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Can conversation become extinct?

In a world where more people own cell phones than toothbrushes, one risks being labeled a luddite if you push back at all against technological advancements. I listened with great interest as I spoke with a number of sources for this issue’s cover feature on the race to turn smartphones into multipurpose corporate HQs.

The capabilities of these pocket-sized computers are astounding and the software platforms that are being developed for business and personal use only enhance their utility.

I find it reassuring, however, that in the same issue in which we discuss the importance of new tools that can gobble up massive amounts of business data and spit out faster/stronger/better ways to connect with top prospects, columnist Tim Riesterer also reinforces the value of using simple illustrations to reinforce key messages.

I want to believe in both the seemingly limitless power of technology and the timelessness of human conversation. Also in this issue, Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch of Impax Corporation state, “The old adage, ‘People buy from people they like’ has been replaced by ‘people buy from people they like when they can. Otherwise, they buy from whoever they have to.’ ”

I don’t doubt the validity of that statement. Yet I am convinced that the most successful sales and marketing teams will continue to be those who develop strong relationships and hold real conversations. We can’t become so enamored with our databases and algorithms that we forget the value of conversation.

In a 2012 TED Talk, Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” said, “I’m still excited by technology, but we’re letting it take us places that we don’t want to go. These little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are.”

Turkle stops short of suggesting that we turn away from our devices. Rather, she says we need to develop a more self-aware relationship with them, with each other and with ourselves. “Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding, and we clean them up with technology. When we do, one of the things that can happen is we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We shortchange ourselves.”

In my role as editor of this magazine and its precursors, I’ve seen the art of sales conversation up close. It’s fun to watch. I’m always excited to bring you stories on how technology is impacting sales and marketing roles. I just hope I don’t ever stop writing about conversation’s role in prospecting and closing deals.

Paul Nolan, Editor
paul@salesandmarketing.com