When I recently added a comment on LinkedIn, a respondent highlighted that one of my points - that we should also use our 'gut instinct' - was the worst thing I or anybody else could do. There enthralled a few more comments between us and others who sang the praises of tests and technology to find the best outcomes.
This got me thinking of how we are evermore placing faith in models and testing to the point where perhaps we almost delegate our decision making to technology. Technology and technological products are tools. Tools that we feel we cannot be separated from and cause us to have our own mini-breakdown when they are not working (as I write I find myself in this group as my email account has not functioned all day). It is however our ability to use technology, and how we choose to employ these tools that is important.
The example of psychometric tests (which I have used in recruitment and team analysis) being a key method of selecting candidates or defining strengths is fine, yet the important element for me is the human interaction - that's what excites me about working with my customers and colleagues. When we allow technology to control our actions, even when our experience or gut tells us something is not quite right, may render us almost passive to what we are doing. A quick search on Google will offer examples of drivers who ignored their environment and ploughed on because their sat nav said the route was ok; and other negative decisions because the computer said no.
When we apply this to sales we can draw some comparisons. Many procurement systems are based on a points system - you don't make the points, you don't move forward in the process. Generally these are thought through and offer companies a way of filtering suppliers. However, there comes a point where a dialogue and getting a sense of who you are and what your company is about has value for both parties. Price is one factor in a sale, though belief of the ability to deliver, to communicate, and demonstrate integrity can all feature - would an online test really give you this all on its own?
A website or profile can within reason tell any story one chooses, and we can spout anything that we believe will make us more credible through our social media and blogs. Yet when we converse we get the opportunity to explore things further, with a person, at that time - and that can give us the confidence to proceed. In his book (ACCELerate™your social media) JohnCoupland highlights the example of the default invitation on LinkedIn "I'd like to add you to my network", and how it is similar to a cold handshake. How memorable is that as an introduction or follow up interaction? LinkedIn and the invitation to connect feature are great tools, yet this is about communication between people, so rather than just letting the software 'do it' we should add something from us - in this case a personal message.
We should embrace technology and tools to help us in our lives and quests - they have transformed business, and if it works for you I would encourage you to acknowledge your intuitions and gut feel as part of your decision making. It kept our ancestors safe with the choice of flee or fight - perhaps in sales it translates as buy or move on.
John is a Director of Vector Resources Limited and helps businesses increase sales and improve sales performance. Find out more at www.vector-resources.co.uk