Think your smartphone is the most powerful sales tool at your disposal? Think again.

Yes, think again. We love our sales apps. Social media, CRM, sales enablement platforms—each of these promises killer features that will streamline the sales process and make us all rich.

As if!

The ultimate sales app doesn’t require a smartphone, a tablet, or even a computer. Plus, it’s 100-percent free to use by anyone on any platform.

That ultimate sales app is your relationships. And its killer feature is you. You are the most powerful business development tool on the planet.

Despite what you’ll often hear from sales tech gurus, your success isn’t determined by the number of devices that connect you to the outside world; it’s determined by the number of relationships that connect you to your prospects.

The Ultimate Sales App Doesn’t Drain Your Brain

The digital world, as great as it is, undermines our personal connections. It can also tank our productivity, decrease our focus, and increase stress levels, according to The New York Times.

As of 2021, 86 percent of the global population owned a smartphone. The average American spends 5 hours and 24 minutes per day on their mobile devices  and checks their phone at least 96 times per day. That’s about every 10 minutes.

(Image attribution: Pixabay)

We’re not just dependent on our smartphones; we’re addicted. Have you tried being unreachable for certain periods of time by turning off your smartphone? Stressed just thinking about it? I was.

Then one day my texts stopped pinging, and I decided to leave it that way. As a result, my concentration improved dramatically, and so did my productivity and creativity.

An often-quoted study from the University of California at Irvine found that, on average, it takes around 23 minutes for most workers to get back on task after an interruption. With near constant interruptions from texts and emails, it’s no wonder we have days when we feel we’ve gotten nothing done.

Smartphones don’t just distract us from our work. They take our attention away from the people around us and undermine in-person interactions. How often have you seen people sharing a meal together but engrossed in their screens?

Even when we’re not using our devices, they’re sapping our creative and emotional energy. Studies show that even if a smartphone is face down, it demands its user’s attention, regardless of whether the person is consciously thinking about it. If a phone is out of sight in a bag, even if it’s set to silent, even if it’s powered off, its mere presence will reduce someone’s working memory and problem-solving skills. In other words, the smartphone slowly drains our brains. And that’s a problem, because our brains are the ultimate sales app.

The Ultimate Sales App Is You

Whether your business is ultrahigh tech or low tech, the most important business buying decisions are still based on your personal relationships. Your customers buy from you because they like and trust you and your organization—or because someone they trust has referred you. Selling is (and has always been) a person-to-person business in which you must apply your expertise, problem-solving skills, and relationships to be successful. We will never replace real human engagement with tweets, status updates, or any sales app.

Justin Rosenstein, a Silicon Valley engineer who has worked for Google, Facebook, and other technology giants, put it this way in The Guardian: “It’s very common for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences, [but now] everyone is distracted. All of the time.”

Rosenstein is an authority on the subject, as he personally developed Facebook’s “like” button. He is also one of a growing group of Silicon Valley “refuseniks” who warn consumers about the addictive nature of technology and social media, in particular.  Another refusenik, VR pioneer Jaron Lanier, famously calls social media “the cage that goes everywhere with you.”

(Image attribution: Pexels)

That cage separates us from the people we should be talking to—our friends and family, and our customers, prospects, and referral sources. They’re the connections that count, the ones who help fill our pipelines with hot leads. Pestering strangers on social media is just digital cold calling. It’s dreadfully annoying and a waste of time.

Bring Back Balance—Put Technology in Its Place

It’s easy to get sucked into the digital universe. But while we’re constantly checking our smartphones to ensure we don’t miss something “out there,” we’re missing out on opportunities to connect with the people right in front of us.

I’m not suggesting you go off the grid or dump all the sales technology at your disposal. There are many great tools that can help you facilitate your sales process. Use it to conduct research, find referral sources, organize information, and provide buyers with valuable information. Just don’t rely on it to make a sale. For that you’ll, you need the ultimate sales app: You!

There’s a saying among salespeople that customers buy with emotion and justify with fact. If people don’t like us or trust us, they won’t connect or build relationships with us.

You can wow people with your technology know-how now and try to win them over later, once they find out you’re honest and reliable. But the reality is, you need people to start liking you within the first few seconds of your relationship.

People do business with people. Period. So put down the toys, log out of your apps, pick up the damn phone, and start talking. Or better yet, meet in person. It takes a bit more time and effort, but I guarantee your results will prove the time was well spent.

Technology might power the sales process, but people power the close. You make the effort, you win.

Does your team know how to build relationships that lead to referral success? Take the Referral Selling I.Q. Quiz to find out. It’s 14 “Yes/No” questions and completely anonymous. It takes just a few minutes to complete, and you can see the cumulative responses immediately. Email if you would like a dedicated quiz for your sales team.

(Featured image attribution: Karolina Grabowska)

(This post was originally published on February 6, 2020 and updated August 11, 2022.)