It’s 2019 and we’ve officially entered into an era of digitization: from the way we work, communicate, conduct business, find relationships, shop, get rides to the airport… While this isn’t a brand new concept, it’s still astounding the amount of digital communication we now rely on for nearly every aspect of our lives. We’re living in a connected economy, the Fourth Industrial Revolution of connectivity, but ironically true genuine human connection is getting left behind. Or is it?
As someone who works in tech in San Francisco, the hub where it all began, I’m still a huge advocate of actual pen and paper, real books with pages you can turn and crease, and building interpersonal relationships. I believe there are many industries where technology won’t ever be a 100% adequate replacement for human connection, sales being one of them.
Yes I’m a big proponent of collaboration tools, automation and analytics. You need social media and digital content to build your brand and create an online storefront. You need email campaigns to nurture your funnel and follow up with leads. You need data and analytics in order to see what’s working, what isn’t, and make better business decisions from those insights. But when it comes to establishing relationships, building credibility as a salesperson or a marketer and as a business, and finding common ground with your customers, that’s not something a bot is going to be able to do on the same level — at least not yet.
My career in community management, business development, marketing and content strategy has taught me that those soft skills that can’t be taught as easily are the ones that make you the most successful. I’m talking about empathy, compassion, understanding, a sense of humor, and being able to relate to people on a basic human level. In my experience, most successful deals and sticky clients stem from those personality traits and characteristics, not from bots named Alex who message you on LinkedIn with your name in the message 16 times. I ignore those every time, but an in-person meeting or a genuine review from another customer or consumer about a product or service I’m interested in, those still hold a ton of value.
I’ve been able to build some truly wonderful business relationships with people just by catching up over coffee every once in a while, or attending conferences and Meetups to start building relationships in person. I don’t think we’ve completely lost the art of human connection, but I do think it’s something we need to consciously work at and prioritize, especially for those of us who are in some sort of sales/marketing profession where we spend all day, every day communicating with other people and building relationships.
Technology is moving at an unstoppable pace. It’s vital we understand how to leverage it for the greater good while still continuing to do business with one another as humans, not as machines.