Technology: not the be-all, end-all

From the July 2011 issue of Benefits Selling:

Every day a new miraculous technology arises from the primordial ooze that is innovation. The latest tablet device arrives with great fanfare. Apple upgrades its “i” whatever. A novel platform enables us to connect to friends, colleagues and prospects in ways we never knew we needed – or wanted, for that matter. All of this can make it fun to be first on your block with the newest toy.

However, being first is rarely necessarily and not always a good idea. What matters is not having the latest technology, but rather having the right technology. Even more important, and too often forgotten, is remembering that technology is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself.

As the “Trailblazed Sales Project Study” and years of observation make clear, successful sales producers manage technology as they do other resources: with an eye toward utility, effectiveness and cost. They may buy the latest thingamajig for their personal enjoyment, but when it comes to technology for their business they’re all business.

Resisting the allure of new gadgets and software can be tough. Back in the 90’s Excel was upgraded to allow the creation of intricate, beautiful reports full of color and detail. I was running a general agency at the time. For some reason, I’d receive gorgeous graphs from a broker detailing his business.

Unfortunately, they showed in brilliant hues a failing business, the result of him spending too much time preparing reports and too little prospecting and tending to his clients. He was soon out of business. Those the “Trailblazed Study” identified as high-growth producers avoid this trap.

Yes, we found they use technology tools more frequently than their less successful colleagues, especially for prospecting and agency management functions. They use these tools to leverage their time and to keep in touch with clients. High-growth producers are not, however, latching on to every new gizmo as soon as it hits the streets.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They seek not to be the first to adopt what’s new, but sign on in that sweet spot when the technology has proven itself, but deployment puts them ahead of the curve. They do this by having a clear idea of what they want to accomplish. Are they looking to save time or money? Is their goal to improve customer service or to gain more prospects?

They answer these questions with precision. “Increasing sales” is a nice sentiment, but a nebulous goal. Forcing themselves to be crystal clear about their purpose makes it easier to determine if the latest high tech marvel can help them achieve their goal at an affordable price.

This may sound like common sense, but there’s something about sparkly new toys that makes sane business people lose their self-control. Technological marvels are fun, but at the end of the day, they’re just tools. Successful producers use technology, they don’t get used by it.

Alan Katz is principal of the Alan Katz Group and author of “Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success” (www.TrailblazedSales.com).

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