You Are Not a Machine

Last week a picture of robots standing in front of computers wearing telephone headsets crossed my social feed. The point is that sales is being automated, and a machine will soon do your job better than you.

Another article suggested that B2B salespeople would soon be gone unless they became social sellers and engaged with buyers in the way that they prefer (apparently buyers are holding out hope that the salespeople that call on them will first communicate with them on Twitter or LinkedIn).

If your LinkedIn feed is anything like mine, you are inundated with new, technological solutions designed to improve sales. You’ll also see no end of technology companies that want nothing more than to eliminate human beings from their business, believing that every sale is a transaction and that buyers prefer not to speak with a human in all cases. Some of these companies sincerely believe that there is no need for a human to human interaction.

All of this is to say that you are not a machine, and neither are the people who you serve. What you are is very hard to replicate with technology. Technology provides efficiency, but in human relationships, efficiency is not the goal. Effectiveness is the goal.

It is easy to believe that when people have questions they want answers. But is it true that answers alone are what is necessary to have an effective interaction, maybe one that ends in a sale? Could it be that the question is really being asked because the person asking needs greater reassurance, isn’t sure what the right decisions is, and is trying to discern whether they can trust the person they’re buying from? Could communication carry more than the answer to the question?

How do you feel about Alexa? How about Siri? Do you think about them when they are not around? Do they think about you? Do you believe that they are concerned for your well-being? Would an automated response change how you feel about your relationship with these still-primitive attempts at Turing’s test, a computer that feels human? If you were fooled, would that be enough to change the nature of your relationship with a microchip?

We are human, and we are going to remain so for a long time. Augmentation and automation are coming, but the deep human stuff isn’t going to change any time soon—if it ever changes at all.

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