I like speaking to other human beings.

The year is 2002, 8.30am on a Tuesday morning and I’ve just sat down at my desk to start the day. I switch on my desktop computer and load up my applications — Excel spreadsheet and Outlook for now…

Tuesday mornings I would block out 2 hours for my prospecting sessions, occasionally monitored by my Sales Manager (for guidance and critique). I always seemed to encounter a nervous anxiety driving to work on these days — not sure if it was because I dreaded cold calling or concerned that my manager would decide to monitor every call I made that day whilst looking over my shoulder….

I couldn’t start my prospecting session without my caffeine fix — so off to the kitchenette I trundled to make my large cup of instant coffee — white with 2 sugars (occasionally I would sneak a Milk Arrowroot biscuit in).

Our office was perched above the factory floor where you could look down onto the factory workers — shared with 2 other Sales Reps and our Sales Manager- it was small and cosy, yet comfortable.

Along with my latest edition of the Yellow Pages I had a running call sheet developed in Excel that I would refer to and update with notes….’called no answer — 3rd Jan’, ‘left voicemail — 5th Jan’, ‘contact made and meeting booked for next Thursday’…. you get the idea.

Every year our Sales Manager would take orders for our Franklin Covey Planners. My compendium/diary was my trusty resource and time management tool. A tool where I could record every interaction with my prospect or client. Meetings, calls, notes, tasks and to-do lists. It came everywhere with me, I would have been lost without it.

Back then my Nokia 6210 was my communication tool and loved how you could assign special ringtones of your favourite song…

Fast forward 15 years and these days I’m ordering my designer latte and French pastry at 1 of 15 hipster coffee shops on my city block, sitting down or standing up at my desk with my wafer thin Apple laptop with voice control, logging meetings via my Salesforce mobile app on my iPhone 7+ device and filtering through options on my Sales Navigator tool hoping to find that elusive decision maker in a target account.

I find myself reminiscing about how different it was and how far the sales environment has changed. I guess the evolution of the smartphone has had a lot to do with how sales people manage themselves and plan their days. We truly are mobile now. Nowadays, lead generation businesses provide contact details for C-Level decision makers, we have automated marketing tools that nurture your prospects for you and SDR’s that provide qualified leads on a silver platter.

“People buy from people they like!”

Some things still remain the same though, people buy from people they like — I bet you’ve heard that before….I’m here to tell you it is not a fad it’s actually true. Connecting and building rapport with your customers is just as important today as it was 15 years ago! While it is true that the digital revolution has changed the way in which salespeople manage their territory/patch and interact/behave with customers — I don’t care how connected you are to the social media network, when it comes time to gain the trust and respect from your 30 min face to face meeting, statistics on how many LinkedIn followers you have don’t matter.

It’s astonishing the number of times I’ve heard clients describe how they’ve had terrible experiences with other sales consultants or even suggest that you should exclude ‘that guy’ from our next meeting.

“Come on people leave your ego at the door!”

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been around for a lifetime, it’s not a new phenomenon. In a recent study (see below), research suggests that Emotional Intelligence will become one of the most important job skills to have by 2020. I believe it’s the missing link right now among many sales professionals — come on people leave your ego at the door! Questioning techniques, listening skills, empathy, self-awareness, eye contact, body language, the simple handshake — all important to help you gain that trust. Sadly, all too often these skills are missing.

We are so bombarded and brainwashed by the latest ‘secrets to sales success’ and ‘follow these 7 steps to sales pipeline glory’ literature — we simply forget to remember the most effective skills are those that involve the simple art of engaging.

“Be more human!”

Some would suggest it’s something you are born with, a natural tendency — this may be true for some but I am an example of someone who had to develop the skill of effective interaction with other humans as I was quite shy and reserved. The major shift for me was to remain present, in the moment and to have a genuine interest in what my client was saying — so simple! Yet, for so many, it’s a trait which is lost due to fear. Fear born of desperation, fear of losing the sale, fear of not getting the next meeting, fear of the wrath of your manager. Lose the insecurities and be more human!

I was fortunate enough to attend a breakfast seminar recently where Dr Louise Mahler spoke about the art of influence. Dr Louise Mahler is a communication expert who specialises in voice, body language, voice/body/mind connection, presence, influence, leadership, communication, difficult emotional situations, presentation, public speaking and media.

Below is a video where Dr Mahler was interviewed by MFAA to help explain how your voice and body language can be used to influence relationships and build trust with clients.Very interesting points she makes and a key to her discussion is that we tend to fall into bad habits.

Click here: Dr Louise Mahler Interview

My fear is that the sales professional of the future is going to resemble a bunch of robots with no personality. Perhaps Artificial Intelligence will eliminate the need for Sales People? I hope not, I like speaking to other human beings.