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Cavemen Would Have Been Great Salespeople

CavemanWhat can we learn from our ancestors about connecting with prospects and clients?

A 27-year-old told me, “There’s nothing like meeting face to face.” I was stunned, because we’ve all heard that Millennials are tethered to their devices. But my meeting with him (like so many meetings I’ve had) proved that when we’re in another person’s physical presence, we connect in ways that just aren’t possible when we communicate via email, text, or Tweets. We share stories, see facial expressions, use hand gestures, exchange ideas, laugh, and connect on a personal, visceral level.

During a trip to Europe, I had meals with two colleagues I’d only spoken to on the phone. Both relationships shifted instantly. We were no longer just colleagues; we became friends. I felt comfortable asking for and giving feedback, and challenging (without hesitation) a direction one of them was considering. After all, you can tell your friends the truth.

Meeting face to face and “breaking bread” together shifts a relationship. The origin of the term is biblical, but it’s come to mean sharing and unity. There’s something unspoken that binds us together when we break bread—something old, primitive, and very powerful.

A Tale as Old as Time

Our ancestors used body language before they could speak, and according to Andy Rudin’s LinkedIn post—“Will the Caveman Principle Save Face-to-Face Selling?”—there’s both a biological and competitive advantage for being in another person’s presence.

He writes:

Turns out, for about 1,000 centuries, we humans have been pretty set in our ways.

“Our wants, dreams, personalities, and desires have probably not changed much in 100,000 years. We probably still think like our caveman ancestors,” writes physicist Michio Kaku, author of a popular new book, The Future of the Mind. “The point is: whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time. That’s the Cave Man [or Cave Woman] Principle.”

If you’re placing your strategic bets on face-to-face selling excellence, this is where things get interesting. “By watching people up close, we feel a common bond and can also read their subtle body language to find out what thoughts are racing through their heads. This is because our apelike ancestors, many thousands of years before they developed speech, used body language almost exclusively to convey their thoughts and emotions,” Kaku says. (Read the rest of the article.)

Embrace Your Inner Caveman

Human beings instinctively know how to connect with others. We haven’t rewired ourselves just because the world has gone wireless. We’ve simply forgotten what we know to be true: Face-to-face cannot be replaced—not in life, and certainly not in sales.

In sales, your relationships are your meal ticket. So embrace your inner caveman (or cavewoman), and start connecting with people the old-fashioned way—in person.


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Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.


2 Responses to Cavemen Would Have Been Great Salespeople

  1. Joanne: thanks for mentioning my article. While I believe there are distinct advantages to virtual meetings, online social ‘connections,’ and the efficiencies available through asynchronous communication such as text and email, there are serious limitations to these media. The friction that often occurs between buyers and sellers is through not understanding new protocols for etiquette, and by sellers inflating the expectations for social media conversations. There are some things that only face-to-face communications provides. Anyone who has been working in sales and business development long enough can point to a major piece of business won through a serendipitous, chance face-to-face conversation with an important someone met on a train, plane, waiting room, charity function, etc. You can’t reliably replicate the result through email blasts or ‘smiling and dialing.’

    • Andy, your comment is spot on. I think many new technologies give salespeople an easy “out.” They think technology can do their jobs for them. Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. It’s a great tool. But if you want to stand out from everyone else, you really need to talk to people.

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