The Future of Technology…and Walking in the Customer’s Shoes
Many companies such as mine are always carefully looking forward toward the next innovations. For CRM and other technological products, where are we going?
In one respect we can answer that question positively, without question: all innovations will be in the direction of being able to better walk in the customer’s shoes—understanding and fulfilling the customer need.
Open to Change
Dealing with customer needs does require salespeople to be flexible and open to change. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s still difficult even in these modern times for some to be open to change.
In a broader look at change, over thousands of years, it has been ingrained in us that you become an expert in a profession and you live it. It was even a tradition that a profession was symbolized by the clothing of the practitioner. This tradition was actually changed by the industrial revolution, and by society itself. Today when you go shopping, you can’t identify who is rich and who is poor. Sometimes you look at someone with torn jeans and a t-shirt and figure they have absolutely no money. Then they surprise the heck out of you by dropping $100,000 and buying everything in the store. That’s certainly an example of a drastic change.
Underneath everything is the question: how can we create a mindset that constantly adapts to all the new changes coming our way? We must be able to do so, for the changes are exponential, in every area.
This constant change has brought about the requirement for a paradigm shift in the way we think and act. We should always be adopting principles we can build on. But on the other hand, we need to constantly challenge principles to maintain their relevance. Principles are generally applicable everywhere—otherwise, they wouldn’t be principles—but the key is to continually contextualize them within specific situations.
Often we find ourselves rationalizing, “It’s always been done this way, so we must continue to do it this way.” But things are changing so rapidly right now—especially with the planet-wide lockdown that occupied nearly the first half of this year—that there are methods that may never come back, or will come back but in a totally new form. Therefore we need the stability of principles, but on the other hand, we need to remain constantly open and ready to adapt them differently where needed.
As a prime example, let’s look at health. There is certainly stability in the body, elements such as our circulation and respiration. We breathe in oxygen, which then goes into our bloodstream. We eat, and food is converted into energy to keep us running. But with covid19 there is something we have forgotten—that health is holistic. Factors in our bodies are interconnected, much as our world is interconnected. One of these interconnections is that your thoughts and emotions have an effect on your body and health.
You can control your own emotions. Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” This meant that random emotions will always be circling around in your mind, but you don’t need to let them “build nests” and take root.
If people maintained healthy lifestyles holistically, they would be much more resistant to viruses. Maybe this is something we all must learn right now—that not only is everything connected as we saw in the last couple of months, but that our bodies and mental systems are also interconnected.
To start with, it has to do with what we eat, how we exercise, and take care of our bodies. I have nothing against drinking, but alcohol to excess, as well as recreational drug use, weakens our immune systems. To strengthen your immune system you need nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin D, healthy food, and exercise. On the mental side, it’s also important that you feel good about life and remains as upbeat as possible. Armed with these factors, you can fight just about any virus.
So we can see that any system, bodily or otherwise, is constantly being optimized with core principles, but these principles must be periodically challenged. They must be contextualized in every case.
Application to Sales
This approach of contextualizing principles must be taken in sales situations every time. Every person you are talking to is different—they have a different history, a different culture, a different gender, a different upbringing, and a different role within a company. The sale can be at a different stage—an early stage or a late stage. The prospect’s interest could be mild or strong. You may need to lay considerable groundwork leading into the sale.
You can’t stick to a canned pitch and say, “This is my message and this will always be the same” because you have to communicate appropriately to that person. That person must understand you. You then create empathy between you. At that point, your prospect opens up. When that happens, you have a very different conversation about the product or service than when you just launch into a typical sales pitch.
Technology can certainly assist salespeople in taking these measures—but we can certainly see that there are technological limits when it comes to sales. In front of a prospect, a salesperson must be inventive and ask the exact right questions. Technology, including AI, cannot do this. Maybe in 200 years, it might be able to, but certainly not for the foreseeable future.
Pressure to Change and Grow
The circumstances of today are pressuring us to innovate. It’s interesting that some of the most landmark innovations come from people and organizations under pressure, involved in some of the most major crises. It’s often a question of innovating to win.
There are people who will say they only perform under pressure. Professional athletes can be an example of this. When they’re training, they’re doing a great job. But when it comes to the actual competition, some of them really shine; they’re delivering at 100 percent and beyond.
At the present time, society is creating tremendous pressure to innovate. We’re seeing significant changes in business models. In the next 1 – 2 years we’ll see incredible new products and services coming to market, evolving from new ideas that at this point haven’t even been thought of. All of these come from viewing the world in a different way.
These innovations will have to be sold—but as I stated earlier, this selling won’t be in traditional ways. We have to think about the individual we’re selling to, how we can communicate with them, how we walk in their shoes before ever speaking with them, and how we can bring additional value to the table—value they need and are seeking.
Future of Technology and CRM
We’re already seeing, with our own Pipeliner CRM product, how AI can actually help us. To begin with, all repetitive sales activities can be performed by a computer, and in Pipeliner we’ve replaced many repetitive actions with functions that automatically accomplish them.
In another example, we’re getting to the point that we can speak to a computer and not have to actually type anything in—it’s automatically transcribed. After the text is in the computer, the intelligent work starts. Perhaps in the future, the computer can then discover patterns in the text you enter, and through algorithms can correlate the text with data that was entered earlier. It can then provide enriched data. It’s similar to how our minds operate—for example, someone mentions a particular scene, and you immediately remember it’s something you’ve seen before. You see a correlation and you think, “I shouldn’t do that again.” You’ve immediately adapted to the situation you’re in, and perhaps you’re changing your behavior. Technology should be completely supportive of these factors in the future—providing us better, faster insight for decisions, backed by reliable evidence*.
This is where I believe we are headed, and where we need to go.
*“Reliable evidence” is something that should truly be taken to heart. With covid19, we saw incredible numbers of conflicting theories and opinions of what the virus was or was not, or how dangerous it was or was not. How is it possible for scientists to have so many differing opinions about covid19? I’m not a doctor, a virologist or epidemic specialist, but I don’t understand how there could be so many conflicting views in the medical community. If we don’t get straight with the reliability of our data, we may not survive the next pandemic.