As a frequent blogger for Sales Wars I am often surprised when inspiration comes to me from unlikely places. This week it came from a book I am reading which has nothing to do with sales. It’s called Modern Romance: An investigation by Aziz Ansari. Ansari is known for his role on NBC’s Parks and Recreation and most recently the Netflix series Master of None (which he also wrote and directed). Ansari decided to take a different route than most other comedians with book deals that generally compile humorous essays. Instead, he chose to elicit the help of NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and conduct an in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance. Now, what does this have to do with sales? Well I’ll tell ya. But first, about the book…

There is a section of this book where Ansari talks about the ways in which young people communicate today (primarily via text message) versus how our parents’ generation communicates. He references a Nielson study which shows that the use of phones for voice calls peaked in 2007 and has been declining ever since. I have younger cousins who have had smart phones since age 10 or 11 and have been texting feverishly ever since. Frankly, I’ve always found it a bit alarming that they NEVER put their phones down. What got me interested in this study was what MIT social psychologist Sherry Turkle makes of this decline of voice calls. She says that “younger people are so used to text-based communications, where they have time to gather their thoughts and precisely plan what they are going to say, that they are losing their ability to have spontaneous conversation.”

She argues that the muscles in our brain that help us with spontaneous conversation are getting less exercise in the text-filled world, so our live conversation skills are declining.

To further this point Ansari references a focus group he conducted as research for the book. He reports, “we split the room by generation—kids on the left, parents on the right—a strange thing happened. Before the show started, we noticed that the parents’ side of the room was full of chatter. People were talking to one another and asking how they had ended up at the event and getting to know people. On the kids’ side, everyone was buried in their phones and not talking to anyone around them.” I personally hate being in a group of people and watching them all look down at their phones and it’s soooo common today. I grew up on the fringe of the smartphone explosion (I did not have one until I was in my 20’s) and texting wasn’t even a thing when I was in high school.

To me, this applies as much relevance to inside sales as it does to dating and “modern romance.” At its core, cold calling is the epitome of a spontaneous conversation! I fear Ansari’s same concern, “it made me wonder whether our ability and desire to interact with strangers is another muscle that risks atrophy in a smartphone world.” From when I was a young child to now almost into my 30’s, I never had any trouble talking to “grown ups” especially at family functions around the holidays. With nothing to constantly distract ourselves and friends still unreachable by text back then, we had no choice but to interact with family around us. Now I look around at these functions and see everyone 16 and under staring at a screen, completely disengaged.

At QuotaFactory, we have found that even in the world of social selling and email blasting, having a live voice conversation is still the BEST way to gather sales context and find out about a prospect’s pains and needs. Developing the skills to have a conversation with someone who probably doesn’t want to be talking to you in the first place not only builds character but intelligence and professionalism. We’re talking to CEO’s and VPs of IT at Fortune 500 companies. Don’t you want the skills to be able to sounds credible and professional in interactions with these high level folks? No matter what field my SDRs ultimately end up in, I hope that they find the experience gained in an early sales role as invaluable as I do.

I know it’s easier to send an email, but in the world of sales development it’s the ability to handle live interactions that is going to make you successful.