The Human Touch
Illustration: Phil Couzens

The Human Touch

Why personal interaction trumps technological advances

I hate technology, especially in sales.

My dream vacation would be a white sandy beach, and the wrangling of every PC, mail server, motherboard, OS, hard-disk, and CRM that had ever frustrated me. I would grab a shiny new sledgehammer and with loving brute force, smash them all to bits.

Unfortunately, we have been forced into a world where “ didn’t get my e-mail?”, “Let me check my iSchedule and get back to you”, “Press 1 for customer service options”, “Have no idea who you are, but let’s be iFriends!”, “Hard disk lost, there’s goes our eBusiness”, and my personal favorites: “We’ve never worked together (and hardly know each other), but can iHave a professional recommendation?”, “Server’s down, can’t do any work now” are now incorporated into our reality.

A little less Skynet anyone?

Genuine face to face communication, time-tested hard-earned relationship building, and the sincere question have been downgraded downloaded, left-clicked, dragged, and dumped into the Recycle bin on the great desktop in the sky.

Smash, smash, smash, is what I say.

For westerners trying to break in and do business in Japan, attempting a click-type-click client connection is especially frustrating as a “relationship” created in 1 second has about 2k bytes of value here.

One afternoon tea with a client is worth gigabits of CRM gobbledigook. A sincere conversation with one new person, is better than 10 “Can you tilt your head to the left when you’re talking to me, so I can see other potential connections behind you?” type networking events.

It takes a few summers of melted shoe leather here to realize Japan-area business success is done over copper-wire-analogue and not “gotta go” linked-in wireless.

The new AB-normal:

- Once-in-a-lifetime traumatic happenings: Financial scams & global mega-capitulations, record hot & cold weather, too-big-to-fold got folded, earthquakes, fires, floods and flying pig flu (Wait, how many of these have we had, just this year?).

- Economic buyers turned into committees; The MD of “Managing Director” have sadly become “M-ust D-eny” to save their own jobs.

- High quality, experience, talent, next day delivery AND low cost are one “must-have” G/NG package. Add the fact that developing completely new prospects is as smooth as pulling out healthy teeth with rusty pliers, and Voila! You have the new selling normal.

Realistic 3-year forecasts-ha ha-I remember those. I use them as doorstops now.

Where C hits the RM:

And when the going gets rough, do we further engage clients and prospects to deepen our knowledge? Do we reach out to new markets or become closer partners?

No, not here at CyberDyne.

Management gets rough on their CRMs because when faced with uncertainty, people run to what they feel they can control.

The need for their “C-ertainty R-esults M-anifesting” is the cause of many hours of wasted effort, paper-torture, missed opportunities and disloyal clients.

Because a CRM is nothing more than a tool in your kit for building a solution for your customers.

Your job as a selling professional is to use tools, not become one.

As a depository of pertinent information, a CRM is a great way to organize facts, figures, stages of a deal, internal communication, and other customer data.

But a CRM is never a replacement for YOUR purpose, which is serving customers and helping them build their businesses.

Too many deals to update?

- Get a temp worker to fill in the CRM from your notes or get a co-worker, normally wrapped in a blanket with a USB connected toaster oven, to help out.

- Use an old school voice recorder, or an iApp (Evernote) to record CRM entries; Send voice files to admin staff and have them do the input.

I mean, seriously, do you really think all those admin staff are that busy?

CRM is a “Customer Respect Maintainer” tool to:

- Maximize relationships with customers by recording information. This allows clients to spend less time explaining things to you (and new sales people AFTER YOU) and, in some cases, you may become a source of information about THIER company!

- Merge push & pull on deal progress (So, where were we? What do I need to do next?)

- Allow your manager to further help you assist customers, knowing all background information. (Yes, that’s right, customer accounts are COMPANY accounts, not yours)

Domo Mr. Roboto:

Human brains are best used for serving other humans, not Mr. Roboto.

- Entries should be short, punchy, to the point, take a few minutes per day, with fixed templates for everything (meeting notes, call-in checks, deal progress) to take away as much thought from the admin process as possible.

- For non-Japanese language reading managers, ask local staff to use more basic grammar and shorter sentences in Japanese so when you use “Google translate”, the meaning is easier to pick up.

- Super-billers: Your top 10 percent-ers should be given admin assistance and not have to update CRMs/do tons of paperwork if it takes away from their selling time.

I can 100% guarantee that a top biller’s time is better spent calling, meeting, pushing, pulling, and closing deals then clicking, folding, and typing.

Accounting needs month-end expenses done now...are you serious?

At first, I often hear, “Special admin support isn’t fair to our other sales people” when I recommend this for top billers.

Then I say, “ In life, all people are equal creations of an almighty creator. But not in sales. The only thing that make sales people equal are their numbers billed YOY and profit margins.”

CRM inputting over deal closing? I think not. How about some smash, smash, smash?

Though I have some Skynet hardware, I’ve joined the resistance:

- I have an analogue leather-bound day planner (never runs out of batteries, always handy, fast on the draw, and can get wet).

- Hand-written thank you cards for "close encounters" (truly personal and more impactful).

- Afternoon teas and seasonal snack gifts (like the locals here do…).

- Telephone (more sincere responses, voice, reduced tension on replies, better interaction than e-mails).

As we hit the last 4 months of 2010, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Are you hiding behind technology as an excuse to not reach out in person and meet people for new business or get scary answers now?

2. Do you send emails when you know you should go visit in person?

3. Are you focusing all your efforts on your top billers? Are you asking them to do the same data entry/paperwork as non-performers?

Our resistance effort to Skynet isn’t futile my comrades.

Keep your CRMs updated, but pack a sawed-off sledgehammer, just in case.

Other posts by Jason de Luca:


Jason, Just wanted to say how much I look forward to your articles. I really enjoy your play on words and your points are executed with clever humour and truth. Your pieces are simple but keep me engaged through out the whole read. :) Keep up the good work.