The New Virtual Handshake and How to Get It Right (Hint: It’s the Future of Sales)

future of sales virtual handshake image
Sales Development

When you think B2B sales, do you find you suddenly needing a nap? Does it bore you silly? I know it does me!

That doesn’t bode well for the future of sales!

I mean, think about it. The sales process today is about as exciting as standing in line at the post office:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Say your pitch
  • Have your objections prepared
  • Convince the potential customer they need your service or product

Maybe after a follow-up call or two, you close the sale. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you meet them for coffee or swap pleasantries at a conference. Either way, it’s always the same.

I just can’t get behind this any longer.

We need to couple new, modern sales tactics with the basics that made us the highest earners in organizations worldwide.

We need to reject the idea that only younger, newer generations can keep up and adapt to changing technology.

We need to think of ways the entire community can revolutionize the future of selling.

We need to think about what the new virtual handshake will look like and how buyers will want to buy tomorrow.

Keep reading to learn why the old virtual handshake has run its course, the #1 thing you can do to turn things around, and a simple way to start getting real results now.

The Old Virtual Handshake Isn’t Enough

2014 saw the rise of marketing automation. It’s the year mail sequences became the new norm for sales teams across the entire tech community.

And for a short time, it worked!

Email felt like the answer to all of our problems. We hacked the system and created a new tool for shaking people’s hands — 100% virtual and automated.

What we didn’t realize, though, was the expiration date — all good things must come to an end. The future of sales can’t rely on technology or channels.

Email is the perfect example of what I’m saying. We’ve pummeled it as a channel, forgotten how to call people and build rapport, and worked backward to the same top-of-funnel metrics we were getting 15 years ago.

Email and automation haven’t made us more human. They’ve taken the human out of the sales equation. And they’ve hurt our ability to sell.

The sacred pitch simply can’t be automated to that extent.

But there’s more going on than just “channel overload.” We need to adapt the sales flow for the modern buyer journey, so it’s more relevant to:

  • The way people buy today
  • How much shorter their attention spans are
  • How much more Informed they are

When you look at where we’re at today, email open rates are at an all-time low. (Yeah, it’s not just you. Everyone’s struggling with this.) Human interactions aren’t really happening. Couple that with the level of automation necessary to make any type of contact, and… well… sales has become hard!

Here’s just some of what I’m seeing…

Some sellers have done so much automation, they’ve forgotten how to communicate authentically. They’ve become reliant on systems that let you automate 3–4 emails and grab the attention of a single buyer. They don’t even know how to engage with anyone on a personal basis anymore.

Other sellers have been left behind. They’ve never truly adapted to the digital age.

For those that have, they’re all using the same hacks. LinkedIn is a good example of this: direct messages have turned into spam.

Looking at all of this, it’s easy to think we’re in trouble.

But I’m not here to rag on what’s not working. It’s just that we sometimes need to take an honest look at what’s going on in the industry. And I want to assure you, it’s not all bad. There’s plenty of hope in sight.

The Pendulum Swing

We’re seeing a huge pendulum shift back to the basics

Away from automation overload and towards more human-to-human (H2H) interaction.

In fact, human-to-human interaction is standing out as THE solution to everything I’ve outlined above. It’s where sales began, and it’s definitely the future of sales.

It’s a simple way to cut through the noise of bots and trigger points — and one of the few ways that actually works. Even more important, social media is bringing a level of authenticity that salespeople and brands alike have never experienced before.

But I say all this with an important caveat…

It’s tempting to take what’s working now — in this case, human interaction and social media — and try to systematize it so you can do it at scale.

But that’s a sure way to overload yet another channel like we’ve done with email. The point is to be human, not to create a system out of human-esque channels. It’s important to approach everything we do differently, so we can get better results.

For one, research is crucial.

By this, I’m not talking about just reading a company’s annual report. I’m talking about knowing your landscape… and let’s face it, it’s becoming increasingly complex. You need to know as much as the buyer does, which means research on your competitive landscape is more important than ever.

G2 will be the lens by which the buyer views your company for the next 4–5 years, so get smart.

Second, in the age of bots and artificial intelligence, it’s critical that we come off as human.

Be human and build your network on social channels. It’s your best shot at coming off as NOT automated.

