Remember, prospecting is all about people.

You’ve heard it: Television will kill radio. Video killed the radio star. And technology will eliminate the time-consuming, face-to-face aspect of communication. Um, no. Not in your personal life, and certainly not in your lead generation system.

B2B selling is all about relationships. Digital technology certainly helps facilitate conversations, but when it comes to relationship-building, technology can also be a hindrance, a distraction, and a crutch.

People have always been fascinated with—and even enthralled by—technology. But we’ve never been surrounded by so much of it. When I was a kid, the idea of someone becoming addicted to technology seemed like science fiction. But here we are—a planet of automatons walking through life with our noses perpetually pointed at our smartphones.

That’s no way to live, and it’s certainly no way to approach B2B lead generation.

The Birth of the Boob Tube

Growing up, many of us Baby Boomers only had a radio. My family was fortunate enough to have a Capehart. It was the newest thing: a radio and turntable in one.  (We only had 78 rpm records. You had to be very careful, or they’d break.) We listened to sitcoms and shared stories as a family. The only way to actually “see” the news was in a movie theater, during the black-and-white newsreels that ran before the feature presentation. (Whoops, I’m really dating myself.)

Then came television, and while it quickly became a favorite American pastime, you couldn’t watch it around the clock. You watched every broadcast “live;” there was no such thing as taping or DVR. Everything was in black-and-white. And at 10:00 p.m., a big circle appeared with a message announcing the end of broadcasting for the day. We watched a show when it was on, and we watched together as a family.

Many Gen Xers had a different experience. They watched TV in color and could record programs on VHS tapes. This was the generation of so-called “latch-key” kids. Without as much family around to talk to and share stories with, children started spending more time with screens than with people.

This is when the technology cautions began: Don’t watch too much TV. Don’t sit too close to the TV or your eyes will cross. Don’t stay up too late watching TV. Don’t turn it up too loud or you won’t hear people when they talk to you.

Now, with far more screens in our lives, it’s even easier to forget about what really matters—connecting with human beings. The devices have definitely changed over the years, but the cautions have not. We still remind each other to prioritize people over technology: Don’t check messages in meetings or at events. Don’t answer your phone at meals. Don’t tune out people who are talking to you because you get distracted by your phone.

The cautions remain the same, because deep down, we all know people are more important than devices. Even children understand that. As much as they love to disappear into their devices, they’re often the first to tell adults to put down the phone. Yes, we all know what matters. We just forget sometimes.

Networking from Both Fronts 

But wait. What about social selling? That’s often a big part of a sales team’s lead generation system, and it requires you to be online. 

Social selling can help you begin conversations, but turning those connections into relationships means socializing the old-fashioned way—offline.

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As Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  The more often you show up, the more visible you become, and the more people get to know, recognize, and respect you.  As a sales professional, you’re probably already good at all that. But in the digital era, you need to be “off the charts” great at networking online, as well as in-person, to build connections.

The goal of B2B lead generation is build and maintain many strong relationships. That means nurturing those contacts. Salespeople should make it a daily discipline to connect with people in their networks—personal and professional. And by “connect,” I don’t mean send a vague, generic email. Use social channels to find out what’s going on with them. Then pick up the damn phone and talk.

The Most Important Part of Your Lead Generation System (Hint: It’s Not Technology)

We’ve been here before. We become enamored with any new technology. Once upon a time, it was record players and color TVs. These days, it’s new-generation smartphones, electric cars, drones, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

Still, most of us are giving our kids the same cautions. After all, study after study has shown the dangers of technology addiction for children—from delayed development, to obesity, to mental health problems. Well, guess what? Tech addiction is bad for grownups, too. And it’s time we started practicing what we preach.

Where’s the family to read together, listen together, and learn together? Where’s the dinner table conversation? Where are the relationships that matter? Even when we’re together, we’re too busy playing on our devices to connect.

This isn’t just dangerous territory for families; it also makes for bad business.

What does this mean for salespeople? That we must spend less time connecting online and more time building connections that count.

Marketing automation, CRM, social media, artificial intelligence, and other technological tools enable us to sell more efficiently and cost effectively. Yes, these all have a place in a lead generation system. But the most powerful tool in any sales organization’s toolbox is still its people! People having conversations, building relationships, looking each other in the eye, shaking hands, and talking. Technology doesn’t close deals. People do. 

For more on how technology helps and hinders the sales process, download my free eBook, “Facebook and Face Time Matter: The Role of Technology in Sales.”