I am a huge on-line shopper. Sometimes I do not visit a department store for months. I really hate shopping anyway and who has time? Why would anyone want to fight for a parking spot, stand in long lines and shuffle through countless items trying to find “the right one”. Such a waste of time and effort! On-line I find exactly what I am looking for and order it at a press of a button.
Well, of course there has to be a “but” to all of this and there is. One day, a good friend of mine and I decided to go walking around in the Chicago Botanical Gardens. Great idea. It was going to be a relaxing afternoon stroll down the winding paths, admiring the breathtaking plants and flowers and taking breaks benched beside the calm waters of a pond. Unfortunately, as we strolled along our first winding path, the gentle breeze turned into wind and it suddenly began to rain. Now what?
Luckily, the free gift I received for becoming a member was an umbrella, so we made our way back to the car. What do you do on a rainy Saturday afternoon? You go to a mall. So, there we were at the mall. My friend loves to shop, even more than walking around in a garden so she was thrilled.
As we began to walk around, I noticed myself looking at things. I mean really looking at things. It was strange to actually be able to walk through a department store (known for its’ extensive shoe collection) and see and feel shoes. I could see the rich colors, the texture, and feel the soft leather. One could check out the bizarre shoes that we would never wear but could dare to imagine wearing them.
Next was the purse store. So nice to check out the purse that costs thousands of dollars. I could lift it up and look inside. Even pretend to be interested in buying it.
My afternoon was filled with checking stuff out and actually seeing how things look in person. I tried a hat on and marveled at some wacky jeans with rhinestones all around the bottom.
That got me thinking. How nice it was when we used to do sales calls on site. We met the person and carried on a conversation with eye contact. Yes, we do some of that now but mostly we communicate electronically. We don’t even use the phone as much as we really should. There is something about verbal communication that cannot be procured from an electronic conversation. There is something to be said about voice inflection and relationship building by talking.
I have a customer that whenever we get on the phone, we talk for no less than an hour. We talk about our families, vacations and everything else before we get to our business conversation. I have worked with this customer since the 80’s and I cannot even count the vast number of times we have spoken. Then I think of our newer customers that I may have never had a phone conversation with, just electronic. What do they sound like? What do they look like?
Today, we don’t have time. With all of our electronic conveniences we seem to have less time than before we had them. In the past, we found time to go to the bank. Now you can’t even find a drive-through teller. Oh, yea what’s a teller? There was time to visit customers. There was time to call people. Now, we are trying to implement AI so that we can speak to even less people. We spend a good part of our day reading electronic communication. How many emails do we wade through in a day? How many emails and text messages do we send?
Why call people to try to recruit them when we can sweep up all of the resumes our systems can manage to suck in and then electronically search for key words people put into them. Never mind that people purposely put in certain key words so that you can find them even though they do not have the talents to match those key words. You may not find that out until your hire is a bust because you never actually asked the person if they had the skills that were on their resume.
“Let’s connect”. Connect what? How can anyone connect without speaking? You can always tell when a recruiter has not interviewed a candidate in person. Most times the candidate is a bad personality fit. One cannot tell if the candidate’s personality will fit in with the customer’s culture if you do not interview the candidate in person. A lot can be found out by interviewing in person. You can see how the person reacts to certain questions, how they handle the pressure of a face-to-face interview and if they really have that outgoing personality they proclaimed on the resume. Matching the candidate with a customer situation is even more difficult if you have never met the customer or had an on-site visit to get a sense for their culture.
So, what does this all mean? Should we avoid using computers? Do we go back to old fashioned telephone tag and handwritten messages? Do we drive around all day making stops dropping off brochures and mugs? I don’t think so.
Technology is here to stay and that is a fact. Technology makes more possible and that will not change. But we are misusing technology. We have more tools today than anyone ever thought possible. These technology tools help us manage the sales process, document conversations, text and email for quick communication and results, keep candidate and client information organized and available for when we need it. It’s wonderful. But it can’t be our entire life.
The balance between human interaction and today’s technology tools is a beautiful thing. To be able to encapsulate a process that involves both, when appropriate, will make anyone a superstar. Next time you are about to send an email, ask yourself if a call would be better. Next time you have a proposal to present and are about to email it question whether it should be hand delivered or maybe mailed? I know a marketing person that landed a great position at a TV station because they mailed their resume in a big brown envelope instead of uploading it on the website. The decision maker told them that was why the interview was granted for the very competitive role.
Be different. Be interactive. It could make quite a difference.