Show value and build an audience of your future buyers that you can activate over the years. Share opinions and insights that they can’t get elsewhere. That’s the reason you used to work with your local mortgage broker or agent — they knew something you didn’t.

Through social media, you can build a global network that all relies on you for its insights.

The Future of Sales: A New Virtual Handshake

Okay, so you’ve heard my thoughts now on the future of sales: What’s been working isn’t anymore. And the #1 way to fix that is to become genuinely human.

Now, let’s get tactical.

How do you, as a human salesperson, make sure you come off as human? Isn’t that a given?

Believe it or not, no. To be human, you need to be personal and relevant. You need to sound like you’re talking face to face with someone, even if you’re working from a keyboard and even if you’re sending bulk emails that were written by your marketing department.

So how do you do that? How can you scale your efforts and still be human? Let’s take a look.

Be a Human

My advice to salespeople: Pick up the phone and tap into your interpersonal skills (EQ).

According to a DiscoverOrg survey, 55% of high-growth companies — those who experienced a minimum of 40% growth over the previous three years — stated that cold calling is very much alive.

Cut through the noise. Don’t shy away from cold calls.

In addition to that, be a student of people. Review your people skills and commit to improving them.

A simple way to do that: Review your calls. Just as pro athletes review game tapes, you need to listen to yourself talking to prospects. That’s the only way you’re going to identify areas for improvement.

And remember, 93% of all interactions are nonverbal, so over the phone, it’s more about your tone and reactions. You need to sound empathetic and energetic.

  • Avoid sounding like you’re reading from a script.
  • Have a reason for calling that matters, and make sure you sound like you care.
  • Don’t be afraid to deviate from the script if it will help you build a better human connection.

Which brings me to my next point…

Be Social

You need to be active on social media.

There, you can use your expertise and industry knowledge to restore (or should I say, start building?) people’s trust in salespeople everywhere.

Don’t give information that someone could google in 30 seconds or less. Instead, offer real value and expertise.

Use LinkedIn every day to find your buyers and interact with them before you even try to pitch your product. Remember, LinkedIn isn’t the new channel for spamming people with cold pitches. It’s a networking channel, so use it for that purpose.

You may think you aren’t an expert, that you don’t have value to add. But you do. You most likely know more about your little specific niche than most buyers. Share your insights as an insider in your world.

Here how I do this:

  • I connect with someone in LinkedIn.
  • Meanwhile, I post 1–2 times a day like clockwork.
  • Then, after they’ve had a chance to get to know me, I send relevant voicemails and videos to my new connection’s LinkedIn inbox.

Yes, you can do this now. And yes, you can do it without it coming off as spam.

Many times my posts are based on a specific conversation I’ve had with a CEO or sales rep. I post my insights on the topic in order to add a little color to the topic.

You can do the same thing, sharing stories from your interactions with people, then adding your insights. Those insights, if they’re well thought out, can help other people get to know you. They also have the potential to help people solve similar problems in their own world.

Bam! Now you’re an influencer, and that makes you a welcome guest in someone’s message box.

Tying It All Together

My friends, it has never been a more exciting time to be in sales than right now. But you have to change.

You have to understand that technology is only valuable if it improves efficiency and effectiveness.

Automation is efficient, sure, but is it effective? That’s all that matters.

You can create a sales organization (and a sales machine) that is both efficient and effective when you:

  • Harness technology to make information more accessible to your buyers
  • Give them relevant content that aids with their decision making
  • Really connect with them as a human and build trust in a successful potential partnership

The human element of sales is alive and kicking, but we have to figure out the right time and way to let technology handle certain activities. We humans should handle the rest.

It’s not either/or. It’s both.

Bottom Line

If you fear automation, technology, and robots taking your job, make yourself irreplaceable. Cut out the parts of your job a bot could do and start offering real human value to your buyers.

In turn, you’ll sell more and you’ll have nothing to fear. We’ve taken automation too far. Let’s get back to basics.

Jake Dunlap

Jake Dunlap is the CEO & Founder of Skaled, which helps companies optimize their sales process, people, and technology to accelerate business growth for scaling success. As a C-level sales leader and entrepreneur with more than a decade of experience, he has developed and led high-performing sales and operational functions for both global 2000 and start-ups, specializing in building out repeatable, sustainable processes. Jake has recently been quoted by Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post and Venture Beat.