AuthorSeriesJoanneBlack (2)

How can you bring value to every sales interaction? The most important thing salespeople can do is commit to their craft. One way to refine skills and build mastery is through reading. The release of The Challenger Sale in 2010 put “sales” books back in the boardroom. Why? Because the way customers interact and engage with us is changing, and salespeople are confused about what that means for the future of business.

That’s why we’re launching a new series called “Ask the Author,” where we’ll interview top selling experts and share their advice for how salespeople can overcome the new challenges and take advantage of the new opportunities that come with Sales 2.0.

For our first “Ask the Author” segment, we’re lucky to have Joanne Black. In Part 1 of this series, we’ll share insights from her new book, Pick Up the Damn Phone!How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. Part 2 will reveal insights from her first book, No More Cold Calling. Joanne is a self-described contrarian and “heretic” as it relates to how technology has and hasn’t changed the way we sell. Here’s what she has to say:

Why did you write Pick Up the Damn Phone! How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal?

Technology addiction is taking over our personal and business lives. We’re always “on.” Everyone’s always looking down at their phones—on the street, at networking events, in restaurants, at home, and even in bed. They’re too busy conversing online to have real, meaningful conversations with the people right in front of them. When you used to go into a public place, you assumed everyone was in that place with you. Now everyone is somewhere else, or at least their heads are. No one is talking. No one is connecting.

This isn’t healthy for anyone, but it’s particularly dangerous for salespeople, whose careers depend on their ability to build and maintain relationships with clients, prospects, colleagues, and referral sources. Too many salespeople think technology can do their jobs for them and that they don’t have to talk to anyone. But selling is our job. Tweets and status updates don’t take the place of real human engagement. We need to tweet less and talk more to the customers and contacts who really matter.

How has technology changed the way we sell?

We are now working in the age of the informed consumer, the digital buyer, or “Buyer 2.0.” In the days before Google, Amazon, and social media, clients relied on salespeople for information. But Buyer 2.0 is very good at homework. With a few clicks of a mouse, they can learn all about us, our products, and our competitors.

Some assume this means that our prospects and clients don’t really need us anymore—that sales automation has made salespeople irrelevant. Not true!

Buyer 2.0 isn’t the only one armed with new technology. Seller 2.0 (that’s us) has access to all sorts of tech tools. Our prospects might know a lot about us, but we know just as much (or more) about them. We also know more about our products, solutions, industries, and clients.

Even the most informed clients don’t always recognize exactly what they need to solve their problems. They don’t know the traps to avoid, what doesn’t work, or how to guarantee a knock-your-socks-off ROI. But we do.

Because so much information can be found online, the standard is now higher for sales to add value to the conversation. Information isn’t knowledge. Knowledge comes from wisdom and experience. That’s what we have to offer Buyer 2.0. But we can only do that if we have conversations with our clients, earn their trust, and help them find the right solutions to their problems.

People do business with people, not with technology. That’s why salespeople cannot afford to hide behind the curtain of technology and lose the art of conversation. Get face-to-face with every major client or prospect. What counts as face-to-face? Any connection you make when you’re not typing. Pick up the phone, use your webcam, or (gulp) actually meet in person. Get in your car, take a train, get on an airplane, but make the connections that count. Your competition will still be fooling around with technology while you’re closing deals.

Your book mentions that “You are the ultimate sales technology.” What does that mean?

While technology has changed a lot about the way we work, it has not changed how we actually close deals. At the end of the day, sales is still about people selling to people.

Use technology, but don’t rely on it to make a sale. Humans need face-to-face contact with others. Even with whisper-light computing power and immediate, 140-character Twitter posts, we are a face-to-face species, one that thrives on interpersonal communication and being in the presence of like-minded individuals working together for a common goal. Email, texting, social networking, CRM, marketing automation—these certainly have their place in business today, but none of them replaces the power of a handshake and an in-person connection.

Most people think connections, or potential referral sources, exist mainly on one network—LinkedIn. In your book, you lay out a process for building a more comprehensive network, one that should be nurtured online and off. Can you tell us more about how you do that?

First and foremost, never lose touch with your contacts at client companies. Clients are our best source of referrals—to other divisions of their companies and to their peers in other organizations. They understand our businesses, trust us, and know the value of our products and services. And they know lots of people just like themselves, to whom they can refer us. Far too many sales organizations are so focused on bringing in new business that they neglect their current customers.

While clients are the best source of new business, referrals come from everywhere. Many of us believe that, because our businesses are super-complex and sophisticated, only certain people are worthwhile referral sources. This assumption is plain wrong. Everyone knows someone.

Think of all the people you know. All those people know other people. And you don’t know who they know until you ask. You might get the perfect referral from your attorney, another passenger on an airplane, your fellow employees, your next-door neighbor, or even a family member.

Some of your best potential referral sources are the people you see every day—your co-workers. Everyone in your organization knows hundreds of other people. Who do you think understands the value of your organization better than your colleagues? And who could possibly have more invested in your company’s success?

Referrals are right under your nose. All you have to do is ask.

About Joanne Black

Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling—the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. As the founder of No More Cold Calling, Joanne helps salespeople, sales teams, and business owners build their referral networks, attract more business, decrease operating costs, and ace out the competition. She is the author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal.