Technology is moving at a break neck speed. New gadgets, designed to save mankind from the discomforts of life, are developed daily (maybe hourly). Some things, however, remain as they have for years, decades, even centuries.
One such example of an old idea that technology has yet to improve is the common pallet. Pallets have been around and been pretty much unchanged since the peak of the second industrial revolution, leading into World War II. Large scale production was creating a need for better handling of goods. The pallet solved some of that problem. While the actual inventor of the pallet is a bit of a mystery, we do know this: it was patented by George Raymond and Bill House. Interestingly, George and Bill had patents accepted on the forklift the same day theirs was accepted on the pallet. Those two things sure went together, but I digress. By the way, my first summer job, in fact, was moving pallets at Argon Industries in downriver Detroit.
The inventor of sales is a mystery as well. Some might say the original salesman was Adam as he was able to “sell” Eve on the benefits of eating the apple, but I digress again. While we are unsure of the origin of sales, the key components to sales remains unchanged: people and people skills.
Technology has offered a plethora of tools, systems and resources for the advancement and ease of the process and act of selling. But success as a salesperson revolves around the ability to take care of PEOPLE. Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” Since customers are people, the core and purpose of a business then, is people.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is fantastic! I love my iPad. I have an exuberant love/hate relationship with Facebook and other forms of Social Media. I’m aghast when anything takes more than seconds to happen on my computer or elsewhere. And while I make a nice living instructing salespeople in the effective use of technology, maybe, just maybe, salespeople could flourish if they focused on skills directed at working with real live people.
Listening, understanding, presenting, negotiating, empathy are all wonderful skills that are incredibly useful in sales. I believe they are the core of great sales, much as they were years ago (and maybe Adam, in retrospect, wasn’t actually that good at most of them, he simply used the guilt approach with the whole rib thing….). A salesperson with an awesome iPad presentation who has little or no skill when it comes to determining the wants and needs of their customer or conveying the benefit of their product or service will often meet with frustration and failure. Technology, without people skills, seldom rule the sales day. People skills, unfortunately, are not taught as often as they could/should be.
So, what to do? As a student in a sales oriented course, look for the direct relation of whatever technology you are learning with how it might make you more effective with your customers (people). As instructors, let’s do a better job of drawing the link between a technology and it’s use as a people tool. The high tech/low touch description of “today’s” generations is more a loss of focus on what is most important. We’ve gotten so focused on the equipment that we’re forgetting the real game. We can change that if that’s what we want.
Sales is about people. People skills are the core of sales success. And like the pallet, people skills have yet to be replaced by anything better.