Does technology always help in the sales world?

The knee-jerk response from most sales professionals would be a resounding “Yes!”, but we might want to dive a little deeper. It’s great to be able to use the latest AI-driven CRM or social media platform, but is it interfering with the fundamental role of a salesperson? Is it making it harder for us to connect and influence people because we can’t engage with them on a human level?  

Sherry Turkle, the author of Reclaiming Conversation, shared the results of a meta-analysis of 72 studies that showed that college students have experienced a 40 percent decline in empathy over the past 30 years.  

And it’s not just young people. A Pew research study found that 89% of cellphone users had used their phone during recent social activity.  Which is ironic because 82% of adults also felt the way they used their phone in social settings hurt the conversation.

Here’s why you should care. The ability to emotionally connect with another person is a uniquely human skill, and if you can master that skill, you will assure yourself of relevance in the modern economy. If you are in sales, you need to be able to engage with your prospects, customers, and partners.  Because if you are in an industry or field where a computer can do your job, it will.

Here are five skills to practice in your face-to-face conversations.

1. Pay attention

It sounds silly. It sounds obvious. But simply paying attention to the prospect or customer you are talking to will help you stand above the rest. When you are in meetings, turn your phone off or put it on silent. Put it away. You aren’t a paramedic or firefighter, so nobody needs to get ahold of you that badly. Giving someone your full attention creates rapport quickly.

2. Create trust

While you are paying attention to them, help them to trust you. You know how to do this in your business relationships because you’ve done it before – every relationship has the same foundation. Look the person in the eye. Don’t interrupt them. Smile. Nod your head. All of these small body language cues evolved over the millennia to help us bond with each other. So bond!

3. Embrace awkwardness

Our dependence on social media and cell phones has created an avoidance of pauses and awkwardness. What if we’re having a conversation and we don’t know what to say? And what if they don’t know what to say? Then we’re just stuck in an awkward silence for a moment. It’s OK, that’s a natural part of conversation. And you will be able to move past it easily if you accept that it’s a part of natural conversation.

4. Ask the Next Question

One of the experiences that creates anxiety in face-to-face conversations is not knowing what to say. We wonder how we can be brilliant enough to make the other person like us. Dale Carnegie wrote, “You can make more friends in two months being interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.” Don’t worry about what you should tell them. Instead, focus on your conversational partner and ask them questions (and not just yes/no questions, either).

5. Share some gratitude for their time

It might be a 10-minute conversation or an hour lunch, but say thank you for their time. They might have worked hard to be present in the moment, just like you did. In our busy and noisy world, our time is the most precious commodity we have to give each other.  Honor the value of spending it together.

These may sound like they’re just warm and fuzzy ideas, but there’s a very real and very potent truth at their core.  Trust and rapport are a requisite part of any relationship, professional or otherwise. When you have that, you are able to do business more easily, effectively, and efficiently.  And in the end, that’s what we’re there for.


David J.P. Fisher (D. Fish) is a speaker, coach, and best-selling author 7 books, including Hyper-Connected Selling.  He combines nuanced strategy and real-world tactics to help professionals navigate a world where social media, networking, and old-school sales and communication skills are the key to creating human connections and winning business. He lives in Evanston, IL – next to a huge cemetery which helps him appreciate the value of every day. Visit his website to learn more