global networkOur smartest, tried & true business-development, lead-generation, deal-closing tool has always been ourselves. And that’s not going to change anytime soon—if ever.

Nothing’s really changed in the sales world, although many pundits rant about the “new normal,” “new realities,” Web 2.0… Web 3.0… . They talk about changing the way we sell from promoting our products to becoming consultants and strategic advisors. This is especially crucial the higher level we prospect. Business execs are busy people. And many don’t have “meet with salesperson” at the top of their to-do list. Sales is not the dog & pony show. Our job as smart, strategic sales pros is to deliver value. Real value.

And—I’ll put it right up front—technology won’t save our sales career.

The Web, Web 3.0, to be specific, won’t deliver world peace or develop a cure for the common cold. It won’t fix our business-development, sales, or customer relationship management (CRM) challenges.

The Internet is the most powerful, life- and business-changing tool created in generations (when was the last time you looked up a telephone number in an otherwise-used-as-a-booster-seat phone book?). But is it the end all for our business challenges and sales solutions? I don’t think so.

The Web: It’s Many Iterations

The Web has changed the face of business, and for the sake of this conversation, sales.  Supersimplified:

  • Web 1.0: An online corporate presence via websites. Brochureware: The business—what we sell, from our perspective (how we’re organized), seen via a website. (You remember, “The Boom.”)
  • Web 2.0: User-centered design (presenting “what we sell” in a way that matters to our audience”), collaboration, and user-generated content.
  • Web 3.0: Decentralized, accessed-from-anywhere data (“The Cloud”), distributed to any device (it’s not just the desktop anymore), easy to use, low barriers to entry

Cloud computing enables geographically distributed sales teams superpowerful, functional, collaborative sales tools (lead-generation, database and document access). And easily distributed content via a non-device specific medium. Supercool.

But who really seals the deal? You do.

Data abounds. So many access points. It’s overwhelming: Websites, email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter… and this doesn’t include the RSS feeds, listserves, and virtual group conversations. How do you make sense of it all? To what do you pay attention? And who helps you decide where to put your energy?

I’m willing to bet it’s a live person—a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor. Your social networks help you narrow down your options, but there’s nothing like the one-on-one conversation to make the difference in your sales.

As wonderful as social media is, (if you’re not “in play,” you’re not in business), it’s a powerful business tool three things and three things only:

1. Search engine optimization-use your key words and raise your presence on the web
2. Find out who people are-learn about a person’s background and your connections
3. Find out who people know-look for close connections that you can leverage

(Read my full newsletter on “Why Social Networks Won’t Build Your Business” (Sept. ’09). Simply click, read, and let me know what you think.)

Our smartest, tried & true business-development, lead-generation, deal-closing tool has always been ourselves. And that’s not going to change anytime soon—if ever.

My colleague, Jim Blasingame (the man behind the wonderful Small Business Advocate says, “Face-to-face is the original social media.” I couldn’t agree more.

Old Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Tired

The stuff in our culture, business, and personal lives live on because they’re still relevant. You’ve heard it: Television will kill radio. Video killed the radio star. And social media and the Internet will do away with the time-consuming face-to-face aspect of sales. Um, no.

I am not a technological fuddy-duddy. I am not, I can assure you a Luddite. I, like many of you, happily, eagerly, and creatively embrace the new offerings that technology and the Web 3.0 serve up: from- and to-anywhere training, web-based conference and meeting technology  (listen to my recent webinar, “Smart Ways to Generate Red-Hot Prospects: The Power of Referrals” sponsored by Citrix, the folks behind GoToMeeting), cloud-based CRM… the list goes on.

I embrace technology where it makes sense. Engage your critical thinking: What’s the best way to reach, communicate, develop, and sell to your key audience? I bet that face-to-face, person-to-person, high-touch communication—a phone call, an in-person meeting—seal the deal for you. Time and time again.

Give it a try. How do you best use Web 3.0 and how do personal referrals make an impact in your business? Let me know what you think.