Without strong relationships, your sales career is DOA.

Salespeople are asking the wrong questions: What are the best sales techniques? What tech tools will help me generate hot leads and land new clients? How do I sell effectively on social media?

It’s not what will help you win clients; it’s who.

The answer is you. Yes, you are the very best tool in your sales toolkit. You know how to have conversations and build relationships—the most important ingredients for sales success. You nurture professional and personal networks that keep your sales pipeline full of referral leads. Technology can aid the sales process, but it can’t make real human connections. That’s the job of salespeople.

Don’t Let Technology Do Your Talking

Buyers don’t care how your technology works until they know what it can do for their businesses. All the best sales techniques you’ve ever learned won’t work until you personalize your pitch and make a personal connection.

(Image attribution: Mikhail Nilov)

Don’t be duped into thinking technology can do your job. While technology is great for storing, aggregating, and (to some degree) interpreting information, it can’t have conversations, ask insightful questions, or draw wisdom from experience. There are hundreds of effective selling techniques and technology tools that help reps work more efficiently—including CRM, marketing automation, and social selling. But closing deals is still our job. We will never replace real human engagement with tweets and status updates.

“You Can’t Google Search Emotion”

Those are the words of Keith Lubner, chief strategy officer at SalesGravy. In his post, Selling In the Age of Google, he writes:

“As salespeople, it is our job to impress upon buyers that we are their most powerful and reputable resource. This requires us to establish a high level of trust with prospects and customers. Really savvy sellers are aware of this phenomenon and are intentional about creating memorable interactions that establish and build trust.


Ultra-high performers tend to immediately shift conversations with buyers from logic to emotion. You can’t Google search emotion. You experience emotion.”

I’ve been writing about this phenomenon for more years than I can remember. People buy with emotion and justify with fact. Whamo, that’s how to sell!

Unfortunately, connecting with real people gets forgotten in the digital age.

(Image attribution: Cottonbro)

The Best Sales Techniques Are Still Offline

Here’s what I wrote about this very issue in my 2013 book, Pick Up the Damn Phone! : How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal.

“If people don’t like us and feel comfortable with us, they won’t buy from us. You can wow prospects with your technological know-how up front and then try to win them over later, once they find out you’re honest and reliable. But the reality is that you need people to start liking you within the first few seconds of your relationship. What seals the deal today is the same thing that sealed the deal back in the days of the three-martini lunch—having a personal connection to prospects, understanding what our buyers want from us, and delivering results.


For those of us who sell services or more complex business solutions, our buyers need even more from us. They need real, live, experienced salespeople to help them wade through all the options and information and find the right product or solution for their businesses. They need choices and direction. They need salespeople to make sense of the complexities in the buying and selling process.”

These words are even more true eight years later. In the age of virtual sales meetings, we still need to make personal connections and become a trusted advisor.

Gartner’s recent report, The Chief Sales Officer’s Leadership Vision for 2021, explains why the future salesperson must be “sense-making.” Buyers don’t know who or what to follow, because all information is high quality. The amount of information is overwhelming.  Right now, salespeople have a remarkable opportunity to think differently about how we engage our buyers.

Gone are the salespeople who readily give information and those who can’t wait to tell buyers what they think they need to hear. The sense-maker uncomplicates information the buyer already has.

Today’s buyers are overloaded with information, options, and research. It’s our job to ask smart questions and ensure customers get the correct solutions for their business challenges. Great salespeople know how to uncover the core issues plaguing clients so we can make the best possible recommendations. We’re not “yes men.” Clients want our points of view. They want to learn best practices, and they want to hear what doesn’t work.

Technology expedites many tasks, but at the end of the day, clients need us. When you travel by air, you no longer need a person to provide the schedule, sell you a ticket, or issue your boarding pass. But you want a person to greet you on the plane and to ensure there’s a pilot in the cockpit. The same applies when you purchase a car. You can configure it online, but you still want a service person there to answer your questions and treat you well. B2B buyers want the human touch too.

Bottom line: While our customers might want to drive the car, they still need salespeople to steer. Not technology.

Learn how to build a referral culture in a digital world. Invite me to present “Referrals Are Retro” to your team.

(Featured image attribution: fauxels)

(This post was originally published on August 11, 2015 and updated September 9, 2021.)