"There's nothing like meeting people in person."

That’s definitely what I believe, but I was stunned to hear this sentiment coming from a millennial. Aren’t they supposed to be addicted to their devices and to prefer electronic communication? But my meeting with this young man proved why face-to-face communication matters. When we’re in another person’s physical presence, we connect in ways that just aren’t possible by typing.

The 21st-century workforce is rapidly building skills in multiple facets of technology. Computing jobs will more than double by 2020. Kids and college students are encouraged to pursue STEM careers, because technology is the future.

Yes, the world has changed. My liberal arts degree probably wouldn’t qualify me for a B2B sales job today … or would it? Just because people have technical skills doesn’t mean they have business skills, communication skills, leadership skills, or plain ole people skills.

It takes more than technical expertise to survive and thrive in the 21st-century workplace, especially in sales. Gone are the days of techies working all night and being found in the morning slumped over their desks with empty pizza boxes on the floor. Sure, you can still find this demographic, but they’re not the people to put in front of your clients.

A little technical savvy is certainly a plus for salespeople, especially those in high tech. But B2B sales is still about people buying from people. Even in the digital age, the best tool for lead generation, prospecting, and account-based sales is still relationships. And the best sales strategies put relationships first.

Don’t Let Digital Distractions Ruin Your Relationships

Our dependence on technology has gone too far. It’s taking away our ability to talk to each other, to connect, or even look each other in the eye.

There’s nothing more important than being present—whether you’re with a customer, your co-workers, your friends, or your family. When we’re constantly checking our phones to make sure we’re not missing something “out there,” we’re actually missing out on opportunities to connect with the people right in front of us. Suddenly, people think it’s acceptable to check sports scores during dinner or to text while in the middle of a conversation. They feel the need to always be connected.

It’s called FOMO—fear of missing out. However, when you’re glued to a screen, keeping up with what’s happening “out there,” you miss out on the people in front of you.

Forget FOMO. Digital distractions can ruin a person’s relationship-building MOJO. And the 21st-century worker will need more MOJO than ever before.

Forrester Research predicts that e-commerce technology will render 1 million sales jobs obsolete by 2020. Who will remain? Strategic, proactive salespeople who are subject matter experts, not just order-takers, and who know how to build relationships with prospects, clients, and referral sources.

What About Relationships?

To thrive in the 21st-century business world, salespeople must be able to build long-standing and trusted relationships—networks of satisfied clients and close colleagues who can vouch for the value of their product or solution and who are happy to provide referrals.

Technology takes us just so far. But it doesn’t help us make real connections. That requires taking off our digital blinders and having meaningful interactions between two human beings. Always has and always will.


Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling—the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit www.NoMoreColdCalling.com. You can also follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.