I negotiated and closed a major contract – all via text message. That happened only because I knew them well and understood this was a method of staying connected that they were comfortable with. Just as important, I understood how much they valued their time and the ability to make decisions quickly. So I used a tool that helped both of us meet those needs.
Consider your outcomes
Here's a simple test you can apply to your team when faced with a choice of whether to introduce a new technology into your sales process.
1. Does it get you measurably closer to your customer, either in terms of gaining regular face time or a deeper understanding of who they are and what matters to them?
2. Does using it save time for both parties without undermining the quality of the buying experience?
3. Does adding it to your workflow reduce the number of steps required to complete a business transaction while maintaining great personal rapport?
If you can answer yes to these questions, odds are good you're making a smart choice that will help you land more business and foster deeper relationships with customers and prospects.
Sales expert Colleen Francis is founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions and the author of the recently released Nonstop Sales Boom (AMACOM) Ms. Francis ensures clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.